It’s finally here!! Today I kick off my series of Artist Interviews. Each month I’ll be interviewing an artist that I truly admire. Collectively, all of these artists are exceptional at what they do, and I believe this is a fantastic opportunity for us to learn, through listening to their stories. Sometimes when you catch a glimpse of the creative processes of another artist, you can end up unlocking a whole new way of creating for yourself. It’s my hope that you’re encouraged by my Artist Interview series and it helps you grow creatively.
Today’s Artist Interview is with the impeccable Brandon Mikel Paul. So, I’ve been a fan of Brandon’s for a while now and I’ve watched him grow his online presence dramatically over the last two years. Brandon has incredible insight into growing your social media presence online, and often in his posts, he will share a behind-the-scenes look into some of his thought processes around creating.
You know when you check your Instagram and you see who’s sharing stories, and there’s always a few people you’re hanging to hear from? Well, Brandon is that kinda person for me. His mentoring has been a significant driving factor behind the launch of the Chrissie Murphy Designs Blog and many of my creative business decisions. I have learned so much from Brandon over the years, and I reckon you will to.
So let’s get into it…
Welcome Brandon, tell me a bit about your background and how you got into this style of art? It appears you are a very active lettering artist…
So I was originally going to school to study Mechanical engineering. After a semester of Calculus, Chemistry, and Engineering classes I realized that Engineering was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I kind of took a leap of faith and switched my major to Studio Art. I had studied photoshop and graphic design in high school and was interested in creative work.
It took me about 3 semesters until I started taking my work seriously. I remember coming across the art of David Adrian Smith (@davesmithartist on instagram) and the album cover he designed for John Mayer’s Born & Raised album. I had never seen artwork so detailed and done with so much care and passion. It opened up my eyes to what kind of work I could be creating as an artist. I became obsessed with his style and the style of printmakers and engravers.
From then on I started practicing lettering and doing illustration in this style, sometimes spending 50+ hours each week in the studio working on my designs.
I’ve always been prone to only doing things that genuinely interest me and excite me, and once I discovered lettering I was hooked.
Where are you located and what sorts of things in your area inspire your art?
I got my Bachelors in Studio Art in Columbia, SC from the University of South Carolina.
There was this grimy hole-in-the-wall coffee shop right downtown called Drip Coffee that I used to go to every day. The atmosphere was exciting and I felt like I was in place where art mattered and culture mattered. I believe my artwork was greatly influenced by the strong feelings of inspiration and the desire to create, to use my creative gifts to inspire and motivate the artists around me.
Now I live in the Gulf Coast of Florida, pretty close to Tampa. What I like about Florida is that people here are driven and more motivated to make something out of there life. It seemed like everyone I met in Columbia was content with living in the same place for the rest of their lives and never pushing themselves to achieve what they are truly capable of. Its nice to be surrounded by people who think bigger and challenge me to grow. I’m not creating as much art now that I am out of college (and working a full-time job), but I am enjoying life so much more.
I struggled with depression a lot during my time in Columbia, but I’ve overcome a lot of that simply by surrounding myself with positive people who challenge me to grow.
You have developed a unique style to your work, what would you say is your favourite piece?
My style is indeed quite unique. Its worked in my favor as I am now able to charge more for my work because it is so specialized.
Its hard to choose favorites because they are all valuable to me and help me to reflect on how my skill has progressed of the years.
I did this illustration my Senior year of college. My professor, James Busbee, was a really great leader. He started off the semester telling everyone that they don’t need to worry about their grades and that they all have an A. It gave us the freedom to really explore our creativity without worrying about whether or not we would be given a good grade.
I took the opportunity and ran with it.
For the next 3 weeks I was consumed with thoughts of creating a “Masterpiece”. I pulled influences from everywhere – Leonardo DaVinci, steampunk art, mechanical drawings of Boeing aircraft, popular illustrators on the internet, and this skeleton watch my roommate had that exposed all of the cogs and mechanisms inside. I was committed to pushing my abilities to the absolute limit and creating something greater than any of my creations in the past.
One Friday night I was in the studio until 2 or 3am working on this drawing. I remember being woken up the next morning by my roommates chatting in the kitchen next to my room saying “He was up at the school working until 2am last night, on a Friday night! Why the heck would anyone want to do that?”
