Framed: Mike Lawrence
We catch up with the Atlanta-based illustrator and go through his dark, black & white, macabre work...
Name: Mike Lawrence
Where did you grow up and where are you based at the moment?
I grew up in a smallish city called Pietermaritzburg, in South Africa. I lived there until I went to university in the United States. After studying I moved to Atlanta with my wife and have been here ever since.
Where are you? what are your immediate surroundings?
In my studio listening to a new record I just received in the mail, and responding to this if course. At the moment I have a couple projects sitting on my desk, waiting to be worked on. Behind me against the opposite wall is my printing setup, I'm running out of space fast...
Please describe a typical day?
I generally get up around 5am, sometimes earlier, I like working in the early morning instead of staying up all night. I draw until 10ish then get ready for my day job, which is doing bike deliveries from 11-2, I'm not quite at the point where I can afford to live solely off my artwork, but I enjoy hauling ass around the city for a few hours, it gets me outside every day. Around 3 I will do some more work, usually drawing but if I have orders to pack or web-shit to do I'll do that then. I'll work until around 6 or 7, then spend the rest of the evening hanging out with my wife. This all seems really scheduled but it fluctuates every day.
Your work has quite a distinctive style. How would you describe it, and who (or what) are your biggest creative influences?
My work is only black and white, I am colourblind so working with it pisses me off. Subject matter varies with the project but stays within a dark/macabre realm. My mother is an artist and art teacher, so I always had a lot of artwork laying around the house, and even as a kid I liked the B&W stuff the most, in particular I liked the works of Arthur Rackham, Aubrey Beardsley, JC Coll and Murray Tinkelman. In the more recent years I have found much influence in the art of Aaron Horkey, Mike Giant, Richey Beckett, James Jean always blows my mind, Skinner, Godmachine, Paolo Girardi, Brandon Holt, many more but I am sure you get the gist of it.
What mediums do you work in? Are your projects all digital or a mixture of both? Could you maybe talk us through a typical process for your work?
I only use black India ink, watercolour paper, and dip pens with various nibs. I used to use microns but I went through them too fast. I start with thumbnail sketches, sometimes two sometimes 10, just until I have an image I am happy with, then I refine that thumbnail into a larger sketch. Most of the time I will scan the sketch and blow it up to the size of the final drawing, I will then use a lightbox and trace the sketch roughly to ensure the right proportions/placement of elements. Then I begin the final drawing in pencil, mapping out everything until I am ready to ink. From there I fill in all the black areas with India ink and a brush, then I switch to dip pens and stipple the hell out of it.
I’m sure there are people you would love to work with that you haven’t already.. Any idea as to who those people might be?
I have always dreamed of working with Cannibal Corpse, that would be a lifetime achievement for me just because I have loved that band from the first time I saw them in Ace Ventura. Other than that I would want to work with any band that I am a fan of, which is a lot.
What do you enjoy most about where you live? Just in general and the specific things you enjoy doing..
There is always something to do, Atlanta is a busy hub especially for metal bands, there are too many shows for me to afford! Which is something I never dreamed of because there was very little live metal where I grew up.
What have you been listening to lately? Is music something that is just playing constantly while you work?
Music is generally playing in the studio at all times, if not music then I sometimes have a TV show on in the background. I listen to a lot of different bands in a day, but some bands in my rotation lately are Agrimonia, Artificial Brain, Gridlink, Exhumed, Iron Reagan, Deathhammer, Krypts, Secret Cutter and a shitload more.
Do you ever find time to do personal work and draw for yourself? Or is that and client work kind of blurred?
If I ever have free time not used by client work I try and work on something personal. That being said, I think that the line between my personal work and client work is becoming increasingly blurred. Which for me is because I have had a lot of freedom with my clients of late, so it's almost a personal piece too and I enjoy that more.
What is something new you have noticed or learned recently?
I have been trying to teach myself not to feel compelled to render every inch of every drawing, with some blank spaces you can create a more compelling image. That's my view with my work, anyway.
What did you want be when you were 16? Did you think you would be where you are now?
I wanted to be an artist, but I don't think I knew where/what I was going to be doing with art. I'm really stoked to be where I am now.
What’s next? What have you got planned for the rest of the year and what do you want to achieve in the near future?
I am looking to find more space for my printing equipment and studio, things are getting far too cramped! The next month or so I will be grinding on client work but expect some print releases in the near future.
Thanks a lot man!
No problem, thanks for reading..