In my experience, every kid under age ten is fearless. As they gradually get older, they start looking over their shoulder and start worrying what other people think. I believe I have a strong connection to children because the same things appeal to us: Spiral-horned, winged Cheetalopes are awesome!
Mike O’Day discovered his love of drawing and creating as a child growing up in St. Louis, Missouri. After receiving his Associates degree in Ad Design/Commercial Art, he worked at two different ad agencies in St. Louis before moving with his wife to California 1989. For two years he worked at Olvera Street, a Mexican marketplace in Los Angeles, drawing caricatures. When his first son was born, he took on the role of stay-at-home dad while doing freelance illustrating jobs. In 1994, the family relocated near Seattle where Mike cared for his young son while juggling freelancing and remodeling their newly purchased home. After a second son was born in 1996, he found himself involved in his oldest child’s cooperative K-8 elementary school. He began teaching art classes, a job he enjoyed for six more years. In 2004 he discovered ceramics and joined the Sculptors Workshop in Edmonds. Two years later he won Best In Show for his sculpture, Red Plant Man, at the Edmonds Arts Festival.
Mike resides in Edmonds with his wife, Christine, and two sons, Dylan and Rory, where he keeps active in the local artist community. He is a member of Artists Connect in Edmonds and NCECA (The National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts). His sculptures can be found at the Hanson Scott Gallery in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, Artspot in Edmonds, and The Gallery at Town Center in Lake Forest Park.
I joined Sculptors Workshop in Edmonds when a friend, who was also a parent at my children’s school, invited me to the studio to paint a platter for the school auction. I never had an opportunity to work with clay, and I was immediately drawn to it. Being able to model all the creations in my sketch book in three dimensions was a total blast. There was something about modeling and carving clay that instantly appealed to me.
Many of your pieces possess a youthful spirit, full of whimsy, humor and the promise of adventure. Has raising two sons and teaching art to children helped you stay connected with your “inner child”?
Working on projects with my kids and teaching children is energizing. Young kids are fearless, enthusiastic, and extremely creative. Picasso’s quote: “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up” is very true. In my experience, every kid under age ten is fearless. As they gradually get older, they start looking over their shoulder and start worrying what other people think. I believe I have a strong connection to children because the same things appeal to us: Spiral-horned, winged Cheetalopes are awesome!
Funding for art in schools is often sacrificed when resources are stretched. As an artist and a teacher, how have you seen art to be instrumental in the health and well being of children?
Having a creative outlet for kids is vital. With the current stress on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education right now, right-brain kids need art to feel successful and valued.
Was there a time when you considered doing something else? What would you be doing today if you weren’t an artist?
Not really. Once I was hired doing creative work, I didn’t want to turn back. If I wasn’t an artist…I dunno.
When one of your students tells you he wants to be an artist, what advice do you give him?
Get a sketchbook, fill it up, and buy another one. Keep working, be persistent and curious, and be open to all forms of art, and you will gradually find your voice. Oh yeah, don’t expect to drive a nice car.
Your sculptures range from fantastical creatures with horns, tails, wings and toothy grins, to simple human forms. Every piece has its own personality and voice. Do your sculptures speak to you?
As a matter of fact, they do:
Your mosaic work might be described as more elegant than whimsical. How is mosaic work different for you than creating sculptures? Where can we see your mosaics?
My mosaic work started with remodeling the house. After I remodeled the first bathroom with tile, I decided a tile saw would come in handy for the more complex projects in the future. I had no idea that it would lead to two more bathrooms, the entryway, the landing, two fireplaces, a support pole, and the kitchen and downstairs bar. Mosaic work can be very relaxing and therapeutic, but can also turn into long term ventures that can take months to complete. Luckily, my wife Chris enjoys the breaking, nipping and placing of tile as much as I do. All of the projects in our house were completed together. I designed them and created any ceramic pieces involved, and together we gradually complete the mosaic work. The experience led to the production of ceramic murals for local businesses and schools.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
Dr. Seuss, Antonin Gaudi, Dale Chihuly, Maurice Sendak, songwriters such as John Prine, animators like Nick Park, directors such as Tim Burton. Recently, I’ve been following artists on Facebook. For example, there’s an obscure Russian artist by the name of Arseniy Lapin that makes odd, colorful folk art animals, and plays in an amateur Blues band. It’s unbelievable how much access we have to other people’s work on the internet! But it can be dangerous – you just want to look all day.
Favorite person (dead or alive) you wish you could meet?
Picasso, but with the temperament of Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss).
Where would you like to see yourself in ten years?
Barcelona, checking out Gaudi’s work (hopefully sooner!)
Mike, thank you for sharing your story with us. We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!
Learn more about Mike O’Day on his website.