We had the good fortune of connecting with Mika Denny and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mika, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
I worked my way up at an in-house art department fresh out of college, starting as an intern and eventually leading the department as the Creative Director. It was a fast-paced and deadline-driven environment. Back then, I was hungry for success and my perseverance paved the way for a life that was way more work than pleasure. Work was my life. I remember a deadline I had for a 500-page magazine back in the hey-days of print. Working well into the night for weeks… my mouse finger so abused from repeated clicking that I had to tape my numb finger to the one next to it so I could still produce designs and meet the deadline! Those days eventually ended with a leave to raise kids. My youngest daughter developed a chronic, life threatening liver disease that caused my priorities to change. For years, I was more of a nurse than anything; administering meds, going to doctors appointments, staying at her bedside before and after transplant. My creative soul sat quietly waiting. When my daughter’s health became stable and my kids were older, I started thinking about launching my own graphic design business and getting back into the game. I could work from home and still be available for parent duty and I could help my son with college expenses. Again the pace ramped up, I was saying yes to everything, logo design, brand ID, websites, all of it. I had created my own little agency, and I was doing well, but then I started having that similar feeling, that my life was again tipping more towards all work and no play. I needed a better balance and 4 years later, when my son graduated college I decided to reassess my business plan. I decided I wanted to be more of a creative explorer and less of a graphic design output machine. Since then I have been creating art in all sorts of media. I still take on a few logo design projects here and there, if it looks interesting (and the price is right). I’m sure people who look at my website and Instagram page might be confused, as I dabble in little bit of everything. I’ve had people say is that all your work? I laugh… I’m a little all over the place at the minute. My first love is drawing and I think it is what I am best at. I love to draw portraits of interesting people, usually from photos I’ve taken. As far as being a “successful” creative artist I am probably being a bit risky bouncing around into different art categories. I do photography, graphic design, fine art, digital art, handcrafted dolls, jewelry and most recently I took up ceramics! My head is sort of exploding with ideas and embracing new ways to create and explore. All in all my creative soul is happier now than ever.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I went to school and earned a degree in graphic design knowing I would need to be able pay my rent and get the benefits of a full-time job. I really do enjoy designing, especially logos. I’ve won awards over the years for my logo designs, brand ID work, magazine layout and illustrations and it has been fulfilling as far as careers go. Currently, I am more interested in exploring fine art. In the past couple of years, I have been accepted into several juried shows for my portrait drawings. Most recently “Woman Artists Making their Mark” an online exhibit by the O’Hanlon Center for the Arts. I included some of my portrait work for this article. I work with carbon pencil and pan pastel on vellum and also colored pencil with pan pastel on toned paper. I love the feeling of turning up the music in my studio and getting lost in hours of drawing.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Los Angeles is such a huge city with something for everyone. Before Covid, one of my favorite fun things to do with my husband was to book a room at the Hotel Normandie and go see live music at the Wiltern. The Normandie is a cool, throwback hotel that has all the charm along with updates that keep it modern and fresh. The staff is always top-notch and they host a complimentary wine reception every night in their vintage lobby. The Wiltern theater is within walking distance from the hotel, so no drive or Uber needed. The Wiltern was built in 1931 and has a magnificent, must-see interior. So grateful that the owners have lovingly restored her over the years and she still maintains her art deco origins. We have been lucky enough to see some great acts there; like James Bay, The Fray and Collective Soul to name a few. Another super fun excursion we took last year was a trip to the Lost Spirits Distillery. We stayed at the Standard in downtown LA (super photogenic, mid-century modern) with a hipster rooftop bar, We headed to the Downtown LA Arts District to start our tour at the mysterious distillery. It’s too hard to describe, but imagine something along the lines of a Willie Wonka Chocolate Factory tour except you get to taste rum and whiskies! After the tour we walked all around the Arts District. Cool little boutiques and art galleries to peruse. You will also find a pair of Colette Miller wings painted on the front of the Arts District Coop building which is right across from the Distillery entrance. I heard Lost Spirits also added a dining experience, so I am hoping to go back again some day.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I will always want to give a shout out to my parents who are also creatives themselves. They nurtured the artist in me as a child and encouraged me to pursue a career in the arts. Forever grateful for their support and dedicate my shout out to them. And lastly the biggest shout out to my best friend and husband, Darrell. His hard work and support in the last 20+ years has allowed me the room to play and grow as an artist.