Working Artist Interview Project:
Making Art & Making a Living in Portland
Artist: Mike G
S&TG: Do you use the word artist, poet, etc. to describe yourself? Do you feel like you don’t “deserve” to call yourself that because you’re not paid, published, etc. or famous?
Mike G: I’ll be perfectly frank in this interview. The questions are important. I am important. Radical honesty is called for at the intersection of question and the Mike G. So let’s roll. I’ve called myself everything imaginable in the never-ending desperate attempt to stave off despair. Poet, writer, artist, starving artist, performing artist, genius, whatever works at the moment, whatever inspires the creator to stay in this world and create. In 1990 I left the traditional career path, dropped out of Law School to become the best “starving artist” I could become. My world changed. With no supporting evidence other than a lover calling me great I decided to call myself great. Radical guts are required on the artist-path. I care not for fame or money. I care about inspiring those humans I intersect in my flesh and blood orbit. I call this marriage of art and inspiration “the greatness path.” I’m on it. I want others to hop on board. That’s what matters to me.
S&TG: And what does it mean to you to be an artist, poet, etc? And have you always thought of yourself as one? If not, when did you?
Mike G: Being an artist is my chief identity. Everything great in my life follows from this identification choice: lovers, friends, sense of self worth, gratitude, the heart’s secret security. Imagination has been my home always. Daydreaming out schoolhouse windows, reading, brooding, wondering if I’m alien, etc. This is the artist’s experience before understanding labels. I’ve always thought of myself as outcast, misfit, unique, troubled, special, outstanding. This causes both pain and exhilaration. Presently I’m inclined to discard labels, even my favorite, namely “great.” We are complex human beings. If I were to label the complexity I would call it “beautiful.”
S&TG: Why is your art important to you? Why do you spend time creating when you could be doing something completely different and no one else would stop you?
Mike G: Um. Staring at beer can now. Ok, ready to answer. I am doing with my life what I was born to do. Creating is synonymous with living. I have to. I cannot not create. Staring at beer can again. Ok, another tidbit. The artist’s obligation is to avoid contributing to the generalized elevator music, civilization’s common denominator. Instead, let us inspire the common to be elevated. This is spiritual work. It is joy and does not feel like work. Somewhere, my friend, the great Dennis McBribe is applauding.
S&TG: What does it feel like to create? No, seriously, what does it feel like?
Mike G: Like ejaculation. Seriously. Sweet release is what it is. Not overwhelming like falling in love. Sweet release that allows one to live.
S&TG: How long have you been making art?
Mike G: Since babyhood. Born not made.
S&TG: What kind of art do you make?
Mike G: Write art. Right art. Heaven hell note taking.
S&TG: What’s your creative process? Do you follow a routine?
Mike G: Reverie makes it persistent and always in process. I do not compartmentalize anymore. I know what kind of God I AM. Work/play all day. Same thing. No life apart from art.
S&TG: Are there habits or places that help you create or get you inspired?
Mike G: Deep into a 12 pack I pause to consider my answer. Oh yeah. I am fascinated by my life. Never bored. That is the creative place from which the genius springs. Get quiet. Roar. It cums. Trust.
S&TG: Who are your creative heroes?
Mike G: Early on imitative obvious ones. J. Campbell, J. Joyce, Alan Watts. Now, my brilliant contemporaries, my living friends.
S&TG: What kind of support system do you have?
Mike G: Friends. That’s all we have. It’s always enough. It has to be.
S&TG: What’s the most important lesson that you want to share with a beginning artist about how to be creative?
Mike G: Get guts. Fearlessness. No shame. Jump off that cliff. The negative no longer serves you. Know this and jump. Excise everyone who doesn’t support your deepest passion. You are the bird who learned how to fly. Suffering is part of flight. Thrive in this knowledge. Fly. Don’t look back or ahead. How lovely the rainbow is when you are soaring above it.
Making a living:
S&TG: How do you pay your bills? Etc.
Mike G: I work 2 jobs as infrequently as possible. No benefits. No safety net. I bank everything on my immune system and thriving on passion alone. This is an extreme position. I risk premature death. It’s part of my greatness-path.
S&TG: How does the way you make a living right now either support or complicate making art?
Mike G: Totally supports. I write and internally practice performance while supposedly working. Artists can’t be stopped. Prioritize and jump off that cliff.
S&TG: What’s the most important lesson you want to share with an artist about how to make a living?
Mike G: Make art # 1. Whatever you do to support that # 1 is worth it always. Cultivate your passion and you will always have it. $ can be made and lost. Passion is, and so the fuck are you. Don’t confuse the trophy for the gift.
S&TG: Do you hope to make a living doing your art one day?
Mike G: I do not place such a burden upon my art. What I do is priceless. Saving myself and healing others is priceless.