Locating my Own Visual and Artistic Voice

An Interview with Michael Reeder

February 1, 2022

Have you always aspired to create art, or did you discover your calling later in life?  

I’ve been consumed with creating stuff ever since I can remember. I don’t think there was a specific Aha! moment where I decided I wanted to be an artist because I felt that I was already an artist, even from a very young age.  

Did you study art as a student or are you self-taught? 

I have many years of studying art, starting in Art Academy middle school, then Arts Magnet High School, and I graduated from the School of Visual Arts in NYC with a BFA. Even though I had a significant amount of art schooling growing up, it took me many years to locate my own visual and artistic voice afterward. I had accumulated years on top of years of opinions from instructors and fellow peers that I needed to work through, discard, keep and identify what kind of art I wanted to make.  

Credit: Blockhead - Michael Reeder

What artist or artists informed your development? And what artists do you look to now for inspiration?  

Early on, comic books influenced my work heavily. My favorites were Spawn, Creed, Bone, and XMen. I also enjoyed copying album cover art from my dad’s vinyl collection. When I got to high school, I jumped into the world of graffiti and flipped my entire perception of art on its head. As far as current artists go, I enjoy Mark Mulroney, Balder Helgason, Pace Taylor, Austin Furtak-Cole, Deborah Zlotsky, the list goes on. I tend to gravitate towards artists that work quite differently than I do.  

What was a pivotal moment in the evolution of your work? 

There’s more than one pivotal moment, but when I decided to push my flat 2D paintings into the multilayered wood panel realm is when things opened up for me. I’ve always enjoyed building stuff, so to be able to fuse that element with my love of painting was a game-changer for me.

Credit: “Death From Above 2079” - Michael Reeder

Tell us about your process. Do you begin with an image or a concept?  

I typically start with a digital sketch focused on dialing in color, composition, and imagery. Then I do a mental pre-run of how I will build the piece, what the layers will do, and which mediums I want to use. I then gather the necessary materials and begin building out the main structure. The sketch’s primary purpose is to give a starting point to help make decisions on the front end and get the ball rolling quickly, but I’m not at all married to the sketch. Frequently I will allow ideas that present themselves along the way to find a permanent place in the piece.  

What informs your work? As a visual artist, are you inspired by music, film, science, literature or other art forms?  

A full spectrum of influences inspires my work, from current events to music, fashion, culture, art. Anything could potentially find its way into my work. Sometimes elements are brought into the image without fully knowing their purpose, but there’s always a chance that could be figured out further down the road throughout the process.  

What was the most challenging project that you worked on? 

I would have to say my solo exhibition, ‘The OtheRealm’ at Thinkspace Gallery in LA back in 2019. That is the largest body of work I’ve created for a single show to date. Somewhere around 26 total pieces, painted mural walls with patterns and clouds and a fully custom carpeted room. Carpet on the walls of the room and everything. It was awesome! The response and turnout for the opening were incredible—a packed gallery with such great energy.

Credit: ‘The OtheRealm’ at Thinkspace Gallery - Michael Reeder

What do you enjoy most about the work you do?  

I’m doing what I’ve always enjoyed doing, and I get to spend every day working towards refining my craft to create my best work. And the fact that there are so many collectors and fans of the work I make is incredibly gratifying. I love the entire idea that I make stuff that brings joy to other people’s lives.  

How do you think NFTs will change the future for artists?  

The NFT art world is brand new in the grander scheme and has already stirred everything up, and I love that. Giving authenticated ownership to a digital file is a game-changer. I’m no expert in blockchain technology, but the amount of transparency provided with NFTs is light years ahead of the standard physical art world. The fact that I can see all sales, transfers, trades, offers, etc., on every NFT to minted is terrific. The amount of back door sales or reprinting/producing editions without the artist being aware of its continued production is more prevalent in the physical art world than people realize. Also, artists typically miss out on royalties on secondary market sales. NFTs can automatically pay the artist a set percentage for any secondary sale. That’s an incredible thing, and I hope that technology can also find a way to cross over into the physical art world. Beyond that, the sky’s the limit for where the actual art can go, and I can’t wait to see it.

Michael Reeder

Michael Reeder was born in Dallas, Texas in 1982, where he grew up influenced by the local skate and street culture. Drawing and painting in traditional mediums from a young age, Reeder found himself drawn to the underground, unseen, yet very public form of painting graffiti. He later moved to New York City where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting from the School of Visual Arts. Post-college, Michael took a job with Eyecon Studios in Dallas, Texas and learned to paint large-scale, traditional murals. These experiences fused with his early graffiti influence informed and grew into his figurative work today.
Reeder’s current work commands attention through the use of bold color, graphic geometric patterns and realism. His figurative work is heavy, steeped in solemn imagery, yet saturated with bright, eye-popping color. Greatly influenced by the subject of defining identity, his fascination lies within the individual self, and those fleeting in-between or contemplative states that zap you out of mundane reality. Reeder’s process is open and free flowing, focused on allowing the work to take on its own sense of self-identity. His work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally, along with numerous printed publications such as New American Paintings, Le Petit Voyeur, and HiFructose Magazine.