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About Mike Massengale

Mike Massengale Many things inspire artist Mike Massengale, but music is the primary motivation for all of his work. The following is a bit flowery but accurate description of his drawings and paintings.

Part 1. History.
I once had an art professor ask me what I wanted to paint. I thought about for a minute and finally said, the wind. He slightly turned his head, raised his eyebrows and said, you can't paint what you can\'t see. Then he turned on a dime and shuffled off. That was the beginning for me. The challenge. How do I paint something I can't see? After years of thinking and reflecting I realized I could see it. You're thinking, what? Well, it's not so much about seeing wind or air, it's more about feeling and seeing the results of air moving. A blowing wind feels subtle. It caresses us. It wraps itself around our arms and travels through our hair. It flutters the cloths we wear. Wind is a feeling. That's what I draw and paint. The emotion of wind.

Music is the same. The vibrations run through our bodies. It caresses our soul. It flutters in our ears. Close your eyes and listen. Then notice the soft and subtle motions of your hand or feet. Feel the beat in your chest. It moves us just like wind.
Now take that experience and draw it.
Not as easy as it sounds, is it?

Part 2. Drama.
What is drama? Drama is contrast. Drama is exciting. Drama can be natural or artificial. A natural occurrence is a lightning storm, full of fury and color. It's contrast. Light against dark. It's random and unpredictable. It's exciting. A performer on stage is artificial, but with lighting and contrast the scene becomes, well dramatic and natural. The figures move. They make sound. They express motion.

Now close your eyes and listen. Listen to a thunderstorm. Listen to a live music. They both move us. We feel the vibrations. Put both senses together; sound and sensation, and then now add a visual. Drama is the result.

Part 3.
Visual art breaks down to some very basic rules; value, line and shape. Master these and the rest are just eye candy. Every color has a value. Some colors like pale blue have a light value. Navy Blue has a dark value. Light values recede in perspective while dark values come forward. Line makes shapes. Shapes express forms and forms create a subject. The challenge is in expressing these forms in a moving dramatic way through the use of value, line and shape.

Now as I stated a moment ago that light values recede and dark's come forward, but what if you flip that? What if you purposefully force the values to work the other way around like Van Gogh did in "Starry Night?" Many times the visual result will be flat. However, it also creates visual tension. That tension creates drama. Mix in a few complementary colors and place them close together. This really intensifies the visual and creates vibration. Vibration is the physical result of music and now it's the visual result as well.

Line may be expressed in many, many different ways; straight, jagged and arced. For me music is arced. It flows, it grows and it wraps around our senses. An arc in drawing is referred to as a C curve. But a C curve has limits. It can only travel in one direction. It stops and starts to the right, left, top or bottom. Music doesn't start and stop in one place. It travels. It moves from one place into another direction. An evolution of a C line is an S curve. It starts in one place and ends in the opposite. That's how I draw. One S curve inside another. I think of this as beat. But music also grows. It has rhythm that moves. The visual solution is an S curve blending with another. Not side by side, but rather one is leading another. Constantly changing direction. But the direction is not random. It's purposeful. Just like musical notes on a page. Up and down. In and out. Constantly traveling though out the scales.
Now. Close your eyes and listen to the music. Hear the beat and rhythm? Put those lines together in the shape a figure playing, dancing or singing. Flip a few values and throw in some complemetary colors. Simple really.

Artistic Influences.
American Illustrator John La Gatta for his use of color and romance.
American Regionalist Thomas Hart Benton for his figures in Motion.
Dutch painter Van Gogh for his use of values. Or better stated, "Flipping of values."
And finally,
American animator Tex Avery for his use of exaggeration and distortion.