Having worked on posters for everyone from The Decemberists to The Dresden Dolls and SXSW, Michael Michael Motorcycle is a creative genius who sets himself apart from other artists with his unique style of poster-making. In a time when screenprinting posters seems synonomous with using minimalism and pop art, Michael Michael Motorcycle proves that the opposite is just as great — if not better. He creates intricately-detailed works of poster art and keeps a wide array of bright colors and Victorian-styled designs at hand.

How did you get into art?
My mother started teaching me how to draw before I can remember. Her mother is an excellent oil painter. She gave me my first brushes and some paint when I was 10 years old.

Are you self-taught?
Mostly. I had a couple of painting and anatomy classes at a junior college. I met a couple of great fellows there. We were heavily into surrealism. We took over one of the painting studios and painted and listened to music all day. We worshiped Salvador Dali. He is still a kind of diety to me. I also took a screenprinting class a few years ago at Pasadena City College. A great printer by the name of John Miner taught me how to print.

What are your favorite mediums?
I like painting with oils or acrylics. I don’t have much time for anything other than screenprinting these days. I use water-based ink for screenprinting.

What is your band called, and what similarities do you think usic and art have, asides from the obvious fact that they both involve creation?
I don’t play seriously anymore. I love playing music. A few years ago, I had to make a career decision between art and music. I think it’s always been art, [but] my band is called The Quartering Sea. We’ve only played one show this year. We sound pretty good even when we don’t practice very often. I don’t feel a similarity between music and art, other than spontaneous creation [because] I approach them both from such different angles.

Do you find bands to make posters for, or do they find you?
It varies from situation to situation. When I first started doing this for a living, I had to hustle a lot more to get shows than I do now.

It seems that band posters like the type you make are rarely on display. Are they actually distributed small-scale like flyers, or are they solely to be used as collector pieces?
Again, this varies. Many of the promoters that I work for have street teams that put the posters up in stores. [But] they don’t last very long in a window or on a wall. People steal them. There is a company that I work for in the UK that gets permission from all of the bands to sell the posters at shows as collectors’ pieces. Getting the posters directly in the hands of fans is my favorite thing to have happen to them.

INTERVIEW CONTINUES BELOW

What are some of your favorite pieces?
This may sound arrogant, but I like almost everything that I do. I am a firm believer in being a fan of your own work. For me, there is no point in making art that I don’t like to look at and wouldn’t hang on my wall. I have my own posters and paintings all over my house.

Where do most of your sales come from, and do you attend shows and festivals often?
Money comes from different places. We have been to seven poster shows this year. My wife and I love road trips. She is a great planner. She always finds us the nicest places to stay and eat in every city that we go to. Our favorite trip of the year is our trip to Seattle at the end of every August. Driving up the west coast is beautiful. We’re going to Vegas at the end of October to sell posters at the Vegoose festival. Some really great bands are playing. It’s beautiful. We’re going to Vegas at the end of October to sell posters at the Vegoose festival. Some really great bands are playing. It’s beautiful up there as well. Our booths are in the middle of a big grassy field. The weather is perfect at this time of year.

Is it true that your wife is the lady model in many of your posters? Does her fashion style make a large impact on the appearance or feeling of your female characters?
I don’t usually use a model for my drawings. I keep a mirror nearby so that I can see how body parts and fabric work. We are both into fashion. If I could clone myself, one of my other selves would be a fashion or a shoe designer. I tend to draw people that look like my wife and me. It’s not exactly a conscious decision.

It’s natural for the work of artists to evolve, but it seems that between 2003 and 2004, your work evolved a huge amount. Was this simply by chance, or did you actively attempt to change your style?
About three years ago, I quit my day job to make posters full-time. I am able to experiment a great deal because I print my own posters. For me, the improvement was pretty gradual. I’ve wanted to incorporate my painting skills from the beginning and experimented with different techniques. I finally figured out to use a brush and black film ink on acetate for my color separations. I have to approach the film like a painting. The difference is that I am doing it one color at a time. I use a lot of clear base in my ink so that I can mix colors on the paper.

Your lettering and frames add a huge amount of personality to your artwork. What inspires it, if anything?
Thank you. I love Victorian and art deco art and advertising. I am also heavily influenced by Art Nouveau and Rococo-era art. I usually just start drawing and the borders and lettering take shape on their own. I’m inspired by so many things. I am a bit of a pack rat. I need a lot of visual stimulation. There are piles and piles of open books around my work area that I use for inspiration. Music is also inspiring to me. I like to listen to a lot of music from the ’70s while I’m working. I love ’70s fusion. Miles Davis, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and all of their incarnations are particular favorites of mine.

Couldn’t help but notice the love for The Decemberists and the pirate t-shirt available on your website; are you a lover of pirates?
Doesn’t everyone love pirates?

www.michaelmichaelmotorcycle.com

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