Mike McCarthy is a sculptor who works primarily with stone, but the restlessness that is familiar to most artists, combined with recent travels that included the inevitable time in airports and hotels prompted him to begin sketching again on paper. “On my first trip out of town, I brought 2 small rocks to carve while in the hotel,” he explains. “Needless to say, the dust that is created from carving, even with just files, was too much. So I put the stone away and got out my sketchbook.”
This “Hotel Series” uses subject matter consistent with McCarthy’s three-dimensional work: animals – lions, horses, birds…but the highly developed sense of form is deemphasized to make room for linear pattern and a dense, collage-like layering of visual elements.
“I started doing just sketches, but soon those sketches turned into different collages and completed drawings. These drawings were either pen and ink or pencil, but all of them are black and white. I really liked the collages but many times the details would get a bit confusing; I needed a way to help clarify the elements. I decided color might be an option. Color has always intimidated me, because I am color-blind. In fact, the only time I ever received an F in school was for painting a figure green that I was totally convinced I had painted the correct color.
But I know it really helps people differentiate objects. I decided to just randomly fill in different parts of the drawing with what ever color pencil I picked up and not worry about if it was the “right” color. Many times, I only know things are different colors because the pencil says so. Much of the color looks the same to me. I wasn't sure how the process would work so I decided to have some prints made of the original black and white drawings done so I wouldn't ruin them and then add color to the prints. The cool thing is that I can experiment with a variety of different colors on the same drawing. If I don't like one, I don't have to start from scratch. It has been an interesting experience to see the reaction.”
McCarthy doesn’t apologize for his color choices, nor should he; subjective use of color is a tradition of modern art since the beginning of the twentieth century. These drawings have a free and spontaneous quality that combines assured craftsmanship with a renewed sense of discovery. If one of the unspoken goals of the adult artist is to reawaken a child-like sense of discovery, McCarthy’s exploration of an approach that is a distinct contrast from his better-known work seems to succeed in part by doing exactly that.
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Education: BA in Fine Arts, Bellarmine University
Gallery Representative: PYRO Gallery and Revelry Boutique Gallery (Louisville), KY Artisan Center (Berea)
Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2016 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.