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An Interview with an Artist/ Artist Mike Segal

This month is American Artist Appreciation Month

This month Because of Jim will be featuring artists with different styles and different backgrounds, but they all have something in common. At least some of their subjects are animals. Since this is a blog for Fur Parents, we would like to highlight artists who not only create beautiful works but also try to live in harmony with animals.

Mike Segal working on a piece at an art show

I featured some of Mike Segal's work in another post back in January, for Inspire Your Heart with Art Day. This month we are focusing more on the artist. In the interest of full disclosure, Mike is a much older cousin, whom I have admired since I was a child, and still admire for his unapologetic authenticity as a person. His down-to-earth nature is reflected in his art.

BoJ: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the reason you decided to become an artist?

Segal: I am a daydreamer who sees entire episodes of stories in my head. My third and fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Murphy was always admonishing me because I was always somewhere else, in a dream while in class, still am. Art is the best place for a dreamer to hide. Dream a story and bring it back for everyone to see where you went. Lots of fun there.

BoJ: What is it about animals that draws you to them as a subject for your work?

Segal: I love critters. They speak to me in that secret language that only certain people can hear.

BoJ: How do you decide what subject you are going to paint? What inspires you?

Segal: That is the question most often asked by folks I meet. It is simple, I paint what is in front of me. The places and the critters that are in my life, my hound dog, the cats that run all over Cedar Key, the pair of owls that come every year to nest in our woods, my neighbor's new donkey that if you do not give him a carrot and turn your back he will bite you in the butt, the small fishing village on the Gulf coast that reminds me of my youth being brought up on an island.

I paint the most important things in my life, the things I really love, they are right in front of me, not in Hollywood, or Washington or anywhere else, look at my room, plenty of stuff there to paint. So I paint the most important things in my life, stuff that is right in front of me.

BoJ: Have you ever wanted to paint something, but you just couldn't get it the way you wanted?

Segal: I never think about getting it the way I want it. I get a design progressing, a sketch of something and then the work takes on a life of it’s own and I am just as much a witness to the process as anyone viewing it. Our conscious mind is not so smart, probably as stupid as we can get away with. But our subconscious mind, when it is hooked up to the hands and eyes has a life of it’s own.

Why try to use your stupid mind and “get it the way you wanted”, when you can just sit back and watch what the smart person was able to accomplish?

BoJ: How long does it take to go from concept to finished work? Do you always follow the same process, or do some pictures form more easily than others?

Segal: I utilize several different design processes depending on the subject and where I am, in my studio, out with a sketchbook, or just daydreaming up a story to paint. I make a sketch, and then let the process take on a life of its own, but never try to get to the definitive statement too soon. Why hurry up a ride you are enjoying? Take your time, let the visions emerge at their own pace, after all, I am no longer in control at that point.

Sometimes the final working sketch is right there, right away, the first sketch does the job, go paint it.

Sometimes it takes 30 years. I put my sketches into a file folder and go back to them from time to time, moving the design along a little further. Then I make a painting and then ask, “what else can it be”? Then the process starts all over again with the new painting as the beginning point, a mile maker along the way of that study.

BoJ: Who is your favorite artist? What about their work speaks to you?

Fernand Léger Clowns et chevaux Signed F. Léger and dated 54 (lower right) Oil on canvas 47 by 61 in. 120 by 155 cm

Segal: Fernand Leger. He was the first artist to really understand the modern human condition and how people in this fast-moving world perceive art. He created the “mechanical age” work using industrial objects as art, a spin-off of the earlier cubist and DaDa movement.

But the most important thing that Leger taught me is to serve the masses, not just the elite rich who already have an art collection. Leger made modern art to be enjoyed by the factory worker, the rest of us. He also realized that people live at 60 miles an hour in the modern world and to communicate with modern people the artist must present a billboard, something that may be realized quickly while driving past it in 5 seconds.

And Leger was a scholar that could explain all of it. I read his book.

BoJ: Last question. Who was your favorite animal to paint? Why?

Segal: My favorite animal to paint is the critter right in front of me at the moment.

Mike Segal was generous enough to let me pick the pieces I thought would work best for this post. I hope that you like his work as much as I do. If you are interested in seeing more of Mike's work, you can visit the links below or find him on Facebook

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