We are very excited to launch a new art column today entitled, The Column Out Of Space, by Philadelphia artist Michael Bukowski. If you have been following Blow The Scene for some time you may remember our recent Empty Night Skies exhibit coverage where we visited one of Philly’s premiere vegan coffee stops and art space, Grindcore House, to document an art benefit hosted by Bukowski, his partner Jeanne D’ Angelo, and Ryann Casey. The exhibit raised money and awareness concerning White-nose Syndrome– a disease that will see the extinction of several species of bats across the US. Bukowski and crew were able to round up scores of artists to contribute to the benefit, which is testament to his drive both creating art and backing the causes he believes in.
Bukowski has been creating art for an among the DIY community for over a decade, having worked with bands, artists, and animal conservation groups alike. Upon scouring Bukowski‘s extensive library of art works over the past year, we knew he would be a great fit for Blow The Scene and we are very excited to launch The Column Out Of Space art column with an exclusive interview. For the past fourteen years, Bukowski has begun each work by drafting an image with mechanical pencil before inking everything with Micron pens. He then scans the images into Photoshop where he cleans up and adds the fantastic colors you see throughout this article. You will get to see this process in much greater detail as The Column Out Of Space developes over the coming months.
Bukowski gives Blow The Scene readers an inside look into the history behind his artistic journey and touches on his favorite project themes , music picks, forthcoming works, and much more. Remember to check back soon as Bukowski will be launching The Column Out Of Space Pt I where he will be bringing you inside his artistic sphere while he creates new works ranging from flat prints to shirt designs and anything else that strikes his mood. He will also be discussing his influences, other happenings in the art world, and more. This is a column you do not want to miss!
We know you are here for the art and to hear from Michael, so without further ado..
Joshua BTS: Good afternoon Michael! Before we launch your stellar art column at Blow The Scene, we would like to take some time and have you answer a few questions and let our readers from around the world get to know you a little bit. How long have you been a visual artist and what are your favorite mediums to work with?
Michael Bukowski: Well, I’ve always loved drawing…since I was like 5 years old I can recall making intricate depictions of a shark with about 30 harpoons in it, while it chomped down on a fisherman. This was all in crayon and the blood caused by the harpoons was represented by an erratic crimson scribble! If you mean, how long have I been making art for other people, I started while I was still a Junior at UArts…so 12 years now.
Michael Bukowski: When I was scribbling all that blood! Not much has changed.
Joshua BTS: How long did it take you to become confident with your art as unique contributions to the art world?
Michael Bukowski: I’m still not. I look at pieces I made a year or two ago and cringe. Not all of them, but a lot. I think that’s a good thing though. If I didn’t get better (I don’t think I’m great, mind you, just better than when I started) I’d feel stagnant and bored.
Joshua BTS: Have you received any formal art training? And would you recommend formal training to others?
Michael Bukowski: I did. I went to University Of the Arts here in Philly. It was great, and I often compare it to a trade school. Like, I had some minor knowledge about illustration and an immense desire and huge amounts of motivation. They took all that and kinda pointed me in the right direction. The problem is, is higher education in this country worth it? I’m still paying off the debt from UArts but don’t have the freelance illustrator job that they try to prepare you for. In some ways I don’t think that job exists anymore…and if it does it’s not nearly to the extant it was in the 80’s and early 90’s. But I also never really wanted that. I love doing art for DIY bands and labels. So, I guess it’s partially my fault.
Joshua BTS: I understand you run lastchanceillustration.com to showcase your works. What is the significance of the title of this website? And do you have any other online endeavors?
Michael Bukowski: That title came from a zine I did like 10 years ago with a friend. We both felt that we had been spectators in punk/hardcore and never really contributed much. So, that zine felt like our ‘last chance’ to do so. Corny? Extremely. Catchy? Apparently so, because I’m still using it.
The other project I have going on is purely for my own amusement (although people seem to like it!) and that’s Yog-blogsoth.blogspot.com. I’m illustrating EVERY monster/god that H.P. Lovecraft has ever written about. Cthulhu, The Great Race, Elder Things, Shoggoths…including stuff that he only mentioned with no physical description or things that just loose descriptions and no names. So far, I’ve done over 200 illustrations.
Joshua BTS: I know you create works on a commission basis as well as creating for leisure. Do you enjoy the dichotomy of creating for leisure and commission? What are some of the pros and cons of creating under both scenarios?
