At 26, M.W.M. is balancing his career, wife and child, long-time graffiti ties and his bottom line: bills, bills, bills! Like Clark Kent, M.W.M. is a suit-and-tie-type by day, working as artistic director for an advertising agency in Maine, but by nightfall, M.W.M. tosses his Hager button-up on the floor to slide the comfort of a logo tee over his torso and BANG â€“ the mundane Clark Kent-type tosses cubical politics out the window and transforms into a creative superhero, a superhero that fills pages with colors and gives shape to lines.
With a pocket full of monikers and years of industry experience, M.W.M. anticipates each new project like it was his first, only with each project attempt M.W.M. creates something better.
Format: Explain the opportunities, education and experiences that played a role in shaping your existing career.
M.W.M.: I would like to think that I have a few different careers. I have a day job â€“ I work as an art director in advertising, which essentially keeps the lights on and I guess that education is different than the one that put me where I am with my personal work. I went to a few different art schools and studied design and illustration, and graduated with a BFA in design, which most definitely helped me get into the commercial design world. And, I was really fortunate [in] coming up, to have a lot of talented and positive people around me, too. Most of them were artists and graffiti kids, too. That really inspired me to be kind of where Iâ€™m at now with my personal work. Fortunately, in the last couple years the two have been over lapping and Iâ€™ve been doing some commercial work thatâ€™s like the type of work I like to do, my personal work â€“ my day job is really corporate stuff that isnâ€™t exactly what I want to be doing.
Format: What school did you study at?
M.W.M.: I went to a couple. I studied at Rhode Island School of Design and Savannah College of Art and Design for a few semesters and then I finished up my education at Maine College of Art.
Format: Who are some of the mentors you have?
M.W.M.: The most important figure in the graffiti and fine art is this dude named CEMEK, heâ€™s been like a big brother to me for many years. He was the first one to bring me into the yards and teach me the dos and donâ€™ts, and the codes to follow in regards to painting graffiti and whatnot. Also for a number of years Iâ€™ve been around some other great artists, too many to name, but JURNE and LERK in particular, also my friend, PAST, pretty much my whole crew that I paint with â€“ WUT and itâ€™s a Maine-based freight train crew.
Format: How has writing REONE helped you with graphic design?
M.W.M.: To give the prelude in how I became writing REONE, I started out writing RETROSPECT when I was 13 and it was a lot a letters, and that was abbreviated to RETRO. Soon I learned there was a RETRO in California and I didnâ€™t want to start any beef like that, and it was down to REONE. Thatâ€™s what Iâ€™ve been rockinâ€™ for a number of years now. To answer the question on how graffiti has enhanced and informed my graphic design and my fine art, there are so many answers to it; working in such a free form, working so large and fast, having to be deliberate, and stand behind decisions that I make when I paint has influenced my whole approach and process to the other disciplines of art and design that I pursue. Itâ€™s kind of like more so than what lands up on the paper, on the wall or on the canvas it goes deeper into my process of conceiving an idea and then executing it. I try to work very fast in whatever work Iâ€™m doing and I like to stick by decisions that Iâ€™ve made and keep moving with it rather than noodling around and being fickle. A lot of my artwork has very strong graffiti influences and likewise I like to think that my graffiti very strong contemporary graphic influences as well. Iâ€™m getting to be known as the dot guy â€“ kind of like aborigine art â€“ because I have this fondness for using a lot of dots to imply lines and shapes.
Format: Have you been pinched for graffiti?
M.W.M.: Only once when I was in high school and it ended up evaporating. Iâ€™ve been very fortunate and Iâ€™m not as high profile as a lot of other writers that I know, in that I donâ€™t go out and crush real hard, Iâ€™m pretty picky about the spots that I paint. Iâ€™m at the point in my life that itâ€™s more important to do more deliberate, quality pieces than paint numbers.
Format: How do writers perceive you when they find out youâ€™re a graphic designer?
M.W.M.: The really core-graffiti community is an interesting bunch. Thereâ€™s definitely a lot of positive people and people that I admire. Also, inherently within the community, unfortunately, there are a lot of haters, which Iâ€™m sure comes as no surprise. I would say 90 per cent of the time a lot of writers have genuine respect for what Iâ€™m doing and they know that Iâ€™m keeping it real, too, Iâ€™m not a paperboy with my black book, I get out there and do things. I got a couple people that hate, but the irony to it is that if I wasnâ€™t doing gallery shows and freelance design for rad companies and whatnot, they wouldnâ€™t have anything against me. Iâ€™ve wanted to be a graphic designer since before I paid attention to graffiti, I knew that visual vocabulary was what Iâ€™m here for â€“ thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m alive â€“ so if my style and my vision can transcend between different disciplines than I think thatâ€™s even stronger.
