We had the good fortune of connecting with Michael Stiles and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michael, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I struggled for many years over pursuing a career as an artist. Art always came natural for me (calm down I’m an incredibly humble person just stay with me). Not the skillset that is, but the act itself. I can’t recall too many memories from my youth, but there are some that standout. The earliest memories I have are of the living room in my childhood home. It was here; I would lie on the shag carpet in front of the television, watch cartoons (at distance that would make any parent scream), and draw. I would sit there for hours, and sketch all sorts of things, with a pencil or pen, whatever was handy. Occasionally I would grab a coloring book, but I literally never stayed within the boundaries of the lines. Retrospectively, I’d like to say I was ‘breaking free’, from the constraints of conformity, but realistically, it was because I was overflowing with inspiration. And I could find it everywhere, and in everything. From the images on TV, to the old comic books I’d sucker my parents into buying me at the swap meet. There was no limit to the overflowing wellspring of inspiration. This would serve to be a lesson, one I learned a little too late. As I progressed through my scholastic years, I was always flirting with artistic ambitions. I took as many art classes as I able to, a habit that would carry over into college. It wasn’t until I had finished my fundamental courses in college, and I finally had the time to really breath, did it occur to that I still had not declared a major. I always assumed I would pick a degree program that logically provided financial stability, as those were the values always emphasized in my upbringing. Pursue the money, not the dream. I wasn’t ready to transfer, even though I had the credits (but no declared major). I decided it was time to explore, and take some classes that interested me. I seemed to excel artistically, so I took a few courses, and it was then that I realized I needed to major in art, and while I’d like to say that was the end of the story, it’s not. Upon completion of my degree program, I had accomplished the task I set out, but now what. I was lost. I stopped drawing, and began to believe that I could never be financially successful, or stable, as an artist. It was during this time I wandered in, and out of so many different occupations. I worked in an office where I felt my soul being drained by layers upon layers of corporate management. I also managed to do some studio work, with a few reputable animation companies, however the instability of that life gave me major anxiety. The environment itself was more about networking, since you never knew when a production would end abruptly. I attempted to get more training, and learn game development, but that proved to ultimately be too expensive (and I had enough student loans already). I even got my teaching credentials (a whole another story in itself). My heart however, just wasn’t in any of it. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, and I just felt empty. Eventually I secured a job doing hand lettering commercially (something I never expected, as I got a C in Typography). It was here I found what I was missing. Inspiration. I was once again working, with my peers, other artists, when I finally found it. It took some time, but over several years with their support, and motivating energy, the many faces that came into my life, helped me understand something I learned long ago on that shag carpet in my childhood home. There are endless places to find inspiration you just have to know where to look, and sometimes you need a guide. While I don’t regret the journey I took to get where I am (with the exception of the student loans), I did get a very late start in my career. As for the financial stability, it can be a struggle at times, but it never feels like work. Like the old saying goes: “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” -Mark Twain
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’ve noticed that my work tends to change over time, not dramatically, but definitely the style or approach I take to it. Currently, I’ve noticed that my work has become more graphic with sharper contrasting tones, and generally very monochromatic. I’ve long had a habit of creating images with a ‘softer’ feel, so this is a departure for me. Most of my work has been inspired by film, television, popular literature, and pun obsession (here’s the outlier). I continue to primarily work digitally, and find the pieces that I am most proud of, are the ones I have a personal connection with. As for my career path, I wouldn’t say it was (or is), easy. I struggled with doubt for a long time, and some days I still do. I think all artists do in one way or another. Creativity for me isn’t something I can just tap into at will. Just like nature, there are droughts, and days where it breaks the dam. It can be frustrating, but over time you learn how to become more…fluid (if we’re staying on theme). Personally, I almost never lack inspiration anymore, but I can get overwhelmed by the dearth of conceptual imagery in my head. I try my best document my ideas so I can return to them later with any notes I had at the time it was conceived. I love symbolism, and details. The vast majority of my work (especially the more detailed pieces), will contain some kind of ‘easter egg(s)’ in them. I like to make sure that whatever connections I made to subject matter being depicted, has some kind of representation in the piece, no matter how small.
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?
I live in Orange County on the border of Los Angeles, so I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to see fair amounts of both. Typically I let most of my visitors take the helm, as they usually have an itinerary, or checklist of places they want to see. If things line-up properly, I’d say we’d take in a show at either the Echo on Sunset, or the Galaxy in Santa Ana. If they’re into music, a trip to Amoeba’s (maybe after that show at the Echo), followed by people watching. If there are any pop-up’s in LA at the time, intriguing museum exhibits, or a show I have work in, chances are we’d check those out too. For those interested in libations, I’d suggest Bootleggers in Downtown Fullerton, or The Bruery in Placentia. If we’re in LA, I’d see if we could hit-up The Golden Road Brewery.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would love to thank my many co-workers, friends, and family. Not necessarily in that order. I’d like to particularly thank Kimber Grobman for giving me direction, Stacy Moffatt for her pep-talks, and the many other creatives out in the world who continue to inspire me everyday.
Other: Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/michaelstiles1248 Blog: www.stilesofart.blogspot.com