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.


Painting by Michael MacDonald

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.

Painting by Michael MacDonald

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.

Painting by Michael MacDonald