Michael Hunter: The depths of black and all colors in between

FaceTiming with Michael Hunter from the unplanned location of my neighborhood café, turned out to be the perfect place for me to speak to him in his element — in a caffeinated atmosphere! Michael’s exuberance about his craft is as infectious as it is clear, and he’s able to articulate it well. “When the music is right and the coffee is decent, I can create what I seek to.” For him, his artistry is second nature and comes easily when the mood is right. The relationship is symbiotic. For him, colors have power, and this power is deep, rich and uplifting. Here’s what Michael has to say about his arts education, how he’s developed his style, and what the sea does to his mood.


What do you wish you’d known about “an artist’s life” before you committed to the profession?


I really enjoy being in the unknown in my arts craft. I usually work without too much planning. I rely on my instincts and feelings in my life, as well as in my work.


How do you know when a piece is finished?


I’m not sure there’s a simple answer to that. I can say that it’s something that I just know. I guess I could carry on and risk over-working it. I could continue playing with composition and things. Somethings can be straightforward with moving marks. And then at some point I find myself saying, “Mike, that’s it!”


How do you approach a new work?


I usually have multiple new and in-progress works at a time. It’s not unusual for me to have six pieces on the go. But concerning art production, I can only work when the mood strikes, and completely away from any negative thoughts. I see my work as positive, uplifting, if you will, it’s meant to be so. And likewise, I am in good frame of mind when I create it. My work is really about feeling good. There’s enough of the opposite side of art around. What some may call “dark” is just not me. Someone once asked about the stark use of black in my work. But I use black as negative space. And black frankly gives the greatest amount of depth and dynamic appearance. It helps to isolate the other colors.


On how you developed your style?


I studied fine arts Cumbria College of Art and Design in my 20s at and most of my then-classmates had returned to study at and they were in their mid-40s. I have to admit, I didn’t really understand what I was doing and in hindsight didn’t use my time then as wisely as I might if I would study at my current age. But I don’t regret any of it at all. I spent time after graduation working, exploring new music genres (I love House music, I even DJ’d for a while) and started my own business. After a nearly 20-year break from the profession, I’m back doing what I love as a visual artist. But as far as developing my style, back in school, I visited numerous galleries and exhibitions, and an abstract art tutor left me with some memorable impressions. Back then I focused on drawing, traditional subjects–still lifes, landscapes. Over the past 3-4 years, my style has developed as a testament to all my life’s experiences. I like to compare my style to my dalliances as a DJ. The way I mix colors reminds me a lot of how I would mix LP tracks back in the day.


Describe your creative process.


My artform is abstract and abstract art is so unique. There are so many variations. I found a way to invent something new. For me abstract art is about feeling. I get emotional when I’m working.


What’s the biggest compliment you’ve received about your work?


Of course, I like that people see my work and say nice things about it. They say things like “this is incredible” or “I’ve never seen anything like this before.” Someone even compared my work to Kandinsky. That is truly a compliment! I have to say good feedback is something that helps to keep me on track, but in the end, I work for me. I have to.


A habit you appreciate in others?


An artistic habit? I can’t say I have one. It’s not like I look at someone else’s work and wish I was working in the same vein.


A habit of your own you’d like to break?


I do struggle with names for many of my pieces. It would be nice if the titles would flow as easily as the work itself. Usually the titles end up being a direct reflection of the colors used or even what I was doing or the location.


Describe a perfect non-working evening.


Here in Garstang, I very much appreciate this coastal life. It’d be a nice, sunny day followed by a walk at the sea. Maybe the sea air blows the cobwebs away in my head. Watching a sundown with good company.


What is the relationship between artist and collector?


I suppose every collector relates to my work differently. If I get the chance to meet someone who’s bought a piece, they might ask about my motivation for the piece. Otherwise, they generally are not aware of the thoughts or ideas behind it. Ultimately, the work is for the individual viewer.


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