We had the good fortune of connecting with Michael Hayden and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michael, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I’ve always been a creative person but the decision to focus on fine art as a career was the first of many risks I’ve taken. In my 20’s living in NYC, I was always looking for ways to make extra money. I started a side business painting apartments and refinishing floors. Once I was asked to paint a marble finish on dining room walls and I said yes before even knowing how to do it. I had to act fast! As luck would have it, a friend introduced me to a NYC based decorative finish artist and I learned how to paint a marble finish on the job. It turned out great! I began to learn more finishes and for years I had a lucrative business as a faux finish artist. I moved to the Bay Area and continued to do decorative painting. Soon after, I began a transition into fine art. I remember a neighbor one day telling me, “You can’t just become an artist, you have to go to art school!” Well, the one thing you don’t do is tell me I can’t do something! I was introduced to the art of encaustic (painting with tinted melted beeswax and resin) while painting a background for an encaustic mural in the lobby of a live/work loft building in downtown Oakland. Once the brown protective paper was removed from the mural and I saw it encaustic for the first time, I was consumed with learning the technique. I made about 30 paintings combining melted crayons with cheesecloth I recycled from my faux finishing jobs and submitted them to a gallery in Oakland. That was the beginning of my fine art career. That was about 30 years ago. The more I painted, the more I found my voice as an artist. Taking the risk to move to Los Angeles opened many doors to further my pursuits. I soon realized that my way of painting using beeswax and found objects was unique enough to get the attention of galleries and collectors. Many people encouraged me to change the way I painted, ie: not using found objects, but It didn’t feel right to me. Sticking to my vision helped me stand apart from the pack. Today, I am successful because I took a risk and listened to my inner voice.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’ve been making paintings with beeswax exclusively since I decided to become a fine artist. Using found objects in my work has set me apart from others who use similar techniques. Some people have suggested I try to create art using other mediums, but for me, the results just don’t feel the same. Besides, even after all these years, I still learn something new every time I create one of my encaustic, mixed media paintings. Maybe one of these days I’ll master the technique. LOL. Now, people come up to me tell me they saw one of my artworks in somebody’s home or business and they knew it was mine. For one’s art to be recognized as uniquely theirs is one of the highest complements an artist can receive. So, what have I learned? Stay focused and true to who you are no matter what. Don’t let other’s opinions about your art throw you off track. Do that and you’ll discover your own individual and recognizable voice.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
It just so happens one of my best friends, who is also one of my biggest collectors, arrived in town yesterday. What is she most excited about? Going to my new studio/gallery at 4413 West Jefferson Blvd! Late in 2019, I made a big move from a studio in downtown LA’s Skid Row to a bigger space in the up and coming West Jefferson Arts District. The new space is big enough that I can have a dedicated area to exhibit my paintings separate from my workspace. COVID-19 delayed my plans to have gallery shows where I’ll exhibit some of my favorite artists works alongside my own but, I’m hoping things will get back on track soon.
Just south of the West Adams Arts District, West Jefferson is experiencing a renaissance to say the least. The addition of the new metro station at LaCienega and West Jefferson has encouraged lots of development in the area. The new complex adjacent to Culver City and just around the corner from the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook and Steps, a popular hiking spot, is known as Cumulus. The area is anchored by a new signature high rise of the same name. It’s an amazing feat of architecture on its own with an exposed skeleton of giant, rusted steel beams that seem to wave in the wind and reach high up to the sky. The surrounding project will consist of over 1200 new apartment with over 100,000 square feet of commercial space. A Whole Foods and Apple Store will lead the way to all kinds of new restaurants and businesses that I’m very excited about. While I’m waiting for them to open, I’ll continue to frequent several of my favorite places to eat near my studio. The first is Highly Likely Cafe at 4310 West Jeff. Its a coffee shop and cafe that has a laid back vibe with delicious options for vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters alike. Across the street at 4203, Party Beer Brewery is also becoming a very popular location. I also love Mizlala at 5400 West Adams for mediterranean food. They have a great outdoor patio too. Honey Bee’s House of Breakfast at 4715 West Adams is my new favorite go to brunch place. Trust me, get the pancakes! Lastly, If you happen to get out to my neighborhood at beach in Playa del Rey this summer call me and we’ll check out Playa Provisions owned by Top Chef winner Brooke Williamson. Don’t miss the Speakeasy in back. Thank me later!
Besides restaurants, a visit to LA wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of our great art museums like The Broad downtown or The Getty in Brentwood but, do yourself a favor and check out The Getty Villa in Malibu instead. Often overlooked, this museum is an experience that few will ever forget. Don’t miss their exhibit The Fayum Mummy portraits. They are a beautiful example of the earliest forms of encaustic painting dating back to the late 1st century! I also would encourage visitors to check out The Hammer Museum in Westwood. It’s one of my favorite places to go bar none!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I met my husband, John in 1988 while living in NYC. John had a demanding full time job but after working all day he would join me at my job site to help me with painting apartments or refinishing floors. When I started learning faux finish techniques he encouraged me to keep going. When we decided to move to the Bay Area, he supported me in continuing to build my painting business there. When I made the transition into fine art painting, he was always my biggest fan. If you’re an artist, you understand that being creative is just what we do, but John is truly amazed by every artwork that I produce. I wouldn’t be an artist today if it were not for his love and encouragement.
I also would like to especially thank Dale Youngman, Rebecca Molayem and Liz Gordon for their support of my artwork over the years. They believed in me and have been influential in helping to establish my career as an artist here in Los Angeles.
Brooke Harker, Nichole McDaniel, Sheryl Benji and Joan Marie are all amazing artists who started a little thing called Saturday Night Live Art Shows on Facebook and Instagram this past year. The platform gives artists from all over the world an opportunity to share their works despite being locked down during these unfortunate times of COVID-19. We are live every Saturday Night from 6-9pm. Check it out #snlartshows
Julienne Johnson is curating an international art show at one of Tokyo, Japan’s top museums, Chiba City Museum of Art.
I was invited to participate with my painting “Siren’s Song”. It will be my second museum show so I am very grateful to Julienne for including me.
Linkedin: Michael Hayden
Yelp: Michael H. Los Angeles
Youtube: Michael Hayden Art Studio