Artist Interviews 2023
By Laura Siebold
Michael Corr is a Scottish artist who creates contemporary paintings and murals in Scotland and the U.S.. Michael Corr's art is colorful, and mesmerizing. With effortless strokes, the skilled graphic designer fuses acrylic, oil, and spray paint, and gives life to each of his works. The visual storyteller often depicts famous personalities that have passed, resurrecting them in color. In his interview, the artist talks about all things color, commissions, creative challenges, and future endeavors.
You are a contemporary painter and muralist, based in Scotland, and received a graphic design education. How did you become a muralist and how would you describe your style?
In 2018, I was asked by a gallery I work with (Art Pistol) if I would be willing to create a mural for a restaurant / bar, based on a painting I had previously created, ìLastingî. For years prior, I had been creating large-scale paintings on canvas and board, so, in a way, this was good training for scaling up and working with murals. I was nervous before I got started on this mural, as I had never worked this way before, but once I got started, I absolutely loved it!
I would describe my style as bold, colourful, and expressive. I love working with large-scale subjects with bright & vibrant colour palettes and expressive, sweeping strokes.
Can you describe the process of creating a large-scale mural from start to finish? How do you pick the location? Which materials do you use? What can be understood by spontaneous mark making? Please go into detail.
It really depends on what the project is and who you're working with. Most murals I create are for clients and briefs, so the location is usually predetermined, like a client's property/ premises.
Once a location has been set, I usually plan out the artwork in advance to get an idea of concept, colour, and composition and add intuitive elements along the way to keep things fresh and instinctive.
To create and install a mural I use either spray paints or wet acrylics, depending if it's indoors or outside.
Spontaneous mark making is something I really enjoy when painting and usually happens when I'm in 'flow'. This is when it's just you in the moment with the paint and moving on instinct. I like to mix it up and go with the flow and be free, allowing the work to evolve.
Your subjects usually share an intense stare in your work. How do you choose the subjects? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I often find inspiration for my subjects in film, short stories and travelling to new places. I find ideas come when I'm feeling relaxed and present in the moment, allowing my mind to wander. Usually this happens for me when I'm walking in nature or green spaces.
Your murals seem to become alive through color; it seems to be a crucial element for your murals, and most portraits. How do you achieve the liveliness of your subjects through color?
Thank you! I love colour and all the emotions that colour evokes. I think the reason a liveliness comes through is because colour is primal and can affect your mood and response. I like to experiment with colour.
For example, I worked on a series of paintings several years ago based on the colour, Baker-Miller Pink. It's a colour that was meant to calm and reduce tense and hostile environments, such as prisons and hospitals. I think it's fascinating that colour can have such an impact on us.
You offer both large- and small-scale portrait commissions. How do you proceed with this type of work? Do commissions offer the same freedom as self-initiated projects?
I love commissions and working with clients. Usually, clients will contact me with enquiries, and we take it from there based on what they want to achieve.
I enjoy the challenge of getting a likeness of a subject, big and small. Whilst likeness is important, I like to inject my own style and expressiveness into the artwork, so they are unique, and I maintain as much freedom as I can.
You just finished painting a mural in Palm Springs, California. What do you like about international work? What has been your favorite project or commission to this day, and why?
Yes! My wife, Nikki and I were out in mid-March, attending a conference at The Saguaro, Alt Summit. This was the third time we've been out, and we absolutely love it. I created a live mural of Ray Eames and Nikki + her pal, Kit, created large 90's inspired photo props.
I've travelled to a few destinations outside Scotland to work on murals and love the adventure of seeing new places and creating in a new environment. I thoroughly enjoy the process of meeting new people and leaving pieces of my work behind for everyone to see.
It is honestly so difficult to select one project/ commission as a favourite, as I try and give everything to the present one I'm working on. :)
What are some of the biggest challenges you had to face throughout your career?
Good question! I think there's definitely been several challenges since leaving art school back in 2010 to the present day, great and small. Whether it be working to a tight deadline, balancing my personal life with my art, and giving myself time away to recharge, or a global pandemic. What's reassuring is that it's made me who I am today and given me positive tools and experience going forward.
I would say the biggest challenge was leaving my job as a postie (mail man!) back in 2018 and becoming a full-time artist. It was a scary prospect and there were significant challenges in my personal life added to this. However, I've had a number of special people around me who have fanned my flames, believing in me and my work, especially my wife, Nikki.
I feel extremely lucky to be working as a professional artist today and am so very grateful for the opportunity to do so. I've worked hard since leaving art school to get to this position and continue to learn more and more about myself and my artistic practice every day.
Do you prefer working by yourself or collaborating with other street artists? Can you name three (street) artists you would like to collaborate with? What fascinates you about their work or style?
With the nature of my work, I usually work by myself whether it be on paintings in my studio or murals, which I really enjoy.
I've collaborated with several artists over the years and it's always a great experience and insight into how they approach their practice. I love painting at street art festivals, as there are so many artists in the one space. It's so inspiring to be a part of, as well as meet and chat with new people. Yardworks at SWG3 and Dundee Jam are great for this!
I recently worked on a project for Chivas Regal with 3 talented Glasgow based artists: Rogue One, Molly Hankinson & Ellie Type. Together, we painted x3 steel silos of people from Glasgow who individually inspire us.
There are so many street artists that I would like to collab with and [would] definitely welcome this. I would happily paint with anyone who would paint with me.
What are your future plans? Are you planning on exhibiting in more countries, or have exciting new projects coming up in Scotland?
I've got a few exciting projects lined up for the year ahead in Scotland and Europe.
If you could paint a mural anywhere in the world, where and what would it be?
This is a tough question, as there are so many places in the world I've not seen yet and I honestly would be happy to paint in most places. I'm on the West Hollywood Mural Roster, and I'd love to be back painting in LA sometime soon. New York also has an incredible street art scene which I'd love to contribute to, and I've heard great things about Chicago & Colorado. Japan and Ireland are also on my wishlist - I paint a lot of human faces but I really want to paint more animals.