About the artist

Mike grew up in Crawfordsville, Indiana and now resides in Salt Lake City, Utah. Mike has always had an active imagination and has been fairly creative in various ways all throughout his life. He did not, however, actively start creating visual art until he was about 20 years old. Struggling with finding his path into adulthood, he found refuge, hiding himself away at home; when not working at his job at a photo lab.

Paper collages

Mike started off trying to paint, learning quickly that it was much more difficult than he anticipated; even to just make an abstract painting that had any appeal. One day, whilst waiting for the paint to dry on a picture, he started making a paper collage from some magazines laying around the house. This quickly blossomed into an intense love affair with collage; leading to his collecting thousands of magazines. Mike explored a wide range of techniques, learning through trial and error which adhesives work best with various paper types.

The move to digital

The development of affordable software programs, cameras was a significant reason for Mike’s switching to digital photography and collage; that and the inability to find space to store thousands of magazines. The versatility of digital photo manipulation gave Mike everything he’d wished for, back in the days of Exacto knives and glue sticks. The ability to create an infinite amount of copies of the same images, then add effects such as altering their shape, transparency, color and more has opened the doors to many more possibilities than anything paper can offer. Although he loved the days of fingers coated in glue and paper scraps laying all over his floor, they will undoubtedly remain in his past.

Our interview

How did you first get into digital art?

Shame on me, but with a pirated copy of Photoshop a friend sent me. Once I learned it and realized how much I could do with it I promptly purchased a legit copy, but I started off not necessarily “on the up and up”.

Why did you choose digital art as your medium?

The immense amount of versatility that digital programs provide would be the largest reason. I’m also enamored by the fact that most of the art forms, be it painting, dancing, acting, music, etc. have been a part of human culture for centuries and centuries. Digital art is one of the few mediums that is truly new, something that we as a culture don’t have that long history to draw influence from or compare to.

What artistic styles are you particularly drawn to?

Surrealism and abstract painting interest me the most. Anything that is either extremely bewildering or immediately alluring and beautiful.

What inspires you?

The fact that we live in an age where, thanks to the internet, artists can make their work instantly available to the rest of the entire world to see.

What is your artistic motivation?

I’ve always said this, but my primary goal in anything I create is simply to impress myself, to create something that, when finished, I can say to myself “that’s just awesome. I love it!” It doesn’t always happen, but it’s what I’m aiming for!

Of all your images to date, which is your favourite and why?

I have a piece that is a digital collage consisting of pictures from inside an old wool mill (that has since been destroyed by a fire) and a picture of my wife from the day we shot her bridal photos. Not only is it one of my best efforts at making a nicely edited composite, but it has my most favorite person in it.

Which three words or phrases would you use to describe your work?

Loose, bold and thought-provoking.

What memorable responses to your artwork have you had?

When I was still living in my childhood hometown and working exclusively with paper collage, I was given the small gallery space in the town library to display my work for one month. I had a few pieces where I had added a third eye to he foreheads of some of the people in several of the collages. There wasn’t any specific statement being made; I rarely do with my work.

Someone, however, took offense and came in when no one was watching and tacked a bunch of photocopied articles from various news publications about the strife between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, complete with many of the key points highlighted. They were kind enough to not attach them to the collages themselves, but it clearly had provoked some sort of disapproval from them. I was thrilled.

Name three artists who inspire you.

A good friend of mine Kent Rushing, a English artist Nigel Ayers, and an American artist Randy Greif.

How do you think you’ve improved as an artist compared to when you first started?

I’ve learned a fair amount of software programs that I never believed I could have beforehand. I’m not inclined to learning complex programs that are rigid with their applications and in learning them I’ve become more disciplined in my approach (at times) and have a stronger sense of self-esteem about what I can learn to do as an artist.

What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started making art?

Stop worrying about trying to market yourself and focus on making art for your own enjoyment. Also, stop painting. The supplies are expensive, you’re not very good at it and you’re about to ruin the new carpet in your bedroom that your parents put in when they thought you had left for good when you went to college.

What devices/equipment do you use to create your art?

A Canon 80D digital camera, my PC, and my iPhone. I also have made some videos with audio, some of the audio recorded with a Tascam linear PCM recorder.

Which apps/programs do you use to create your art and which are your favourites?

My favorites are Photoshop (the full desktop version for PC as well as their variety of phone apps), Audacity for music programs, Filmora (desktop version) for videos, and iColorama for iOS. As far as the apps that I will use on my phone, there’s roughly twenty of them I’ll hop around to while working on something, some offering many features I’ll use, some having just one or two that I just can’t find in any of the other ones. Some of those include TaDaa, Snapseed, Matter, MetaBrush, Edit.Lab and Hyperspektiv.

Do you use images from stock sites as well as your own photos and if so, which are your favourites and why?

I have gone through periods where I’ve been very firm about using my own images and only utilizing items from the internet that are uncopyrighted or that I alter enough that they are probably okay to use. I’ve also gone through phases where I’ve heavily utilized sites that offer PNG images free for use with the stipulation that you don’t use them for commercial purposes. Since I don’t sell my work I don’t worry so much about using them, but I stop short of using anything from other peoples artwork.

And finally, do you find that digital art is often dismissed as a valid art form?

Ten years or so ago I would say yes, absolutely. I feel it’s become much more accepted since then, especially as we become a world that does more and more via the internet. As more and more facets of daily life become virtual I think people are just more accepting of artwork that was created in the same manner.

Thank you so much for doing this interview, Mike!


Where to find Mike’s work online.

Instagram: @mojo_goebel

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