The following Q+A includes excerpts from the interview from "Laundromatsmell," a book
containing 15 of mike's ballpoint pen drawings in postcard form published by Cavity Search.
Other questions are those which are commonly asked by the public etc.
So new questions may appear at any time.

Q: What kind of pen do you use to create the ball point drawings, - is it a regular ballpoint pen?

MS: The brand I have been mostly using is called a Steadtler Stick 430 F from Great Britain. I bought it at an art store, tried it out and liked it because the ink flows smoothly from it and doesn't blot up too much. It doesn't necessarily matter though because I called a local ballpoint pen specialty store, the kind that sells extremely expensive ballpoint pens, and asked about what varieties of ink are used in the more expensive pens. They said that, across the industry, the ink cartridge on the inside is pretty much the same industrywide no matter how much one spends on the encasement. There is a new type of common ballpoint pen ink though, which is in brands like Uniball, that have a very watery, free-flowing type of ink that wouldn't work for my main technique. I mainly like the more syrupy, traditional ballpoint pen ink so that I can achieve lines in variations of gray tones by varying the pressure. That new type of ink was created so that, when you're writing a letter, and so on... you almost always get a totally black line, although I have done some in "milk gel" ball point ink (The first four images in the "other ink mediums" gallery.).

Can you describe your technique in more detail, or is there a name for it?

MS: The way the drawings usually start out, is called "haystacking." "Haystacking" is the third stage in the drawing technique category of "hatching." "Hatching" is parallel lines, sometimes touching, sometimes not, where you make more or less lines to create a shaded area. "Cross-hatching" is where you've got lines criss-crossing eachother, usually in opposing directions, to create the shaded area. "Haystacking" is where you've got lines going in every direction, overlapping to create the shaded area. What I'm trying to do with this technique is not only building up lines for shading, but to vary the pressure of the lines themselves as well. This is how I'm able to create the gray tones that you see in the drawings, by lightly touching the paper with tiny lines and marks overlapping but also varying the pressure throughout. This is where the haystacking drawing technique crosses over into a technique called "pointillism" or more accurately, "stippling", which is defined as pure dots, not lines. So I'm basically trying to bridge the gap between those two (haystacking and stippling) and vary the pressure of the lines and marks as well.

Q: Is there any rubbing involved in the technique, or do you use textured paper?

MS: I use smooth acid-free paper, and there is absolutely no rubbing at all. It's all just tiny, carefully placed lines and marks throughout the drawing. Any texture that you see, whether it's texture in the background or in the subject matter foreground or anywhere else, is completely hand drawn.

Q: Do you erase at all? Don't ballpoint pens blot up sometimes?

MS: Once in a while a small ink blot happens. What I do then is wait until it dries, maybe for a few days, then go back and slowly erase the spot with a special eraser, which has tiny sand particles mixed in with the rubber. Then I redraw the area.

Q: Is the ball itself, on the ballpoint pen you use the same size as the ball on a typical ballpoint pen?

MS: The one I like to use has a "fine point" ball on it.

Q: How long does it take you to do one of these drawings?

MS: Many of them took years to do, partially because of the technique and partially because I tend to keep the individual pieces rotating. I will put a drawing away prior to finishing it and work on another piece, either on a new one, or on another that is unfinished. This way when I go back to the first piece, I have gained a sense of objectivity on that piece because it was out of my sight for a while which helps in the decision-making process as to when that particular piece should either be finished or continued. But, to answer your question, for an example of how many hours of work are spent on one piece,- the drawing titled "Insect
Daydream" (Click here) took approximately 60 hours to do; I don't usually time myself but you can kind of gauge the others off of that one and compare sizes etc.

Q: Do you know what you're going to draw before you draw it or do you sketch anything out beforehand?

MS: No. Not normally. Sometimes in other mediums I might do a little bit of that but this technique or approach is meant to bring out something very slowly and naturally from the subconscious. It's like a meditation. I start creating cloud-like forms until something starts to appear which gradually becomes more and more defined over time, although I do take this approach with other mediums as well.

Q: Do you have to use a magnifying glass when you are working?

MS: Actually, I'm near-sighted so I generally take my glasses off if I want to really zone in on a tiny area.

How old were you when you started doing art regularly?

MS:  About four or five I think.  I moved out of coloring books and started doing my own crayon drawings at about that time.

Q:  What kinds of things were you drawing?

MS:  Mostly ideas and things out of my dreams.

Q: Do you still work from your dreams at all?

I don't seem to really remember my dreams much, but I had a lot of really vivid dreams as a kid which I still remember very clearly. Of course sometimes I do remember them now but no, I almost never work from my dreams directly. Most of what my art and music seems to be comprised of is a combination of feelings, thoughts and ideas. I suppose though I could be subconsciously influenced by them somehow along with many other things that are happening consciously.

Q: Is there a main kind of "subject area" that you see your art as being primarily "about" in general terms?

Spirituality, science, psychology...

Q: You work in a number of styles and mediums, all of which, relate to eachother but are different in some ways too. Could you talk about this a little?

Yes. The styles and techniques represent different "worlds" to me. They all have a common thread amongst them that ties them together because they all come from the same person, I suppose. Depending on the medium used at the time, or the particular "world" I wish to create, I will, as a result, produce a certain look or style. The "watercolor gesture forms" to me, for example, are a direct relationship to the ballpoint pen style of creating lines that overlap eachother moving in different directions. In the case of the gesture forms, if you took a very tiny portion of one of the more heavily line textured ballpoint pen drawings and enlarged that tiny portion many many times, it would look like the gesture forms. Example. Sometimes I will do these in pencil or ink lines then I do watercolor washes over them, or turn it into an interaction between forms, characters, and so on. The crayons are related to the oil pastels which are related to the chalks which are related to the graphite pencils which are related to the colored pencil pieces, etc..They're all related to eachother in some way. Sometimes I might try an experiment with a particular medium or style that I only do once or a couple of times. I really like the idea that the viewer might imagine literally entering into the environment of a two dimensional space and think of each picture as an environment unto itself.

M  U  S  I  C

Q: You are currently working on your first full-length album, correct?


Q: What kinds of instruments do you play?

I play electric bass, electric guitar, thumb piano, hand-played percussion on just about any surface. I love to program my drum machine, and I play keyboards of various kinds.. Just about anything I can get my hands on I will probably utilize.

Q: Is your music leaning categorically in any overall direction like "noise music," "new age," "metal," "hip-hop," "country," "electronic?"

I have been writing mostly short, minimal types of songs. I've written a few pretty long songs, though. Some songs are sound texture experiments where I sort of sculpt the shape of the sound to get a certain feel. Some are like "miniature" sounding catchy kinds of tunes based on various kinds of rhythmic structures. I love making loops too. Some songs have rhythmic signatures with odd timings, but have no actual "rhythm track," per se. A few songs are just pure acoustic guitar. Some are pure synthesizer/ electronic. Some lean towards a very mood-based atmosphere, some are kind of like hard rock, or metal, or even speed metal. Some are made to be very relaxing to where you could fall asleep or take a candle-lit bath while listening to them, perhaps.

Q: How do they relate to your visual art?

The music is supposed to directly accompany the visual art as a sort of "sound track" for it. And of course, whatever else people want to imagine it as being for themselves.

You use your own music for the puppet shows and performances you have done, right?

Yes, music I've written and "found sounds" off of perhaps television or recordings of people talking, etc for dialogue sometimes. Manipulated sounds and music I've written mostly. Portions of some of them are the contribution of the people I was collaborating with.

Q: Have you done any musical collaborations?

Yes and I hope to have them available online soon.