Urban Vinyl Daily: Would you mind telling us a little background about yourself, and some of the designs that you came up with when you were first starting out and how designs have progressed over the years?
Mike Egan: I went to Edinboro University of Pennsylvania for fine arts school, I graduated in 2000. I focused on printmaking there, mostly wood block prints. I really enjoyed the bold images and lines that I was getting. After school, I moved back to Pittsburgh. I didn’t really have the supplies that I needed for printing so I started to mess around with painting. I was pretty sloppy, kinda did paintings similar to Basquiat. I ended up going to the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science for funeral directing and embalming. So I started working in funeral homes, loved embalming and doing the cosmetics and restorative work that I got to do. Working in funeral homes requires you to be on call to do pick ups if someone were to pass. So this meant a lot of evenings in my apartment painting. This is where I developed my current style. I basically started painting how I did my prints, bold lines and lots of skeletons. In 2006, my friend hooked up a group show in Pittsburgh, which was the first time showing paintings. Ever since then I’ve doing lots of gallery shows all over the world.
UVD: What are some things that influence you and your work? Is there any artist’s work that inspired you and your style early on in your career?
Egan: Definitely working in funeral homes. Death, coffins, crosses, blood, this all comes from my work as an embalmer. As far as artists go, the German Expressionists were my biggest early influence. Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, and Kathe Kollwitz are all artists that I looked at a lot. José Guadalupe Posada, is also another big influence. I always loved his line work and of course subject matter.
José Guadalupe Posada
UVD: Death and the occult happen to be in almost all of your pieces. What is it about these themes that have grabbed your attention?
Egan: I’ve always have had a love for darker themes, even as a younger kid. I remember learning to draw a skull in third grade. I can’t really say why I’ve always liked death themes, I guess it’s the skeletons. I think that my time in funeral homes also helped set that theme in concrete.
UVD: When preparing for a solo show, which you’ve had the opportunity to do several times, what is your strategy for creating the pieces that are themed to the event?
Egan: I generally don’t go into a show with a very tight objective. I just start painting and see what happens. When I have a grouping together I’ll start looking at them and build off of them. I may of painted all of the backgrounds green, so no more green backgrounds. They may all be skeleton paintings, so now I need some wolves or devils. I like to show pretty large groupings of work. I think my work shows better that way rather than just a few paintings on the wall.
UVD: Obviously people are familiar with your works, and happened to catch the attention of Hawthorne Heights for their 2010 album cover. Would you mind telling us how that opportunity came about?
Egan: The lead singer JT emailed me one evening and asked if I’d be interested in painting the cover. I had never done anything like this before and it was a bit scary for me to do. I ended up working more with the record label people rather than the band. Overall it went well and I’m happy with how it turned out.
UVD: With most of your work in the 2D realm, would you mind how you made the transition to 3D with your Bones and Lucky Figures, and anything we can expect to see from these two figures in the future?
Egan: Dov and Sarah Jo from DKE toys approached me about doing the vinyl figures a few years ago. I drew the initial drawings for Bones. Pretty in Plastic were the ones to develop the sculpt from the sketches. Luke from Lulubell produced and painted them. With the success of Bones came Lucky. Not too sure what’s going to happen in the future. We talked about doing a two headed Bones figure. I really hope that we’ll see that. I would ultimately like to see these figures done in wood. That way I can paint them with acrylics, and sand and shellac them like my paintings. I just need to figure out if it’s possible to get someone to produce them at a reasonable cost to me. Fingers crossed.
UVD: Would you mind giving us a little insight in to your upcoming show at Foe Gallery later this month in Massachusetts?
Egan: The paintings that I produced are really different then anything else that I’ve done. Lots of new ideas. I really twisted around my characters to create new ones. I did a house with arms and legs. A skeleton with really short legs and long arms. I also did severed legs and arms. So it’s 22 paintings along with some death blocks, painted coffins and some custom Bones figures.
UVD: Are there any other future projects that you wish to discuss for the reader to keep their eyes open for in the upcoming future?
Egan: I’ll be doing something with DKE for Comic Con this year, similar to the Bones with card backs that we did last year. I also have a two person show with David M. Cook at Gauntlet Gallery in San Francisco in October.
UVD: What would your encouragements/suggestions be for artists/designers that are either just starting out or who are trying to get themselves noticed?
Egan: Really the biggest thing is to work hard and develop your style. Galleries and collectors really want to see something fresh and something that says you.
UVD: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Are there any parting words you wish to say to the reader?
Egan: Thanks for reading and thanks for the support!!
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