Illustration Station, Mikesville

Through the Years: My Evolution as an Artist–in Pictures!

Hello! I know I still owe you the rest of my 2012 US Tour, but I thought this would be a fun little post. Plus, I haven’t talked about art in a while. I’ll keep the set up brief. When I was in NY, I unearthed some old artwork I had stashed away under beds and inside sheds. Please excuse some of the image quality, as I had to take some shots with my little “travel camera” and no lighting.

I made this when I was 4. Since I totally failed at pee-wee basketball and would draw on everything in sight, my Mom thought it might be a good idea to enroll me in art lessons. Well played, Mom.

I was always into castles (and apparently bakeries). I made this with my sweet set of Design Spectracolor pencils, which we all know were the Rolls Royce of colored pencils. This is dated ’92, a very productive year for me.

Another theme in my work (and life) is ice cream and other sweets. I especially enjoy the sparklers and checkered orange creamsicle scoop. I think this was from 4th grade.

“Meow!” More colored pencil madness. I remember getting cross-eyed trying to draw fur.

Of course I was really into Disney. I copied this out of a coloring book.

By 6th grade, I learned how to make animation cels. I had enrolled in classes at Art & Design Studio of Rockland. I learned a lot of skills there from ink to pastel to paint. I took classes there until I graduated high school, and even worked as a part-time assistant for teachers in the younger classes.

In middle school, I ditched Disney and totally immersed myself in comic books, specifically X-Men. I related to their brand of outcasts with special mutant powers. My mutant power was drawing, although I was in dire need of an anatomy lesson.

In high school, my eye for photo-realism was sharpening, but a lot of what I made was just “pretty.” I hadn’t really tapped into the idea of art as expression. That changed when I took Mrs. Nicholls’ Art Appreciation class. It changed the way I looked at art. It wasn’t just about making something look good anymore, there was meaning and purpose behind everything. Mind = blown.

I started getting a little bit more conceptual with my work. This piece was for an independent study, where I was researching my ethnic heritage (my mother is Irish and my father is Filippino) and trying to find a link between two seemingly disparate cultures. This piece combined some of the myths and legends of the two island nations. I should really see a doctor about that ear leakage.

In college, we all took the same foundation freshman year in the art school. I declared my major as illustration for sophomore year, which was two whole semesters of photographing an entire composition with ektachrome, projecting it onto illustration board, tracing, and applying whatever medium we were working in at the time. It was soul-crushing, though I’m sure I got some useful crap out of it, like composition and medium technique (but I still hated tracing). This is a portrait of my little sister (not so little anymore) and her best friend “Puppy.”

Junior year we were allowed to try different styles. I was very excited to put photo-realism away for a while and just have fun with characters and color.

Then 911 happened. That’s all I’ll say about this piece.

During Spring semester of 2002, I studied abroad in Florence, Italy. It changed my life. Not only was I surrounded by the most sumptuous art of the Renaissance, but I felt totally liberated as a person and an artist. I really started pushing the envelope on an artistic level. Things literally got messy, which I never allowed myself to do before. It was wonderful.

Senior year, we probably heard a million times that we needed to focus on a specific style for our portfolio, but I just wasn’t there yet. I was still busy experimenting, and I do not regret it at all. I was still trying to find myself; how could I choose a voice that I didn’t know I had? This is Paulie Platypus, in acrylic and pastel.

For an independent study, I wrote a children’s book, The Adventures of Pina and Zed. It starred my host mother and her dog and took the viewer through the city of Florence on a wild goose chase (well, actually “dog chase”, but you get the idea). I made several finished pieces (acrylic under-paintings with oil finish), mocked up the dummy and actually shopped it around to publishers. A few little places were interested (Harper Collins and Houghton Mifflin) but the project never went anywhere. When I got my first rejection letter, my professor said to frame it.


I also played around with ink and digital coloring. I had done some of this in high school when I was still into comic books, but was taking it a bit further.

I took some painting electives, where I copied a lot of masters. This was very helpful in learning more about painting. This is a copy of The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Vermeer, acrylic underpainting with oil glaze.

This is one of my favorite pieces from college. It’s called “Zipper, I’m home.” The idea of a ghost girl kinda freaked some people out, but I think she’s precious. I did a similar approach with paint as I did with the Vermeer piece, but something wasn’t translating. It was hard not having something to copy (obviously) and I didn’t want it to be photo-realistic. I was more inspired by some pieces I had seen in the Society of Illustrator’s Annual that were neither realism nor cartoon. My professor at the time said that the painting never lived up to the original comp drawing. That haunted me for years, until I started going back to drawing as my primary medium.

I won’t say much about my post-college work. You can see some of it in the archives of my website. I will share that not long out of college, I started drawing a bunch of little characters in my sketch book frequently. I was very frustrated with painting and didn’t do it much, but kept drawing a certain little elephant…

Years later, Elly would become my little hero, combining everything I’ve learned along the way. Looking forward to continuing my journey with him!

Props and thank yous to some of my teachers:

Tonya Mulligan, Laura Nicholls, Mark Mitchell, Charlene Margiotta, Carmel Nicoletti, Murray Tinkleman, John Thompson, Yvonne Buchanan, Roger DeMuth


13 thoughts on “Through the Years: My Evolution as an Artist–in Pictures!

  1. Danny says:

    Wow M!ke, This is amazing! So inspiring. Very neat to see you grow as an artist over the years, you are very talented. I truly enjoyed viewing your growth over the years. This just made my day! Excellent work!

  2. I absolutely loved looking at your “art” journey. It’s very inspiring, but you had loads of talent and imagination right from the beginning. Great job!

  3. C. Margiotta says:

    Hi Mike,
    Super idea to see you art evolution. Very interesting to see how you’ve grown in your artwork. Come and visit when your back in NY.

  4. timecabriggs says:

    And all along I thought of Elly as a girl. This was a great post! You just rocked my world. Elly’s a boy… Just gimme a sec to get my head around that… Elly’s a boy…

  5. Laura Clement says:

    This post was such a pleasure to look at, to read, and just devour. What a fun way to show your progression. I love the ghost girl and of course your little elephant. Much success to you.

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