Mike Perry finds his spark as an artist in the world around him. His creativity comes very natural to him – almost as an intricate part of himself. “I have to eat, drink and make stuff,” he explains. “I’m still a human, so of course sometimes it’s harder to feel inspired, but those feelings always pass. I rather lean into them instead of being bogged down by them. Sometimes you have to make a mess, and not be afraid to just jump in. Who cares if you don’t like it? It doesn’t matter. The process is as important as the final outcome.”
“Plenty of times I literally just mess around and see what happens. I love experimenting.”
Most importantly, the process is a space with no real expectations, and no scale committal. It includes a sketchbook, which is Mike’s version of a journal or diary. He tries to cherish the time and the things he is making there. “Once I make something in the book I’m excited about, I sometimes take it somewhere else, I paint it, I spray it. Plenty of times I literally just mess around and see what happens. I love experimenting. What happens if you put this thing next to this thing, or this colour next to that? That’s so much what turns me on with making in general.”
So instead of relying on the internet too much, Mike tries to find inspiration in his everyday life. Just like in art school, he tries to be surrounded by other creative people. “You’re having conversations and you are seeing people’s struggles and accomplishments. All that is very inspiring and tangible,” he says, adding that his favourite pass time is to sit on his stoop in Brooklyn, watching people pass by. “There is so much creativity and life just in the average person walking down the street. When you have access to all those people you can’t help to get inspired, and think ‘wow, this is where I’m at’,” he says and declares his love for the city. “It’s very alive, it’s got its own energy that you have to deal with and be part of. I find it easier to go with it rather than fight it. When you cram millions and millions of people on the same small space, you can’t help to have an energy, a zeitgeist of humans that create something new. It feels like big cities move faster, time itself moves faster. It does – things come from cities because they are slightly in the future. It is culture.”
“Anyone who built a fire knows that you can’t just walk away. You have to keep it alive. A fire is a good excuse to stand up and change it up a little bit once in a while.”
However, to thrive, not just survive, Mike also finds inspiration in the juxtaposition of the energetic city and the quiet countryside. “I’m very fortunate and privileged to be able to escape the city,” he says and describes how he combines painting with more basic, human activities such as chopping wood. Mike has a wood burning stove that heats the house, which means he constantly has to feed it. “That ritual is just magical to me,” he says. “Anyone who built a fire knows that you can’t just walk away. You have to keep it alive. A fire is a good excuse to stand up and change it up a little bit once in a while.”
What does fire mean to you?
“We have fire pit in the backyard and I was out one night having a fire. I was looking at the way that the smoke leaves patterns into things. Looking at it, it created all these marks on the edge of the fire pit, I couldn’t help to feel like, ok, humans from the beginning of time – when those first cave paintings were made – saw all these patterns in the way that smoke hit that walls and thought: ‘I can do that’ instead of just naturally paint a horse. They saw something just so essential. Fire is one of those rituals, which every time I do it, I can’t help to feel like I’m doing the same thing as the first dawn of time.”
You’re putting your mark on a collection of five Cricket lighters.
Describe your thoughts behind it?
“I wanted to make something that I painted and that was complicated. That was the brief for myself. Now I’m dealing with the consequences of that. I’ve been exploring a long time this idea of using a grid, and then breaking the grid, and breaking it so much that it’s no longer there. Those are art school fundamentals, nothing revolutionary, but something I enjoy as a concept. I’m trying to make these five things that are all uniquely different, but all the same, when put together in different configurations they all line up. It’s a technical challenge as much as a creative one.”
“I love the accessibility, and how the work makes its way to people’s lives.”
What does it mean for you to ”make art for everyone?”
“I love the accessibility, and how the work makes its way to people’s lives. The lighters for Cricket are funny, it’s a little piece of art that will make it into someone’s pocket. That’s the benefits of commercial work, it has the ability to go beyond the painting in someone’s house that no-one will ever see.”
Check out the collection of lighters here
Photos taken by Anna Wolf & Mike Perry
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