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After working with him on some styles for our Fall '19 collection, we chatted with Michael Kagan about his roots, extra-curricular activities, and the best advice he's got for aspiring artists.
Michael Kagan is a Brooklyn-based artist whose world-renowned work is often regarded as abstract neo-expressionism. His brilliant mix of abstraction, unique brushwork, and iconic images of astronauts in space gained considerable attention, with exhibitions established all throughout the world. Kagan has lead multiple collaborations, including those with Pharrell Williams, the Billionaire Boys Club, The Smithsonian, and, most notably, the cover of the White Lies’ album, “Big TV,” which won the top prize for the Best Art Vinyl of 2013.
Where did your inspiration to be a professional artist begin?
I always knew I wanted to do something that was creative and with art. I moved to NYC for grad school in 2003. Being in a studio art program allowed me to paint everyday and do it in NYC, which is the center of the art world. Some of the artists coming through the school to teach classes and lecture were these world famous badass painters based in NYC. They would invite students over to their studio at certain points during the semester. I was completely blown away, I knew I wanted to focus on painting and make shows without distraction. It was a slow and steady build, but I’m exactly where I want to be today. I feel I’ve earned it, saw the path and made the moves to get there.
What do you like to do outside of painting?
When I’m in NYC, a lot of time not painting is still art related. Whether working on other collaborative projects or planning future shows. One of the best things about being in NYC is that you're surrounded by some of the best galleries and museums in the world, so I try to hit those as much as possible. Other than that, it’s time with my family and working out or cycling.
What attracted you to work with a brand like Stance?
I loved their approach. From the beginning they were very clear that this would be a joint collaboration, such a good vibe. They asked for my feedback and direction every step of the way. They would listen to my suggestions and then take everything to the next level. The attention to detail was insane. There are these little moments on my paintings that happen with the brushstrokes... these magical moments that happens with oil paint. Those areas read so well on the socks, it’s crazy... it’s done with knit, but they still nailed it!
What are your favorite things about living in NYC?
Ha! I think I jumped to this question earlier on. As I said, I love that NYC is the center of the art world, there are some other cities that are close contenders, but NYC is still king. I’m surrounded by such high level artists and that’s inspiring. You can find yourself eating dinner with them after an opening or doing studio visits with them. There’s a tight community of artists in such a big city, it’s such a special treat... I’m never moving anywhere else. I also love the pace of the city, it’s fast, you can get anything you need or need done super fast, it’s intense! That intensity is good to escape though, so it’s important to vacation and hit the beach to reset.
Any key advice to aspiring artist?
There are probably two things I would say. Find a way to always have a studio... at home, shared with friends, however and wherever. It’s important to have that sacred place to work on your ideas and practice. That leads into the second piece of advice... it’s inspired by Gerhard Richter’s book “The Daily Practice of Painting”. You have to draw, paint, or create everyday... even if it’s only for a short time. You have to get in that studio! It’s like working out, you're only as good as the last time you did it and the trick to getting better is doing it every damn day!