Michael MacDonald is a painter and drawer living in Brooklyn, NY. In 2013 he graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in painting. His paintings and drawings depict minute details that hint to a larger, perhaps more bizarre scene. He compulsively adds figures, shapes and objects to build a visual catalogue which he regenerates into moments from a missing narrative. Flattened textures with vibrant color take the artist’s hand out of the work just enough so that the viewer has space to interpret and claim a little ownership over MacDonald’s narrative and intent.
What initially compelled you to create your work?
Making art seemed to be the one thing that sustained my attention when I was younger. As I found myself getting lost in not just paintings but also advertisements and cartoons, I also found myself spending more time searching for the perfect version of whatever I wanted to see at that moment. I think that is why I decided it would be more efficient to be proactive and just make those versions of images that I wanted to see myself. What started as maybe a self-soothing technique ended up being my artistic practice.
What main topic does your artwork address and why?
I think a lot of my work focusses less on topics and more on feelings. I enjoy being able to pull people in with simple, clearly defined objects, characters and settings, and then make them take a step back once the frame of focus reveals a scene a little less clear and a little more unsettling. I think I try to stay away from overt topics the same way that I try hard to make things feel vaguely universal, which is so that a viewer can feel they have a little bit of ownership and agency with the work.
In your artistic journey, what has been the most challenging point thus far?
Though a lot of the work I make is purposefully void of defining characteristics when it comes to objects, people and places, I do still feel I huge sense of ownership over these spaces that I have created and filled. Even though I want others to look at my work and feel comfortable finding a space for themselves inside of it, I do find that the line between sharing my work but not feeling as though I am losing it has been challenging.
Is there an aspect of your life that especially impacts your practice?
I would say that humor might be the biggest thing that effects my work. I generally feel that if I cannot see humor in my work regardless of how dark it may be, I don’t really want to spend too much time with it. I need to be able to take something absurd seriously and have enough work ethic to treat that absurdity with diligence and focus. I have to try hard to make sure that I take what I do seriously but not so much myself, otherwise I find that my work falls apart.
What do you do when you find yourself at a creative block?
I have a pretty diverse collection of image archives that I like to look through. Even when I am not stuck I find my self spending hours a week looking at drawings, advertisements, photos and paintings of things that span from the incredibly pretty banal to head scratching. Sometimes I spend an hour flipping through time magazines image archives of presidential dogs. Sometimes I spend an hour scrolling through rejected car designs. Even if I don’t find something that breaks my creative block, I enjoy the search, and I think being enthusiastic keeps me coming back until I find it.