Format: You have been featured in several art shows across America and you do live painting, too. Can you explain how it feels to have several pairs of eyes watching you paint?
M.W.M.: Iâ€™m not a natural live painter, I had to have a number of drinks before I felt loose the first time I did live painting. I think there are some artists that are just born to do that type of stuff and interact with the crowd; Iâ€™m more of a solo dog.
Format: Youâ€™re extremely pro-active in getting your product out while several artists are introverted, what feeds your thirst?
M.W.M.: There are a few reasons. Living in Maine Iâ€™m off the grid and I like that, I especially like that, because itâ€™s so easy to be in touch with people these days with technology the way it is. Iâ€™m really not the dude out at the bar every night! My reaching out to people and organizing things comes from wanting to be a part of more and facilitate opportunities for similar people to be part of something bigger, especially with the Wall Spankers Project, because itâ€™s gained so much momentum that it is kind of its own living thing now.
Format: Who are Wall Spankers?
M.W.M.: As far as the actual curator, website work and putting the zines together and getting the stickers printed and whatnot is all me at this point. Iâ€™ve had a number of huge contributions of images and a lot of help with printing and screen-printing. It wouldnâ€™t have been possible without the contributions of all of the members. Itâ€™s pretty much my little side project and itâ€™s really a pleasure to be putting stuff out there and having so many people see it and offering exposure to so many artists around the world.
Format: Wall Spankers artists come from all over the world, are there any obvious influences in their art given their geographical location?
M.W.M.: Thatâ€™s something I think about quite often and thereâ€™re definitely some, and a lot of the time I will pickup on subtle hints on whether someone is urban or rural, or European or from Thailand or South Africa, but even more so than that, I realize more and more how simple art and design like stickers, whether itâ€™s cartoon-ish or very graphic â€“ itâ€™s kind of a universal language. Some kid from Minnesota could rock a piece and put it next to somebody from Barbados and they could have totally different styles, but different in a great way. It just goes to show that contemporary artists and contemporary designers are part of something bigger than their immediate context.
Format: Explain what effect pop culture, news, music or any other sources have on you when creating a typeface.
M.W.M.: The early typeface that I did, I did one called Xacto and that was straight up trying to use very minimal shapes like x-acto knife blades I wanted to see if I could completely blow out a whole typeface that actually worked. And then I did the typeface called Crenshaw, which was very much inspired by scrawl, tall letter graffiti from Southern California, kind of one-line, straight angles, really sharp. I donâ€™t think I jocked any letterforms, but the letter-feel is reminiscent of that. My most recent letterform exploration is a project called Alphafont and that one took me a while. I was trying to make funky letterforms of each letter â€“ it was kind of graffiti styled and different, kind of weird ways of putting the letters together. That was really fun. A lot of the letterforms were letters that I had developed over the year for my own work.
Format: Explain your process for the Black & White Bangers One.
M.W.M.: That was the beginning and I hope 50 years from now Iâ€™m releasing Black & White Bangers 53. It was winter 2005 and I wanted to set-up, the name Bangers came from black and white â€“ Iâ€™ve always loved working in pencil and Sharpies, because itâ€™s super fun, quick and really bold. But the name Bangers came from the idea that I wanted to do a project that I spend a short amount of time on something that was really loud, bang them out, turn them out one at a time, just stack `em up. With my work schedule, at the time, I only had an hour or two each night that I could devote towards it. It was really satisfying to be able to do one or two pieces and finish them in the same day. That whole project was about simple narrative, funny, witty stories that are kind of autobiographical. I turned them into stickers and made thousands of those stickers and spanked them up everywhere that Iâ€™ve traveled in the last few years.
Format: An Uzi, limousine and ghetto blaster are a few of the interesting vector-based images you used for 52 Icons. Explain how that project formed.
M.W.M.: That was a narrative project that I made for myself. I originally wanted to do a set of tarot cards, because Iâ€™m very much into the deep history of symbols and icons, and what happens when you combine symbols and graphic languages. I was planning to do a set of tarot cards, but as I was working on it I realized it would make a better poker deck. I very much enjoy doing vector illustrations â€“ those are very quick, as well â€“ and I wanted to make a collective series of work that rang out a line of cards that you could either make a story out of, or you could tell a story with them. Iâ€™ve said many times before that I could tell the story of my life with those cards if I laid them out in the right sequence â€“ there arenâ€™t many limousines in my life these days, but hopefully in the near future!
Format: Painting cans of spray paint, is that something you do often?
