Skinned Knees

Painting the town red

Skinned Knees
Painting the town red

TSKC interviews Texan muralist Mick Burson!

How did you start doing murals?

I started doing murals about 7 years ago, I had been painting freight trains 4 years prior to my first public wall, but a series of events forced me to move into the public realm. I was 20, moving off to college, and adults with badges and blocked phone numbers called me into meetings for painting trains. The move into the public realm was a natural transition for me as I still had the need to paint large scale, I just had to find a different avenue for it. I am so thankful for the public’s acceptance of my work in the places I get to paint.  

You’ve been traveling a lot lately. Have you gotten the chance to paint murals around any new cities?     

I came back home to Texas for the summer with plans to stay put for 2 months, but within a week of being there I had planned a trip to drive up the East Coast to New York. The planning for the trip consisted of two days of Googling. The trip was a reaction to the feeling that I had an additional adult backbone growing inside my body, I knew I was not going to be able to sit still in the place I grew up while this bone was growing. I think traveling is one of the most positive things for me, it allows me to experience other people's lives, it gives me a sense of confidence and my goals seem more attainable by seeing places and shows first hand, it also helps me break patterns that I have created in my daily life. On the trip I was able to paint in Detroit, Michigan and Asheville, North Carolina.

What is your favorite city that you have painted murals in?

I recently painted my first legal public permanent wall in Albuquerque, where I’m currently living, so I guess that’s my favorite place to paint right now. The sky is half of the earth out here, it is so open and the light is different. The way the walls and paint look is different because of the space and light, it’s magic.

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Any city that you have yet to leave your mark in and would really like to?

I don’t have any specific places I would like to paint, it’s more the specific opportunity that I enjoy the most, meeting everyone involved who lives for and appreciates the same things I do.  

Do you have tips for people who are wanting to get into the mural biz?              

As far as tips for anyone looking to begin painting murals, “Fake it ‘til you make it” - Tyra Banks

I am, also, a fan of the work you create using a combination of found objects and wood. What draws you to the objects that you use?       

The selection and finding process is as important as the actual making of the paintings. I take myself to places where objects can be found and watch my brain as I feel attractions to objects and then question myself why I like those objects without ever censoring the selection process. I surprise myself sometimes and sometimes I make more predictable decisions as far as aesthetics I have traditionally been attracted to.  

Your color palette seems very specific to you, why do you think you are drawn to such a colorful palette?

For me color is a sign of me learning and accepting, I started this life absolutely hating certain colors and as I have grown up, I have become more accepting and have grown to love and respect colors I once despised. I think it is just learning how to use color that allows this to happen. For example yellow, I have some issues with yellow but at the same time it saves colors from being sad. Like gray, gray should be a depressing color by all means, but you put yellow with it and it gives it integrity and spirit. I grew up loving blue, but as I have learned more about myself and my preferences blue for me is a safe choice, it's a fairly easy color and pairs easily and gives the feeling of space and breath. Lately I have been working with greens, I have a dumb green that I use a lot lately, it has a certain charisma to it. One green that I never thought I would be able to accept is the 90's Chevy Suburban green, especially gloss, but as of lately I have been using it and it's been great.

Who are some artists that you look up to?

I recently have been looking at the work of Ettore Sottsass and read somewhere that his work was described as a marriage between Fisher Price and Bauhaus, I think that is a perfect compliment.   

I am attracted to work that retains an element of youth and isn’t trying to be adult or change the world, work that seems to come out of necessity and embraces the awkward nature of what it feels like to be a human.  

This issue is about natural instincts, do you ever feel led by your natural instincts? If so, when?

Natural instincts make up 100% percent of the good work I make and the other 100% of the bad work I make is me trying to rationalize and imitate my natural instincts. For me, I have to get out of the way and let my subconscious make the work. I feel like when I am working from a rational, aware mind the work comes out very self-aware and not in a positive way, it comes out with failed attempts to imitate the human experience rather than just having the human experience.

The best work I have made is made from me not telling myself no to any decision that comes to mind. While working in the studio, I keep track of every single idea that comes to my mind and I make sure to execute those ideas in the work and then from there I will make decisions on what works or doesn’t. Kind of like complete freedom and then reeling it in from there.   

What inspires you in nature, in humanity?

I just Googled nature for the first time. When I think of nature I think of plants and animals, and when I think of humanity I think of humans so that's where I am coming from. I think the combination of both is truly inspiring, trying to find ties between the two, where people show the animal they are and animals imitate humans. I believe humans to be animals and so when people work very hard to suppress that I am inspired by that and, also, the opposite where it is embraced. I love the power in nature and how it is the ultimate ruler and will be here after we are gone, it's harsh, sweet, repetitive, and unaware. One big goal for my work is to instill vulnerability, the human hand, and "good tries" and I feel like those happen when I fully embrace nature and humanity.

Where can we find your work or contact info?               

My site and my Instagram @mickburson. Thank you, thank you!