Briefly describe the work you do.
I make collages both digitally and also by hand. Recently, I have been concentrating more on working digitally. I enjoy the process of building something new and unexpected using elements that were once part of something else. I usually have only a vague idea of what the finished piece will eventually look like. I basically make it up as I go along, putting different combinations of cut out images together and observing how they play off each other. I get source material from many different places- My own photography, old books and magazines, the web, etc. I also like to incorporate typography into the compositions.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I grew up in Wisconsin and attended the Milwaukee Institute go Art & Design. I do editorial illustrations from time to time for various publications as well as making my own personal art. I think that growing up in the 70’s and 80’s has probably influenced my art somewhat. Images from specific time periods can have a certain sensibility and style to them that can evoke many different feelings and memories and I do use quite a bit of imagery from the past. I was into music growing up and was always drawn to the surreal album cover art which was plentiful back then. I also really enjoyed the collaged animated segues that were featured on Monty Python’s Flying Circus. I think some of that stuck with me and subconsciously influences me today. I had a teacher at MIAD named Tom Noffsinger who makes wonderful assemblages and his work definitely had an affect on me as well.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from traditional notions of “being in the studio”.
I usually work from home. I do most of my work on a laptop so I feel like I can work almost anywhere if I choose to. I do need a space where the distractions are minimal and my studio is a converted 2nd bedroom. I work on my own collages whenever I get a chance even if it just for 15 minutes at a time. Quite often I am busy with freelance illustration jobs so my own projects take a back seat. I gather ideas and see things that inspire me pretty much anywhere and anytime throughout the day whether or not I am in a studio. That is all part of the process.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I guess that when I first started making art at a young age I probably would not have foreseen myself making art on a computer.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do You have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
I Try to work on it whenever I can. As I stated above, there are periods where my plate is full of illustration assignments which other than pushing your own personal projects back, tend to drain some my creative energy. I do find myself working mornings and at the very end of the day quite often.
How has your work changed in the last 5 years? How is it the same?
I feel like I have a better grasp on my technique just by doing things over and over and thus I think my work keeps improving on some levels. I am still working in the same media as I was 5 years ago.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
Some of my friends are people who were with me in art school so they definitely had an impact on my development as an artist. You tend to push one another. As far as writers (or musicians) having an impact on my work I would say anything that inspires you artistically even if it is a different medium or art form is something of value to you and can somehow creep into your work. Visual artists such as John Heartfield, Hannah Hoch, Max Ernst, John Craig and Lou Beach (to name just a few) have had an impact.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I know many artists that already have another occupation. I do not really have a plan B at the moment.
Michael Waraksa is a Chicago based artist and a graduate of The Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. He has exhibited his work at various venues around the United States and his illustrations have been published in numerous magazines and newspapers including TIME, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. His work has also been selected to appear in Communication Arts, American Illustration, Creative Quarterly, 3X3 and Society of Illustrators.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.