Groundwork : Through The Drips
Posted on 02 July 2018
Groundwork combines the two lux artist vision's, photography and mural practice, in an accessible form for the masses.
Shop the collection and bring their art with you on the go.
Learn more about the artists behind the collection and their vision in an in-depth interview below
In August 2013 Michael Owen reached his goal of spreading love throughout Baltimore... literally. The Baltimore Love Project has gained worldwide acclaim and can be seen throughout the city in the form of 20 inspirational murals. Over the years the message has evolved and has been further entrenched within the community as a beacon of hope and an inspiration for a better tomorrow.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Michael and fellow artist Sean Scheidt as they prepare to launch their new project "Groundwork". Sean, a professional photographer with a keen eye, has collaborated with Michael in the past and was a key figure in the Love Project. In fact his photographs were used to transform the mural into print so the Love could be spread even further. While the two are busier than ever they were kind enough to spend some time with us reflecting on past work and their inspirations all while providing a glimpse into what's next for the pair individually and collectively.
You are widely known for your work on the Baltimore Love Project Murals and as a fine artist. Can you explain what inspired the Groundwork project? And, your drive to release it as a more accessible piece of art?
Michael: Sean and I have collaborated on many creative projects over the years. One night, we were hanging out at my studio, looking at all the beautiful splatters, spills, patterns, colors, and signs of work...right under our feet. Exploring the floor further, we found special moments and compositions that were stronger than some of the art it all dripped from. Once we saw the value in the "mess", we realized we had a new body of work. Sean and I have done many print runs in the past and felt a different application, usable household items, would add some diversity to our portfolios and offerings to our supporters.
Your past works have often included strong messages of love, support, growth, etc. What, if any, is the deeper meaning that you want collectors to feel through Groundwork?
M: Look up. Look down. To the window, to the wall. Beauty is all around.
Michael Owen is a true artist, he is always looking for new outlets to expand his vision. His portfolio is ever growing and can be seen everywhere from the streets to private collections. His latest collaboration, Groundwork, Is a collection of clothing, accessories, and home goods. Not only does this project offer the public an opportunity to own a piece of his art on a new medium, it also provides us with a perfect example of his ever-expanding creativity.
For those who are new to your work, can you explain where the Groundwork project fits into your career as a muralist and gallery artist?
M: My portfolio carries 150+ murals, hundreds of personal paintings, and hundreds of other artistic commissions. I'm always looking for new surfaces to put my art on and learn from. Everything is created with a different intent and for a different audience. The public work might be thematically accessible, but you can't rip a mural off a wall. My studio work is much more personal, layered, and coded, but you can take it into your own home, touch it, bounce it off your daily routine, and really make it yours. Groundwork blends accessible content with a product you can meld into your individual, specific lifestyle.
Have you always wanted to bring your art into accessories and home goods or was this a new goal?
M: Groundwork is a new goal, in the sense that creating a shower curtain or a backpack was never the end. That said, I'm always looking for new mediums to communicate with, new inspiration through daily life, new surfaces to put art on, and new collaborations to learn from.
What is the biggest difference in the creative process in bringing your vision to life on a new medium?
M: The industry. Design / home goods / fashion carries much more history, culture, and established traditions compared to street art. My first mural was an extension of my fine art and illustration practice, before the public used the term "street art". Fifteen years ago, developers still saw street art as blight, not a sign of burgeoning arts districts and luxury lofts. The intersection of social justice and the arts was not yet a Ted Talk. No one I knew was actually making a living as a street artist. It was an exciting time, watching the formation of today's art movement. Now I'm stepping into a world that has been formed and reformed many times. More rules seem established and the ladder is set. Peers are already jaded and tell me everything has already been done.
In what ways has this new outlet changed the way you see your art?
M: Groundwork has inspired me to look further for unintentional beauty. You know how city workers use that orange paint to mark pipes below the sidewalk? I'm taking more pictures of that writing intersecting crosswalks and gum spot than sunsets. Before grabbing an eraser or primer, I'm trying to sit in the "mistake", feel out the "mess", and find out what I am missing. Also, stepping into an industry that is new to me, has refreshed my perspective and empathy towards others entering my field. It's tested my personal expectations, artistic limitations and has made me question my intentions behind "just trying something new". Basically I've learned a lot and it's not slowing down.
The Groundwork collection is expansive and is composed of almost 100 items ranging from backpacks to shower curtains. The inspiration was drawn from splatters and spills that dripped down from his artwork onto the studio floor. Not only is this a unique inspiration for artwork but it also provided the inspiration to move on to new mediums. While Groundwork will provide the public an opportunity to own a piece of Michael and Sean's art on a new medium, it also speaks to the ever-expanding creativity of Michael and Sean collectively.
M: The full Groundwork collection is around 100 items, but we brought out our favorite dozen out for the release. The clock, shower curtain, and backpack seemed to be the favorites, but I'm personally all about the zipper pouches. They are practical, durable and versatile! I've been using them to carry various art supplies and materials, on the go. I use one for loose change between trips to Coinstar. The big one is full of collage scraps and napkin ideas.
