Matthew Michel Hopes His Art Will Make You Worry Free

By Nicole Martinez

“I believe in the year 16000,” says illustrative artist Matthew Michel. It is midday, sunny and warm. He is casually sitting at a table in a small teahouse. There is a buzz of hurried customers around him. In and out the door, people walk with quick steps. Those sitting nearby are all on cell phones, laptops or pacing near the counter waiting for their drinks to-go. Almost everyone seems anxious with serious preoccupied faces.

Then there is Michel. Leaned back in his chair, he is slowly sipping iced tea and tasting honey sticks. He is relaxed, mellow and all smiles. He is 6-foot-2 wearing a madras cabby hat, black vest and jeans. Present and in the moment, Michel is in no rush at all, especially when it comes to creating.

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“It’s like the art and music of the past in a futuristic setting where people wear headdresses,” he says describing his pieces. Michel illustrates a post-modern world where elements of the future and the past have merged into a place of relaxation and bliss. Michel imagines that the simple items of today like boom boxes and light bulbs will be relics to treasure in the far, far future. He envisions graffiti throw-ups as huge monumental pieces fixed in stone as unavoidable public art. This of course is juxtaposed with a lovely muse sitting peacefully amid ruins of modern cityscapes and flowers clothed in a flowing robe and giraffe headdress.

“The headdresses are representative of the feelings or personalities of each muse,” Michel says. He uses animal symbolism in much of his work. Giraffes representing regality and elegance, birds as fleeting dreams, pandas can be simple and fish are wise. “It’s like when nature takes back over.”

Contrary to the plain and worn out portfolio in which he carries his prints, each brightly colored ink drawing he shares is a vibrant colorful scene. He uses vivid hues of reds, oranges, yellows and turquoise-blues to capture attention and make certain images stand out. Backgrounds are subtle browns, grays and tans to soften the mood and create a calm, leisurely feel.

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“I would like to use my art to encourage people to take it easy,” he says. He offers a visual opportunity for people to leave their current world of stress, schedules, jobs and worries behind and melt away into a state of relaxation. Recently liberated from his job as an accountant for a law firm, Michel is ready to relax and enjoy the small things himself.

“I’d rather look at the lighter side of things, the good side of life,” he professes about himself and his art. Michel wants people to get a sense of “neat-o” when they his work. “I want to illustrate a positive experience, to encourage people to participate, to listen to some music or just enjoy themselves.”

Born and raised in Sacramento, Michel is part of a network of creative people. His mother and father are musicians. Of his two brothers, one is a very precise architect and the other a musician. He himself has always been science and math minded in school but was always sketching and imagining with a pencil in his hand. Working with his family and friends, Michel is part of two art collectives, the Gerald4um, and Revenge of the Cool. Both are collaborative groups of artists, musicians and dancers. Their intent is to bring all sides of art together for people to connect with and just feel good.

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“I’ll always be an artist, why not?” says Michel. He can’t help it. “I just want to see what things would look like for the fun of it. Like dinosaurs pushing shopping carts.” He aims to take simple ideas and express them in new ways. He takes pleasure in the world surrounding him and puts it all together, past present and future. With markers and pens he aspires to create the next elevation. Inspired by everything around him he asks, “How can you not do something?” Sitting back again, Michel grins and looks up out the window. “Enjoy the clouds,” he encourages.

Matthew Michel