It made me sad to feel the negative pressure from my friends to change my working habits. They simply didn’t have the vision that I had – one of greatness and of creating something that could inspire thousands of people! To them it seemed like I was being selfish and inconsiderate because I would rather spend all of my time working on my art instead of spending time with people and building relationships. (This negative environment fueled a lot of my depression.)
It took me roughly 3 weeks to finish the drawing. In almost every single one of my classes I would have my pencil down on the paper, tightening up my lines or adding a bit of shading. I tuned out of my other classes so I could focus on creating my masterpiece. The result was the drawing you see in the photo above.
The efforts paid off though, and I was awarded “Best Undergraduate Artwork” for this piece.
Over the years I’ve watched you hone your skills and develop real precision in your work. Pens, pencils, inks … what are your favourite tools for creating?
When I first started exploring my creativity, all I used was a mechanical pencil, a straight edge, and a precision eraser. In fact, my Valley Maker album cover design was done completely with a 0.3mm mechanical pencil and a large heaping of patience.
As time went on I started to collect more and more art supplies and was so fascinated by all of the different tools out there for creating. The more tools I added, the more it complicated things. I got to a point where I was more focused on using the best supplies and less concerned with making the best art.
After realizing this I started taking a minimalist approach to my design process. I use an “Average Joe” 2A pencil for the majority of my design process – thumbnail sketching, rough drafts, sketchbook work – and I only use my finer art supplies when working on the final rendering of artwork.
So its hard to answer what my favorite tools are for creating. Anything that lets me make a mark I guess.
But I do genuinely enjoy playing around with calligraphers pens and nibs. It just feels more… traditional I guess.
What would you say has been the most difficult aspect in being consistent with your art and how do you handle this?
This question is a bit tricky because it presupposes that I am being consistent with my art or have a goal of being consistent with my art.
I would say that the only thing I am consistent with is following my interests.
All of my work, or at least all of the work I share on my Instagram, has been done in a style that I am most interested in and quite fascinated with.
It is important to have a consistent image and visual identity when you are building a brand, but as an artist I say do whatever entertains your curiosity and interest the most.
So in regards to your question I do maintain a pretty strict level of consistency on my instagram in regards to it’s theme. I only share work that compliments what is already on my feed. Mostly black ink or graphite on a white or brown background. Getting too far away from that would confuse my audience and weaken my brand.
Do you have one tip you can share with us for combatting artists block?
I highly suggest reading the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. He does a really great job at defining what he calls The Resistance, which is the force that wants to keep us from creating the work we know we should be creating.
A lot of what people call “Artists Block” can be linked back to fear, poor habits, and lack of discipline.
So if you are an artist in need of motivation I suggest:
1 Read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
3 Read this note on persistence from Pixar Animator, Austin Madison, about the struggle and challenges of making really great art.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
Right now I am 24 and working my first full-time job that I am seriously committed to (doing digital marketing for a property management franchise).
I’m acquiring the business skills, marketing skills, and life habits needed to take my life to the next level of contribution.
The long-term mission is to bridge the gap between business and art, doing everything in my power to help other artists succeed with their creative work.
The only way that I can do this is by first achieving a high-degree of creative and professional success with my own work.
I kind of look at my Instagram as a platform for experimenting with marketing, storytelling, building relationships, sharing my message with the world, and getting a better idea of how other artists think. Everything I post is for the purpose of motivating and inspiring other artists to get out of their comfort zone and seriously embrace their creative potential.
So for now I’m still experimenting with how to advertise my art, how to tell stories that resonate with other artists, and what a potential business model looks like in order for me to make a living with my work online. Maybe that is through writing, teaching, organizing a community of artists, hosting workshops, selling my art, doing high-level commissions, etc…
And lastly, tell us all the places where we can find you online…
In 2018 I will be launching a learning resource for artists on the domain SmartArtistIncome.com so be on the lookout for that!
So there you have it, my Artist Interview with Brandon Mikel Paul. I do hope you’re encouraged to get out there and give things a red hot go! If you’re on Instagram, then go and follow Brandon, you will not regret having him speak into your life. And while you’re online, head on over and check out his webpage. I have a real sense that Brandon’s only just getting started, there will be big things coming from him in the future. I just believe we’re so blessed as creatives, to be able to witness his greatness unfold.
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Until next week, connect with the Creator, let Him inspire you, His magnificence and greatness is everywhere.