HELLO AMERICA!—It is always extremely special when one is given the opportunity to meet and talk with those who obviously are gifted writers, dancers, actors, musicians and yes painters such as Michael Liuzzi, who is both a writer and an extraordinary painter. One gets the feeling when listening to Michael, he is at that moment making a sketch of all the things he discussing with you about. There is no doubt that he is one special creator, one who understands his center and his human purpose.
MSJ: As a young kid what did you see that made you want to paint or illustrate it? What kind of works effected your interest in painting, i.e., school classes, magazines or even exhibits etc…?
MIKE L: My grandmother was also an artist, and she spotted my abilities when I was still very young. She would sit with me and paint or draw for hours on end. I got a lot of practice early on because of that, and I think it still helps me now. Then one day a neighbor called, they had just built a model train setup. It wasn’t too large, maybe 4 x 4 feet, made of wood, plaster, Styrofoam and some paint. But it was as if I was looking down into a whole other world: rolling hills, jutting rock faces, tunnels where the track would weave in and out. It even had a lake, with a small dock at one side, and two miniature people untying a small dinghy. The wheels of my imagination seemed to get a jumpstart when I saw that thing, and my head was filled with all of these stories about this world, the people in it, and the events that happen there. Looking back, it should’ve been obvious where my path was headed, but it would still be years before I seriously pursued art. Nevertheless, seeing the care and time that was put into that definitely set something into motion.
MSJ: What was your first subject as a painter and how was it received?
MIKE L: I actually began to pursue painting as a craft when I discovered matte painting, or backdrop painting. It’s one of the oldest VFX techniques used in filmmaking, where additional parts of the set or background are painted by hand. It really helped set a high technical standard for myself while I was studying, and it also provided a spark to ignite my already growing passion for film. After I got out of school I ended up falling into concept art and illustration, which was a wonderful way to quickly jump into a career and still keep painting all day. I got to work on some really impressive projects with some amazing artists. Companies like Ubisoft, Bungie, Sony, Scion, and Nike gave me these early experiences in commercial art. And some of those co-workers ended up becoming good friends that I still remain in contact with.
MSJ: Who was responsible for your first break-through as a recognized artist?
MIKE L: Up until about three years ago, any drawings or paintings I did in this style were merely personal works that I didn’t show to anyone. With my main income coming from concept art and illustration work, it wasn’t something I saw as necessary. Then as an experiment I decided to try something that I’d seen people doing at a “transformational festival” in the Malibu hills… ‘live’ painting. This has become more of a common sight in recent years, where painters bring their easels, canvases and paints to events ranging from festivals and daytime fairs, to night clubs with DJ’s, dancers, and fire-spinners. Everyone is able to see the process of creation, and a really unique experience is given to both artist and spectator. One crew that has hands down shown me more support in this arena than all of the others combined is Desert Hearts. I’ll be painting at their City Hearts LA event on Dec. 16th at the Belasco Theater.
MSJ: Have you had many showings in the last 2 or 3 years and, where were they?
MIKE L: I meet most of my collectors through the online following that has been steadily building over the last couple years. But this year I have slowly begun to work with a few galleries in Los Angeles and San Francisco. This year I’ve shown at 111 Minna and 1AM galleries in SF, Full Circle in Venice, and Think Tank in Downtown LA. Also, this year I did some painting abroad, one mural in Estonia and 2 in Spain. At the moment, anyone interested in seeing paintings in person can go visit Black Rainbow in the arts district, where a number of new pieces just went up a few weeks ago.
MSJ: You also have a passion for screenwriting. Does your dedication as a painter influence or enhance the quality of the writing you do?
MIKE L: I’ve discovered through pursuing so many types of creative endeavors that it all builds toward one central force. I like to think of as an “internal simulation engine”, or the “mind’s eye”. When I’m writing now, I can see the characters and settings very clearly. I can hear their dialogue in my head, or replay a scene with only one or two details changed. It seems easier to get inside the characters, understand their experience, their perspective, their desires, and how they would react to a certain situation. For me, painting has served as a sort of weight-lifting for the imagination. And when I sit down to write after painting for two weeks straight I still feel ‘warmed-up’, as if I never took a break in the first place.
MSJ: What have you discovered about yourself since being so involved as a painter as well as a writer and do you like what you see in the mirror when you’re alone?
MIKE L: The most interesting to me though, is that it’s become much easier to translate the feelings or emotions of a film, story or painting into language, and to decipher exactly what details caused those emotions. Now it’s quite apparent to me why some of the greatest filmmakers were painters or visual artists before pursuing film… Fritz Lang, John Huston, Steve McQueen, and David Lynch just to name a few. Painting has given me a new perspective on all art, a newfound appreciation and passion. And it has really allowed me to reach a new level of awe and respect of the emotional power of film. It’s a feeling that I think lives inside all great artists, and one that I hope to always keep with me.