Sean: As part of the store take over we were able to feature our clocks, mugs, pillows, book bag, pencil bags, totes, shower curtain and floor mats. I’m particularly fond of the clock, book bag, and pencil bags. These are items I’ve purchased myself and I think showcase the images well. The guests seemed to love the clocks but a lot of the talk that evening centered around the raffled prints we were giving out. They seemed to enjoy deciding what their favorite images were.
You both combined your forms of art to create the prints that would lead to the Groundwork collection. Individually, what are your favorite prints and why?
M: You’re going to make me pick a favorite child?! Ok, then "Grind". When I look at this piece I see a full story, with characters and space. While many of the prints could also contain a narrative, "Grind" pulls it off with subtlety, layers and only one color.
S: This is going to sound like such a cop-out... I don't have a favorite. I like each of the images we chose for different reasons. I tend to gravitate towards any of the black and white prints, but then again the colors look great as well. So, don't make me chose! Haha… It was difficult enough to narrow all the images down to just those 6!
While the two have teamed up in the past on various projects this time Sean admits his contributions have offered him a new perspective. In the past his role as a collaborator has been documenting Michael's artwork but for the Groundwork project his creativity and vision is displayed in a captivating new manner.
How was the processes of composing the photographs for Groundwork different than previous shoots you’ve done of Michaels work? What challenges made this project unique for you?
S: It differed substantially. When I photograph Michaels work I am doing everything in my ability to accurately convey the piece in front of me. By that I mean there is no creativity of my own that comes into play. It's simply documentation. When it comes to Groundwork, that was simply me having free reign in Michael's studio. I got to seek out my own area’s and compositions. It's the leftovers from those works of art, the artifacts of their creation, as composed by my eye. So I think the images themselves are uniquely my interpretation and composition. Which is a fascinating exercise really, in that it's interesting to see how another artist composes with the leftover reminders of the creation of other unique pieces by another artist. If that makes sense?
What was the process of selecting what drips and splatters to showcase?
S: A long and difficult process of letting go of shots I maybe thought were stronger or pushing to include shots I liked….but also, we agreed on a lot of the final shots but as a photographer you get attached to just about all of them so its always a little bit of a struggle. We didn't so much have a process as just spoke up about the shots we liked and decided based on that. There was a lot of overlap, but in my industry, I’m in the business of compromise so it wasn't too rough.
How does it feel to see your work displayed in the accessories for the Groundwork project? Is this a new medium for you as well?
S: It feels amazing to see the prints living on objects like we intended them to be. I’m super happy with the result. It's not so much a new medium in that I’m relatively used to seeing my images printed on objects. I’ve not done anything home goods related in particular, but it all feels very similar to seeing your work on a book cover or whatever.
Michael and Sean's artistic integrity is thrust to the forefront with Groundwork. Perhaps the most exciting thing about this project is that it has a life of its own. As far as the collection goes it is much more than a capsule. For the fans and collectors, we will have the ability to watch the future offerings take shape in front of our very eyes.
What can collectors and fans expect from Groundwork in the future? Will the inspiration continue to be based off drips or will there be a new aesthetic you showcase? Essentially, are you creating a brand or committed to a capsule?
M: This is not a trendy look, it's the art I've been avoiding my whole career. Groundwork will move into other products, while maintaining the concept of finding art on the studio floor. Could this art live on a windbreaker? Wallpaper? Snowboards? While the palettes will parallel the work I'm creating in the studio, it's really the diversity of surfaces and products that provides endless potential.
S: I think people can expect that we will keep experimenting and take their opinions seriously. We now know which prints were more hits than others and for now it's our intention to just have that live out there for a while as we hone things. Eventually, it would be nice to have these manufactured uniquely for us. But I think that's talk for another time. The consistent thing is that Groundwork will feature my photographs using the artifacts and left behind marks that collect as Michael makes his art day by day.
What are your separate plans for moving forward in your art? Do you have plans in the near future to collaborate again?
M: After a decade of building together, I sure hope this isn't the last time we collaborate! It's hard to find and develop partnerships like this with other creatives. While Groundwork is currently taking most of our focus, we are creatives and have a hard time putting new, exciting ideas on the back burner! Individually, I've been moving toward a more internal, collector-based approach instead of looking for bigger walls, with larger clients, in further lands. I'm focusing on individual studio visits over gallery shows. My current series of personal works is not on 4' x 8' plywood, but in small artist books and photo albums. I'm also continuing to develop and grow HOME Artist Residency, where creatives from all over the world use my space to create work with and for the neighborhood. HOME has been my passion project for the last four years and has taught me so much.
S: I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing! Working in the editorial fashion and commercial photography world. It's a hustle and you cant let your foot off the gas so to speak. It takes up 90% of my time. We always have things in the work and I would never rule out any future collabs as long as it feels right to us.
Will we continue to see you dive into the world of accessories or are you planning into moving on to new mediums?
M: Who knows, beyond the muse?
S: We got some ideas... but I think it's important to let this marinate a bit.
Groundwork is a self-described "mess" and it is a beautiful one at that. As the culture progresses artists and fans alike are continuing to redefine what art is. This project, in particular, shows us that beauty is not only all around us but is sometimes in the most unexpected places. So the next time you are feeling uninspired or lacking direction I challenge you to look down, the motivation you need could very well be right under your feet.