M.W.M.: That series was inspired by circumstance â€“ one of the first rules I learned in the graffiti game was leave no trace other than the mural, obviously, but we always made sure that we would take all our cans with us. Over the course of a summer, a few years ago, I just had boxes and boxes of cans full of empty cans and I wanted to get rid of them, but I was nervous that my landlord would be like, â€œWhy the fuck are there 400 spray paint cans out here?â€ So I started painting them and I really liked it, I built a little cardboard jig so that I could be painting on side while the other side dried. I got way into it and it was the first time in my personal studio that I did work that was not two-dimensional, it was a three-dimensional thing. The design wraps all the way around and it was a neat surface to work on and a neat morsel for somebodyâ€™s bookshelf or cubical zone.
Format: The number 23, Michael Jordan, Art Bureau Calendar â€“ how did that come together?
M.W.M.: That was fun! Burt Benson who runs Art Bureau, weâ€™ve had a number of correspondence back and fourth and he recently interviewed me about Wall Spankers and he invited me to design a day for their next calendar and he was like, â€˜Why donâ€™t you take the 23rd?â€™ and I was like snap! I had to get Jordan in there somehow, because the number 23 had to work into the actually piece itself so I did Jordanâ€™s epic dunk.
Format: You like women, duh, letâ€™s talk about Get Realistic, why Gwen, MJB and Audrey Tautou?
M.W.M.: That was a big step for me with my own personal work, because Iâ€™ve always struggled doing realistic work in painting and drawing. I decided years ago that it wasnâ€™t my thing and that I wouldnâ€™t pursue it or try to get good at it, but Iâ€™ve always had this desire to see how far I could push it or grow. And, I was working tenaciously on the Black & White Bangers Three book, everyday for the last month and a half or two months and I am really excited about the project itâ€™s a lot different and I think itâ€™s more mature than my other illustrations. It gets to the point where I run out of signs, symbols, shapes and metaphoric icons, and I really wanted to do something that Iâ€™ve never done before and I kind of decided to do a series of pop singers, Christina Aguilera, Beyonce and thereâ€™s nothing more fun to draw if youâ€™re going to be drawing people. My wife wasnâ€™t too excited at first, but she understood that I wouldnâ€™t have a great time drawing dudes.
Format: In your blog you mention your wife and vaguely touch on how she has affected your art, can you expand on that?
M.W.M.: Back in 2003, I was traveling a lot and partying a lot; I wasnâ€™t in the best place. I met her and I really crushed on her from the jump, sheâ€™s a great girl and really helped me get my mind back on track, get focused and put my priorities back towards my art and live positive. Ever since then there is no limit. Iâ€™m having a blast working real hard and having a lot of fun. Sheâ€™s most definitely in my art and mindset, too. Iâ€™ve been a happier man since I met her. We have a son, too, my stepson, his name is Malachi, heâ€™s five-years-old and heâ€™s been the biggest inspiration in my life, as well, for sure.
Format: Your artist statement is, â€œI live to create,â€ if you could not create what would you do?
M.W.M.: The reason why my artist statement is â€œI live to createâ€ is simply in the fine art world artists are always trying to sum up their momentum and their drive into these really wordy statements. Iâ€™ve had a number of artist statements that tried to explain who I am and why I do what I do, but I just wanted to make a really short, punctual artist statement thatâ€™s like a tagline instead of a full brief of who I am as an artist. If I couldnâ€™t create I think Iâ€™d have to sell a lot of shit! Iâ€™d just have to be in business, Iâ€™d just have to make a lot of money! Iâ€™m very much driven by success and productivity.
Format: Whatâ€™s Knuckle Sandwich Press?
M.W.M.: Itâ€™s like the saying a dollar and a dream, but itâ€™s like a nickel and dream! Well, letâ€™s rewind for a second, Knuckle Sandwich Press is very much like Wall Spankers, I made the name before it was anything and since I self-publish my own books it just seemed natural to have a name on the projects that I was producing. I knew the exposure that I was receiving and having a name attached to it would be to my benefit later on, and it has been. I donâ€™t have a printing press or anything like that, I hope to one day, but itâ€™s the production label thatâ€™s on the Wall Spankers Project when it is printed. I hope to one day promote other artistsâ€™ solo books, too. WS:1234 will drop next summer on Knuckle Sandwich Press.
Format: What are you coming out with in 2007?
M.W.M.: Iâ€™m going to be releasing two books in February, Black & White Bangers Three and Vector Funk Two, which is a book of color works. Bangers Three is going to be 60 illustrations all done by hand, no digital work at all, itâ€™s ink washes and black and white ink, Iâ€™m really excited about it. Vector Funk Two is a series of super intricate computer illustrations that are bananas with colors, super vibrant. Both will be available on my websites.
More Info: http://www.mwmgraphics.com