My name is Mike Hedges and I’m an abstract painter here in Chicago
Let’s go back to the beginning, when did you first start getting involved with art?
I was always drawing as a kid that’s due to my mother she always saw something in me for that. But I never thought much about it. Then in high school, my art teacher saw what my mother did and set me up at the art institute so I started taking night and weekend classes there while I was still in high school and I think that’s when the seed was planted in my mind that maybe I’d pursue this.
When was that moment when you realized you can make it a career?
A career in art is tough (especially when you also have 3 kids lol). It’s always a struggle, but I think it has to be. It keeps you on your toes and working harder, you can’t just phone it in. People can see right through that. There really hasn’t been a “moment “ when I said. “Ok now I’m going to make a living on art” but looking back I’d have to say my first break was approaching the Mars Gallery here in Chicago years and years ago. I was young and really had no business approaching a pop art gallery with abstract paintings but I did anyways and Barb over there who runs the joint is great. And back then they only did pop art but she wanted to branch out and do some abstractions as well and that was the first time I’d show art in a gallery. Obviously, it was still a challenge because they had been established and around at that time for 20 years or so and we’re known for PETERS work and other pop artist works. But Barb saw something in me and I’ll always be grateful to her for that. We still keep in touch as well, she’s great. Then around 8 years ago (give or take) I got a call from the Mccormick gallery. (I’d been sending them portfolios for years and I knew their program well. They have great contemporary artists and had some of my heroes from the 1950s/60s that have influenced me dramatically and still do! The abstract expressionist painters for me is it! That’s where it’s at!) And out of the blue one day I got a call from Mary the director there (who is another woman I owe a great deal too for introducing my work to Tom McCormick ) and she and Tom came out to my studio for a visit and after that visit is when it all changed. I’d found a place where my work fit right in and I found a dealer who I can bounce ideas off of and will always give it to me straight. My paintings and career have forever changed since McCormick brought me in.
After being involved with art for some time, what eventually led to becoming an abstract artist?
After years of drawing classes and all other mediums. I’d studied around my junior year while at Loras College in Dubuque and studying under Tom Jewell Vitale. That’s when it hit me. I wanted to paint! And I wanted to paint whatever I wanted! And man, were they ever bad! Laughs…But the feelings and emotions I would get from being in studio painting couldn’t be matched and that’s when I knew I wanted to be an abstract painter.
You talk about how your paintings are a synthesis of line and texture. How do you find texture interacts with color in your pieces?
Yeah, that line you got from my website, that was written years ago. To be honest, after researching other artist statements I found most had these great sentences on how they did their art, and using big words and making it sound so romantic and intellectual! Haha, so that was my attempt at that. I’m no wordsmith, that’s for sure. But the truth is, it’s very simple and might sound boring but I approach every painting the same way. It’s a balancing act for me, I take my drawing, color, and texture and try and make it work. I feel I need all 3 for me to make a good painting, and I work and work and work at it to balance the three so they flow together and when I feel like I’ve accomplished that. Well, then it’s done.
Throughout your 2017 pieces, it seems as if red was one of your primary colors. Why was that?
I think the red was a subconscious thing for me, to me red can be a very uplifting color and I had just lost my mother and my way of dealing with the aftermath of losing someone was to paint. It’s a huge part of how I got through the darkest time in my life. And looking back I feel like I was trying to lift my own spirits.
I want to talk about one of your pieces in 2016, Heavy Rain. This piece looks very different than a lot of your work. What was the back story behind this piece?
I always liked that one. (that’s probably why it’s not sold yet) I used to really hate and struggle with yellows. Don’t know why that is but I didn’t use that color very much so I went into that painting more as an exercise to use yellow as the dominant color. I worked on that one for a long time to get it right. There are so many layers on that canvas! I kept starting over. And I remember on the final try I felt I got the motion right on the yellow but wasn’t happy just yet. So I just had it hanging in my studio for a few months because I felt I was close. I knew it needed something. Not much but something. Then I was working on another painting with the grays and it clicked for some reason and when I put that color on the left next to the yellow I felt it finally made sense.
How do you react to people saying abstract art is meaningless? And is it okay that art could be meaningless?
I don’t react at all to it because I know to me it’s not. There is a lot of art out there that when I see it I don’t get it. Same goes for music as well and that’s fine. Just because I don’t get it doesn’t mean it’s meaningless. It doesn’t mean it’s not art. I can respect something and not have to like it. And I think these get mixed in together when they shouldn’t. I think it’s almost impossible to find a work of art meaningless to at least one person out there. And all it takes is one.
While creating for so long, do you find it harder to try out new styles or easier?
I’m always working. I get into the studio every day whether it be for 10 min or 10 hours. (I do however shut it down for around a month once a year ) just to clear my head. But I’m always working on getting better and what I do. And a huge part of that is doing other kinds of work. I’ll try out new materials and styles and sizes of paintings quite a bit. Most are never seen by people outside my circle but I feel by doing this it makes me a better artist.
I couldn’t pick just one, there are too many. I’m always pulling out old books on artists and studying their work and wondering how they did that. So whomever I’m looking at, at that time is my favorite… right now I have Diebenkorn books pulled out…
Favorite thing about being an artist?
Being able to create something out of nothing.
One thing you want people to take away from your art?
Good question. I’d want them to feel like they haven’t wasted their time looking and maybe spark something within their imagination.
What museum do you hope to be in one day?
To be honest I haven’t given that much thought until this question… If anyone feels that a painting of mine is worth taking up real estate on their wall… I’m honored.
How could the art industry become better in your opinion?
When you figure that out…please let me know!