“Allowing the creative process to uncover questions regarding my own true nature and my relationship to the world has become a freeing experience” is what Michael Welch says of his internal art-making methodology. Welch has been involved in visual art in one form or another since childhood and he see art as a vital instrument—since the time of antiquity—that happens intuitively, perhaps even unconsciously; in a way that benefits the whole of society in positive lasting change. It’s transformative, he believes.
In a recent SKYPE chat, Welch pondered his own body of work, the art world at large and humanity’s collective psychology. This dynamic he relates directly to the life of birds–a subject he’s been drawing inspiration from of late–saying that “While people spend their whole lives struggling to find security in an increasingly insecure world, birds seem to live carefree embracing the moment not worrying what the future will bring.
Here’s what else he had to say…
Michael Welch: Art as a Freeing Experience
An Interview with Max Eternity
Michael, I’d like to start by looking at what you state in the first sentence of your artist statement, when you talk about this: “Allowing the creative process to uncover questions regarding my own true nature and my relationship to the world has become a freeing experience. Through the recognition of my personal role as an artist, I have learned to trust in the varied and unpredictable ways my work manifests itself.” Could you explain further how the creative process frees up your relationship with the world?
I think that like anything else, if I look at my artwork, it has totally evolved over a period of time what’s a stating to happen for me, in the beginning it was hard for me to trust the process. I used to use a lot of other people images, yet the more ai allowed myself to become very honest in my own process, I was more and more able to just let go of these crutches/bridges. I find now that I just don’t need those bridges. There’s this force, this creative energy, and to sit in that when I was younger was quite painful there is this question that comes up: Am I really an artist?” What am I supposed to be doing here? What’s my next step, but I’m starting to trust that process, that ground of who I am. Art has been a target for me for that ground.
The beauty of digital art is that for me it’s done with pixels made for electronic media, yet now with all these great new printers, I can do these prints that are just gorgeous. I can send my work out on the internet and yet I can make all these digital prints. For me it’s a medium. I can sit in a coffee shop with a laptop and create and its finished work. I can store thousands of prints on my computer, and all I need to do is go to a printer and print out my work.
What were you doing before digital?
I was doing graphic design and illustration, using traditional illustration tools—pastels, pen and ink, scratch board, acrylic, etc.; also using the computer as a tool, Adobe Illustrator. When my daughter was born I didn’t have a lot of room, but I had a computer. So, I started messing around with the paint tool in Photoshop and really fell in love with it. Photoshop made it really cool, because I can mess around with colors, I can use curves. I can work in huge detail if I want too. I can blow a small thing up and use my whole computer screen, I could never do that when I was painting traditionally. I have more options.
I notice you edition 20 or less of each print that you make. How did you arrive at that determination?
I think that, just to try to create value in certain pieces, if somebody was collecting they would know there were only 20 pieces. With electronic media, they would know that they were buying a piece of fine art; distinguishing something that is publicly owned and something that has value because of its limited nature.
I could see it 2 different ways. There’s a part of me that it just goes out, and there’s value in that…the public domain. Shepard Fairey is a perfect example of that. The other is that at the same time, it is fine art. There is value in the print itself, so it’s not any different than any type of print. You limit it and by doing that, it creates value. If people want to collect your work, you’re making this promise that…look, that’s it. Anything that has value, part of that value is its limited nature. Art has value, the value is intrinsic.
Elaborating on that, could you speak more to art’s role in society?
In the indigenous world, when things went bad in societies, art would come to the forefront. A lot of times artists don’t even know why we’re doing it. I think again, that’s finding a ground, our central nature that we share with someone else. A lot times artist create from that place, a we perspective. The dancers in a tribe, the shaman—when there was a sickness put together a dance to share the feeling that the tribe may have had. That came from the arts. It doesn’t exclude the intellect, but it’s not just an intellectual process.
Where does this stuff come from? That’s a great question that people can’t answer, and I think that it’s great that people can’t answer it. When people weren’t making money from art, a lot of important things were being said that were important for people to hear.
Commerce is fine, but greed…just the few people that have a lot of money have gained control over global politics. When times are trying–like they are now– that voice comes out stronger. That’s just one of the first places that these messages come from, in spite of commerce.
And could you talk about what you mean when you say: Although my skills have evolved since childhood, my communion with form and color has remained consistent and beyond explanation?
I’m just wondering as an artist if you can relate to this: I remember just the color of this green bench that my parents had in the backyard. Just being a toddler, I remember that. I remember these very tiny flowers that were orange, being immersed in the color. I have never gone beyond that sense of mystery.
How is digital different or the same as traditional art—painting?
For me, it’s just another tool. I don’t think it’s any different than when artists began to use photographs. I think artists know that. It’s just another medium, it’s just another tool. It has its own characteristics. I don’t think of digital art as being digital art, because for me it’s just a tool. I still paint; I still do a lot of work on panel. I still paint traditionally, because I appreciate both tools.
Michael, thanks for taking the time to speak with me.
These are excellent questions; just asking them kinda puts me in having to look at these things again. I feel very appreciative of the questions you’ve asked. You’ve made me think about these things again There’s a lot of appreciation.