Last Tuesday night Mike Watt created a mural for Sol beer live in front of the crowd at MTV Australia end of year party.
This year we have received more and more commissions like this that ask for more from the artist than just the execution. The emphasis with these briefs is placed on people being able to engage with not only the work but the artist who creates it.
Mike Watt is in his element when working live in front of an audience because it allows him to execute what’s in his imagination the way he has always chosen to naturally because of his background in Graffiti. It’s an ability he has also honed in recent years by competing in Sydney’s Secret Wars tournaments. It was so nice to see people take interest in how Mike works and get a deeper understanding for him as an artist, beyond just the surface layer of his finis
It doesn’t hurt that the characters that exist in Mike’s mind and his personality are both dominated by gregariousness and inclusiveness. It is these aspects of Mike’s process and person that made him such a great contribution to the success of the night. In fact every photo posted on the MTV Australia facebook page that night had a touch of Mike because they were taken with his bright happy backdrop and shared with the wider community.
We asked Mike to describe what makes this way of working so different to traditional kinds of commissions for commercial art.
Q – The mural for Sol beer commissioned for the MTV end of year party seems to be a mammoth task for one artist, were you nervous at all?
A – I was pretty calm leading up to it but when I was actually painting it and the time was flying passed, the nerves did kick in a bit. I managed to get through it all in the end, it was fairly intense but a lot of a fun.
Q – Is there anything you like about performing live art versus working in a studio away from the audience?
A – I think there is much more energy in doing it live, especially when there are time constraints. Its also quite nice having people coming up to you and commenting on your work.
Q – Was the scenario, characters and composition briefed to you or did you dream up the mural entirely on your own?
A – I pretty much dreamed it up on my own, there was reference given that gave me the vibe I should go for but the client was very open to ideas.
Q – What lead to casting seemingly “scary” looking characters in a very happy scene? How did you balance these contrasting tones?
A – I think the most iconic Mexican graphics are that from Day of the Dead and the Mexican Wrestlers. I wanted them working in the scene together and not just having random elements so I tried to figure out a way to make them work together. I think I balanced it by using positive body language and expressions on characters that could otherwise be intimidating. I think bright friendly colours help too.
Q – Is there some story that links all your characters together?
A – The story I came up with is that the Day of the Dead parade has been going passed the Wrestlers gym in preparation for the festival, there is a friendly bill posting competition going on on the side of the gym between the two parties. On the way passed one day the Day of the Dead characters pop in to meet the Wrestlers with a friendly afternoon beer.