American Old School—An Interview with Mike King

When I walked up onto the landing dock that day, I really didn’t know what to expect.

From our phone conversations I kept visualizing an old school Jersey man with a “you don’t know shit kid” attitude. I got the second part right, but Mike King’s not from Jersey, he’s Portland…all Portland, straight from Oregon City.

What I quickly discovered was that Mr. King may be old school but he keeps up with the times just fine. On his own terms, in his own way. He was very inviting and spoke about the work and what it takes to be a successful designer in a pretty down to earth no bullshit tone. “This is hard work, I’m happy to break hearts and dash hopes of these kids. You have to work hard to create your own path in this world, being in the right place at the right time helps too.”

I appreciated his perspective from someone who’s been around the block, and liked him right away.

Mike has been creating artwork for the music industry for over 20 years. Some of his client work includes: The Decemberists, Iggy Pop, Ben Harper, Jack johnson, Pink Martini, The Shins, Elliot Smith, Sonic Youth and Modest Mouse to name a few. He’s also done commercial work for clients like Converse All Stars, Foot Locker and Voo Doo Donuts. 

The road to graphic design started out for him by creating flyers for his band back in high school, then for other bands, and eventually exchanging artwork for admission to punk shows and beer. 

"It didn’t occur to me until after the fact, to be a designer. I was working at Powell’s Books and creating flyers every week on the side, then one day I quit. That was 22 years ago, I’ve been doing this full time ever since and have probably made over 5000 flyers in my career. I  still design about 1-5 flyers a week. They are one of my favorite things to do, there’s no pressure and I interpret the art by by my own vision. It’s very freeing, the bar is set pretty low so I can’t help to succeed."

Mikes process for for designing is a combination of cut and past and drawing. Back in the day it was literally cut and paste and a Xerox machine. He pulls things from several sources when creating new work, using a scanner an Photoshop as his tools of choice. There is a wall of vintage books in the middle of the room, a source material and inspiration vault. The collection is awesome.

"If I can’t find an image I need, I draw it."

He showed me parts of his sketchbooks. One page was just lines, another doodles, some numbers and such and then made a comment that making shit was a very American thing to do.

I looked around, him standing there, his work station, the drawing table, the cans of paint waiting to be opened, shelves filled with posters and his drying racks and thought to my self, yep it is. It sure is.

See more of Mike’s work here.

Please join us at sketchXchange for a night of inspiration and drawing with Mike King. 

DATE OF THE EVENT: Friday Night, May 4th 2012

TIME: 6:00-9:00 PM 

PLACE: The Left Bank Project Bring Check-in begins at 6:00pm in The Sting Ray Cafe. Doors close at 6:45


REGISTRATION BEGINS: Monday, April 23rd, at 9am 

As always space is limited, so be sure to register early!

A NOTE ABOUT PARKING. There is free parking on Flint Street (north of the building) and paid parking in the lot in front of the building. The street parking is paid until 10pm.

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