MIKE CICCOTELLO is a NJ-based fine artist and a member of the artist collective, Albus Cavus. He has worked in a variety of media from three-dimensional animated motion graphics to large-scale outdoor murals. He worked in broadcast motion graphics from 1999 to 2012 and in 2007 received the LA Press Club Award for Best Editorial Comic for his illustration work on ‘Schmooze or Lose’. He was also the featured artist at the 2012 International Interior Design Association’s ‘Fashion Meets Finish’ Gala at Keane University.
Ciccotello has always combined his work for television networks, companies, private commissions and exhibitions, with his work for charitable causes, making of him a reference as an artist who pursues his career with as much passion as he cares for others.
WONDERLANCER: Mike, thank you for participating in this interview. We love your art. Talking of which, with what media do you feel most comfortable working?
MIKE CICCOTELLO: The pleasure is all mine. Thank you for the compliment and the invitation. I don’t think I could say there is just one medium I am ‘most’ comfortable working in, but I do have a select few that I am comfortable with. I mostly work with acrylic, pencil, black ink felt-tip pens and paint markers. When I want to stay loose and expressive, I go for the acrylic paint. When I want to be tight and focused, I will go for the pencil and inking pens. Somewhere in between those points I use paint markers, they can provide a slick quickness with the option for tight control. I’m just getting back into oil paints after a long hiatus and I am really enjoying them.
WONDERLANCER: Your acrylics are very haunting… Tell us a bit about Don’t Hold Back and Feel the Flow… Were there any specific events that inspired you to create those pieces?
MIKE CICCOTELLO: That’s an interesting selection of paintings. They were created over ten years apart but both have meaning.
Don’t Hold Back has two figures in the painting, my mother and myself. My mother is represented as an abstract nude filling up an overturned protective umbrella with water from a garden hose. The water is the experience and knowledge she has given me over the years. The duck head is a symbol of my childhood memories, feeding the ducks with my mom. She has always been a figure of positive reinforcement pushing me to follow my dreams and never holding back how she feels. I am represented by the other figure crouching in a shopping bag with my back to the viewer. My hand above my head keeps me from getting out of the bag.
At the time I created this painting, I was working at a retail store installing props for display windows.
I felt confined to a very specific uncreative role. I was holding myself back and wouldn’t admit it. Creating this painting helped me realize that I didn’t need to stay in this line of work. It was a good job but was not the creative outlet I needed.
Feel the Flow is one of a larger series of work, the umbrella series. The theme of this series was going into uncharted territory for the first time. Each piece dealt with a thought or emotion of the stages one may experience when doing something for the first time. A perfect example would be starting a new job. The umbrella symbolized a person’s security throughout a journey and how they developed over time from fear to confidence and integration. Feel the Flow was at the stage where the character was starting to get familiar with their surroundings and became more comfortable in their new environment.
WONDERLANCER: Everybody should have someone in their lives pushing them to follow their dreams, a round of applause for your mother; encouragement this which proves to be crucial when doors close down, and doors appear to do that a lot. How hard is to get solo exhibitions and what tips would you give to other artists out there, who are trying to get their work exhibited? Does Social Media help in that instance?
MIKE CICCOTELLO: I think that this depends on the artist as well as the place they are looking to show. If the gallery is well known, then I suggest first taking a look at the work they show. Does your work fit in among the style of the gallery? They may or may not be looking for new artists. Do your homework and find out if they are looking for artists, get a contact’s name and the best way to reach that person. Find out how they prefer submissions. If they turn you down, don’t get discouraged. A gallery is a business. Businesses need to make money. If a gallery says no, that doesn’t mean that your work isn’t good enough, it just means that it may not fit within their business model.
Anyone can have a solo exhibition, they just need to be resourceful and motivated. I have had solo exhibits in galleries, backyards, restaurants, bars, rented spaces and retail spaces. I usually approach a venue with a portfolio in hand and start knocking on doors.
Sometimes I set aside a full day to work on getting contacts and attempt to gain some interest in my work. I send emails out and ask a lot of questions.
Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. Don’t waste too much time on the people that aren’t interested, all that does is keep you from getting to the people that are interested. The worst thing an artist can do is not try.
Don’t sit around waiting for someone to come to you. If you want to show your work then go out and show it.
I suggest starting locally. Find a business that will let you hang your work on their walls. Maybe they will let you sell it there. Ask if they will let you have an opening reception. Offer them a percentage of the sales. Get your friends to come to see your work. Ask your friends to bring people to see your work. Social Media can be an excellent resource and it can be a mind-numbing hindrance.
Social Media companies have many copyright claims to images posted and I encourage all artists to be familiar with these statements before they post.
WONDERLANCER: Which of your commissioned works has been the most difficult to do and why?
MIKE CICCOTELLO: I believe all commissions to be difficult. It’s much easier when someone purchases an existing piece. They see it, they are engaged by it, something connects between the buyer and the piece. A commission is a completely different experience. With a commission, the artist is approached by a buyer, that buyer has an idea in their head about what they want. The artist has to do their best to fulfill the buyer’s expectations.
So to answer the question…
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