Artist Mikel Glass | Quotes and Insights

In the October 2010 issue of The Artist’s Magazine, Mikel Glass was featured in an article entitled “Looking through Glass.” The following are several quotes from that article as well as additional insights from this witty and provocative artist.

Glass on His Classical Painter Colleagues

With the end result of at least a solid month’s work being both a playful and provocative painting of meticulous composition and execution, Glass finds that his “classical painter colleagues are often put off by what they perceive to be nihilistic, untraditional co-opting of their turf.” He says, “The contemporary crowd is a lot more appreciative of these works. Collectors seem to like them. As I enter the midway point of my career, I’ve been thinking that I may focus on pursuing the as-of-yet works in the various areas I’ve already explored, rather than trying to break any new ground. For example, I’ve probably painted about 15 rubber glove pictures. I’d love to see what numbers 16 to 30 would look like! The advantage of exploring a single subject in a serial fashion is that deeper layers of meaning continually reveal themselves—unless that is just post-fact rationalization?”

Glass on His Future Work
“I think the ‘florals’ will continue to pop up in various works even if I do not pursue them head on,” continues Mikel. “I figure if I paint enough of them over a long enough period of time, I might actually figure out everything they mean to me! I tend to assign metaphorical meaning to the attributes in my paintings, but I don’t know if others read them similarly, if indeed, at all! The advantage of exploring a single subject in a serial fashion is that deeper layers of meaning continually reveal themselves—unless that is just post-fact rationalization?”

Glass on His Macabre Figurative Images

“I fully believe we all have dark thoughts when we explore our psyche. I simply have the will and the means with which to express mine. That said, I do edit so that I won’t be stoned in the public square, but I find that by getting some of this stuff out, I’m able to live a happy and productive life.”

Glass on His Portraits

“I’ve always had to have a commercial component to my painting life. For the past dozen years or so that has been portraits. I do about two to three per year to supplement my income. That said, I’ve always embraced them as a major challenge to create a painting that has at least some universal appeal, with the limitation that capturing the likeness of that specific individual is of paramount importance. I’m obsessed with trying to figure out what makes the individual tick in order to inform the process. Hopefully, the yield is a more of a painting than just a cookie cutter portrait, and both project truths about the sitter and has reflections of the society in which he/she is steeped.”

Glass on Photography and His Work

“I’ve become quite proficient at working from photographs over the years but never have enjoyed the medium to the point where threatens my love for painting. I prefer to paint from life, and will do so wherever possible. That said, almost all of my portrait commission work is now from photography, and a lot of my other figures are as well as I need to balance my time, budget and choice of subject with their competing interests.”

Glass on His Biggest Struggle

“I spend so much energy in the initial stages of a painting that I sometimes find it hard to maintain my focus in the final stages. I generally have a solid month of attention span before I lose interest. That said, I hardly sleep so I can cram a lot of hours into 30 days. On big projects I’ve spent more time, but I’m usually accompanied by a voice inside me telling me I need to move on. I’ll sometimes revisit a piece much later and have worked on a few pieces for years.”

Glass on His Pet Peeve

“I think that one by-product unleashed by Modernism is a sort of opposite reality–that good is bad and bad is good. It was fine and appropriate and even important as an expression of angst when it first developed, but most things that embrace it as a defining principle in contemporary art seem dated and passé.”

Glass on Art Education
“It should be understood that art is an academic discipline like any other we’re exposed to in school. Know that there are rules that can be learned that you can build upon. It’s analogous to learning numbers before one can do math or letters before one can read.

I feel the current state of art education is a disgrace as the philosophy often seems to be to treat art like a break from the rigors of the academic day rather than to treat it like a subject as important as any other, where real and quantifiable information can be disseminated that will enrich and expand the child’s brain in a way that no other subject is able to do. It’s a piece of the puzzle, but educators today seem perfectly content to work on that puzzle with a big hole in the middle.”

Glass on Realism
“When 20 years ago I first got bitten by the realist bug, I was quite fundamentalist about things such as perfect likeness, thinking as though there were an extremist militant force called ‘The Likeness Police’ that would swoop in and bust me if I deviated from rendering exactly what was before me. I attributed that mindset to a fatalism regarding the mystery of attraction, and to a belief that I had an obligation to myself to achieve truth through the exploration of the unconscious mind.

It’s only been in the past couple of years that I’ve started to lighten up and take liberties in my approach to painting. My hair is still far from down, but I think that ‘loosening up’ is enabling me to embrace my conscious mind, which I have heretofore kept at bay.”

Glass on Angst and Materials
“After 25 years of painting, I’m still trying to figure out mediums,” admits Glass. “Usually, I make a couple of passes with turp-diluted paint, then a couple with straight paint, then a couple more with a little bit of linseed oil added. I’m pretty infatuated with oil-primed linen, though lately I’ve been using more panels—Luan plywood that I prime with acrylic gesso.

“I’m quite derelict with my materials,” he confesses. “My nylon brushes look like palm trees and my bristles can pop balloons. My paint tube caps disappear like socks in the dryer! I use a lot of 3-inch finishing nails to break through the crust of dry paint around the mouths of my paint tubes to get to the wet paint inside; it’s a little bit like eating a lobster dinner every time I have to set up my palette. The brands I put through this torture are most often Utrecht paint and Robert Simmons brushes. I apologize to both.”

Glass on His Work
“I’m told I’m more daring than most of my realist-painter colleagues. I do have an active imagination, and I try to keep it unfettered when conceiving of an idea for a work.”

“I hope my work has always changed and will continue to do so. While I’m attracted to the idea of the workaday existence where one can find contentment in the same activity repeated ad infinitem, I don’t seem able to exist within that paradigm.”

“The combination of traditional and contemporary attributes contained within the composition is meant to suggest my own conflict of reconciling classical and modern art. My interest in traditional technique combined with contemporary subject matter has left me in a gray area between the two art worlds.”


Meet Mikel Glass
In addition to painting complex figurative works, still lifes and commissioned portraits, Glass is also a sculptor. “I can’t recall a time when I didn’t make art,” he says. “I remember my father scolding me as a child for creating a sculpture out of raw hamburger meat.” Glass has a master of fine arts degree from the New York Academy of Art and has shown his work in numerous solo and group exhibitions. He’s married to a professional cellist and together they have 12-year-old boy/girl twins and a 10-year-old son. Glass loves sports and plays in recreational softball and soccer leagues and coaches his children’s baseball, soccer and basketball teams. His website is www.mikelglass.com.


To check out the downloadable version of the October 2010 issue of The Artist’s Magazine, click here.

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