Michael Bukowski: Well, the difference is that the stuff for myself allows me more freedom, but the other stuff pays haha. No, a lot of the commission stuff is fun because it forces me to do more things that I wouldn’t normally do. Afends (a clothing brand from Australia) had me do a series of shirts that were completely bonkers. Like a cartoon guy and rabbit playing poker in the mouth of a shark that has gold fronts with diamonds embedded in them!! Other bands have asked for things like an abandoned building…nothing else, no figures. That makes me work outside my comfort zone. It’s pretty cool.
Joshua BTS: What or who were some visual elements that influenced you in your formative art stages?
Michael Bukowski: Horror movies first and foremost. I would love to say a “higher art” like paintings or drawings but nope, monster movies. My dad wasn’t the best parent in the world for multiple reasons, but what’s relevant is that he would take me to the video store on the Saturdays I went over there and let me pick two horror movies. He would then plop me in front of the TV and do whatever else. At the time I loved it, because I was watching stuff that kids my age had no clue about (and shouldn’t have) but in retrospect, I realize he only did that the get me out of his hair. Oh well. Yeah, watching monster movies made me want to create my own monsters. I also read a lot of Lovecraft in high school. I didn’t grasp how nihilistic it was then, I was mostly in it for the creatures. But both of those things have stuck with me since.
Joshua BTS: Any current artists or exhibits that have your attention right now?
Michael Bukowski: A million. My staples are always, Geof Darrow, Charles Burns, Ed Repka, and Dan Seagrave. But people my age that are doing work I love? Jeanne D’Angelo, Paul Romano, Jeremy Hush, Justin Gray, Dennis Dread, Halsey Swain, Kat Gun, Amy Duncan, Dylan Smith, Kristen Scholz just to name a few…
Michael Bukowski: Yeah…my playlist of late has been a lot of Umberto (Prophecy Of the Black Widow). I could give you my top ten for the year so far? How’s that?
1- Twisted Sister – Love Is For Suckers, 2- Marduk–Iron Dawn, 3- Electric Wizard–Black Masses, 4- Speedwolf–Ride With Death, 5- Midnight–Satanic Royalty, 6- Propagandhi–Supporting Caste, 7- Plasmatics–Kommader Of Kaos, 8- Danzig II, 9- Girlschool–Hit and Run, 10-Weird Al-ALL
I’m also currently listening to an audiobook of William Hope Hodgson‘s The House On the Borderland, which is excellent. I also listen to The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast and Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo‘s film review on the BBC.
Joshua BTS: Any works that have seen you step out of your comfort zone recently? Experimenting with any new mediums?
Michael Bukowski: Well, I think I answered this a bit with my answer to the commissioned work question. But I will say that I have absolutely NO interest in experimenting with other mediums. I’m a very fastidious person when it comes to my art….and life actually haha. I’m a neat freak. So the method I have down now, is least messy way I could work. I had to use oil paints my sophomore year at UArts. I managed to get some on my sock and then track it throughout the house. I haven’t used paint since. Ugh.
Joshua BTS: Without giving away too much- What do you have coming down the pipeline that Blow The Scene readers will get to see some inner workings on?
Michael Bukowski: 3 shirt designs for various bands and possibly 2 record covers that are in discussion right now. I’m also still working on my Lovecraft monster blog, and I’m working on doing a zine version of that. It’ll be in volumes, 10 pages each, full color. It’s actually mostly laid out. I just need a lull to finish it.
Joshua BTS: We recently featured The Empty Night Skies exhibit that was a benefit to help save and spread awareness about White-Nose syndrome in bats. How often do your organize exhibits? And do you focus primarily on benefit exhibitions? What exhibitions do you have coming down the pipeline?
Michael Bukowski: This was the first one and I don’t know if I’d do it again. It wasn’t particularly painful but I was motivated so much by the cause that it helped me put my own work by the wayside. I don’t know if I would want to do that again. I’ve done some solo shows in Philly and had work in group shows all over but I didn’t really organize those. I just made the work.
Joshua BTS: When you are not busy creating art- What does your average day look like?
Michael Bukowski: Well, when I’m not busy making art, it’s usually when Jeanne and I are traveling. So, they’re not very average. The last few trips we went on were Colombia, Ireland/England, Romania, Portugal and Portland OR. We’re talking about Cambodia or Lithuania next. Traveling is probably my second love after art.
Joshua BTS:Any final thoughts as we look forward to your forthcoming column series for Blow The Scene?
Michael Bukowski: hmmm NO! hahah no really. I’ve got nothing.
Interview by Joshua T. Cohen