Last Sunday Michael Beddall opened up his latest art show at the Pink Cow in Shibuya- a delightful smorgasbord of Japanese beauty, animal still-life, and the occasional chilling fantasy. There was a great showing of fans and supporters, and several paintings have already sold. Mike’s a good friend of mine, we often go to haikyo together, and for a long time I’ve wanted to interview him about his art. Now with his show in full swing, it seemed to be the right time. Read on for the interview.
Japanese beauty, ice-blown torii, freaky sheep on the hunt.
1. How long have you been painting, and what made you start?
I’ve been painting now for more than 10 years, but have only gotten serious about it since 2006. What made me start? Hmm. I can’t exactly recall, but it may have been something as simple as coming across an art store and saying to myself, ‘let’s get some supplies and give painting a shot.’
2. In the past few years you’ve really geared up your artistic efforts. What brought about that change? How much time do you spend painting per week?
This is easier to remember. Back in 2006 I was walking through Shibuya, and I happened across an art store with an easel on sale. It might seem a little mundane, but I’d never owned an easel before. After that things just progressed. I had been on a painting hiatus for a few years, and after I started again I realized how much I had missed it.
It also helped that the first painting I did in Tokyo is still one of my favourites (Shiro) and I thought to myself ‘hmm, I’m pretty good!’ ha.
As for how many hours a week I paint, well it depends a lot on my work schedule and what other things are going on in my life, but generally I paint anywhere between 3 and 15 hours a week.
Beautiful kimono moments.
3. How would you categorize your painting style?
Generally speaking I’d say I’m a realist, and most of my paintings reflect that style. However I’ve recently begun to experiment with more abstract and impressionist styles, actually my most current painting is a mix of those two. In the future I plan to experiment more with different styles and eventually move away from realism.
4. You paint a number of different topics- animals, images from Japan, people from your life, and some spookier lonelier ones. Which ones are your favorites, and why? Which ones are hardest, which most rewarding?
Hard to say which subjects are my favourites. Generally speaking my favourite topic is usually the painting I’m working on at the moment, if that makes sense. The most rewarding and difficult painting is the one where I achieve exactly what I set out to do in the beginning. Much harder than it sounds actually.
Stunningly gorgeous, torii both real and imagined.
5. If there was no chance of ever being paid, would you still paint? Would you paint different things?
I’ll admit, it’s much more motivating for me to paint when I can visualize some kind of reward for my efforts. I’m not talking about just money here, simple recognition also counts for something as well. If I was the only person left on Earth, I’m not sure that I’d continue to paint.
Some artists I’ve talked to sometimes tell me that they have a tough time selling their paintings, that they become attached to a few of them and never want to part with them. For me it’s different. There isn’t one of my paintings that I wouldn’t part with. The fact that someone is actually interested in my art, and would consider displaying it in their home is what brings me the most pleasure.
6. What is it that inspires you to paint what you paint?
I’m not sure I’d call it inspiration really, more like a drive. I just get this urge in me to create something, so I paint. As for why I paint a certain subject, mainly ideas pop into my head, either that or I see an amazing photograph and want to recreate it.
A few billion A.D.
7. Have any famous artists influenced you? Has Japan influenced you as an artist?
Actually no. To be honest before I started painting I didn’t even know any famous artists. Now of course I do, and admire a lot of them. Currently I’m very interested in the works of Monet and Dali. I’ve definitely been influenced by Japan though, which is pretty obvious when looking at a lot of my work from the past two years.
8. Where do you see yourself as a painter in 10 years?
I‘ve improved a lot in the last couple years, and I’d like to think that I’ll continue in that vein. Getting rich and famous is a bit of a lofty dream I think, but it’s nice to contemplate a future where my work will continue to gain recognition.
9. I know you are primarily a self-taught painter, do you ever regret not getting formal training? Do you think much can be gained from formal training?
No regrets! I’m not sure really what formal training could’ve done for me that I couldn’t achieve with practice and patience. I’ve often heard negative reviews about formal training for the simple reason that formally trained painters end up painting like their teachers want them too, not in their own way and style. I’m a big believer in that there isn’t any ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do art. This should not be confused with ‘good’ and ‘bad’ art however.
10. If you could pack in your job and become a painter full time, would you? Which of your painting types do you think is most likely to become commercially successful?
Of course, I’d be there in a second! Hard to say which of my painting types would be most successful though, people all seem to have different opinions, Just because person A likes painting X is no guarantee that person B will like it. However generally speaking, I’ve found that my torii painting series has been the most widely liked and successful so far.
11. How would you feel if you stopped painting? Will that ever happen?
I don’t even think I could stop now, it’s just part of my life.
12. What are your favorite colors to paint with?
Generally I love bright colours, colours that stand out. However if you were to measure my favourite by the volume I use, then white would be on top, with black a distant second. Blue would probably be third.
The show will continue for the rest of the month, check out the details in the Pink Cow calendar here. You can see a full gallery of Mike’s paintings here. Most of the paintings at the Cow are for sale, as are a number of them on his site. Support the artist- or the sheep will get you!
Sheep on the hunt. Not based on a photograph.