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Work Samples

BMA Cats, Acrylic on Panel, 36 x 48 inches, 2017

BMA Cats, Acrylic on Panel, 36 x 48 inches, 2017

re: Joyce (triptych, left panel), Shake, Acrylic on Panel, 36 x 48 inches, 2017

re: Joyce (triptych, left panel), Shake, Acrylic on Panel, 36 x 48 inches, 2017

Yardwork at the Red Studio, Acrylic on Panel, 48 x 48, 2017

Yardwork at the Red Studio, Acrylic on Panel, 48 x 48, 2017

Lost Coast, Acrylic on Panel, 36 x 48 inches, 2016

Lost Coast, Acrylic on Panel, 36 x 48 inches, 2016

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About Mike

Baltimore County

A 1975 graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art, Mike McConnell worked for more than 30 years as an illustrator before focusing on his fine art. He often turns to nature for inspiration for the vivid visual stories he tells. He uses paint in a collage-like way, cutting out shapes with vibrant colors on handmade wood panels, paper, and found material. McConnell won the President’s Best of Show award for the 2016 Biennial Maryland Regional Juried Art Exhibition for his painting Bear Carver.... more

2017 Paintings

They still have that new art smell.

Installations

Recent public art and gallery shows.

Crayons

Years ago I took a Continuing Studies Drawing class taught by Michael David Brown at MICA. One class he brought in a box of wax oil crayons and a bottle of black sumi ink and showed us how to make wax resist drawings. It’s an elementary school technique that I'd long forgotten about. The best things I learn as an artist are what I already know.

2016 Paintings

  • Westport Whale, Acrylic on Panel, 60 x 60 inches, 2016

    Westport Whale
    While on a bike trip along the coast of Northern California we stopped at a ramshackle store for snacks and fluids in the town of Westport, population 60. There was a tiny house across from the store that was coated with goofy hand lettered signs and bizarre sculptures. The side yard was lined with one man’s junk is another man’s treasure stuff. The bulk of the yard was taken by an ongoing project to build a huge whale. There was a large scallop edged pool with a bulbous framework of rebar and wire mesh propped up by cinder blocks that was intended to someday be a drive by whale watch.
  • Black Mirror, Acrylic on Panel, 60 x 48 inches, 2016

    Black Mirror
    My curiosity spiked when I saw a rectangular object in Matisse’s “Blue Window” painting at the BMA’s Matisse/Diebenkorn show. I learned that Matisse used a dark tinted mirror in the process of many of his paintings. These “Black Mirrors” even out tonal values so brightly lit areas of landscape aren’t confusing to the eye. Additionally they eliminate a lot of detail so you see flattened masses that can aid artistic composition. You can see the effect looking at reflections in the dark screen of an iPhone.
  • Humboldt Bike Polo, Acrylic on Panel, 48 x 48 inches, 2016

    Humboldt Bike Polo
    My Northern California bike trip took us through Arcata. Me? I was first generation Hippie. I started college in Denver because in the early 70s all the best Hippies wanted to be there. Today it’s Arcata, California. It’s a Hippie Theme Park fueled by bales of fresh Humboldt County weed. While dodging frisbees I noticed a fixie (single speed fixed gear bike) with a spoke card (laminated cards wedged in the spokes so they rotate with the wheel) that advertised Humboldt Hardcourt Bike Polo.
  • Lost Coast, Acrylic on Panel, 36 x 48 inches, 2016

    Lost Coast
    There’s a section of Northern California named the Lost Coast that’s over a hundred miles of mostly wilderness. It’s a tough ride on a bicycle. You climb for 8 miles before you dive down a narrow, windy, steep road that’s half potholes/half bad pavement. You ride over cattle guards then there’s nothing but the ocean pounding huge rocks on the right and narrow pastures with a few cows on the left for 20 miles. My painting shows the Lost Coast on the imaginary day when Peter Doig floated up in his canoe and ran into David Salle in his early Ford Bronco.
  • David's Beech Tree Falls into the Pool, Acrylic on Panel, 22 x 30 inches, 2016

    David's Beech Tree Falls into the Pool
    From that day when we were laying around David Hockney’s pool and his big beech tree suddenly came uprooted and crashed into the pool. Fortunately no one was hurt but drinks were spilled.
  • Riding from McCall, Acrylic on Panel, 12 x 12 inches, 2016

    Riding from McCall
    From a bike trip through Idaho. The bands contain the names of the towns I rode through between McCall and Boise.

BMA Painting Demo

I was asked by Jessica Braiterman, the Manager of Community Engagement and Learning at the Baltimore Museum of Art to do a painting demo in conjunction with the Matisse/Diebenkorn show opening. She thought of me because my work is very Matisse influenced. I was more than happy to set up a mini studio that day in the BMA and do what I'd be doing anyway in my studio. These are some of the paintings I started then.

Trout Fishing in America

Back in the late 60s and early 70s (when the world was still flat) Richard Brautigan’s books were a must read for us bell bottom panted paisley shirted long hair hippie freaks. He wrote short books that were easy to ingest between war protests and recreational drug adventures. I came upon my stash of his books this year when I was cleaning out my home studio. His books feel just as good to me now.

These images come from a chapter in his "Trout Fishing in America" book that spoke to me about pursuing your passion and that the real reward is the pursuit, not the results. The chapter is about a guy named Alonso Hagan who keeps a diary of his trout fishing over seven years. He never caught a trout. He went fishing 160 times and lost 2,231 trout for a seven-year average of 13.9 trout lost every time he went fishing.

He wrote an epitaph about his fishing. I used the words in my series of drawings.

‘I’ve had it

I’ve gone fishing now for seven years

and I haven’t caught a single trout

I’ve lost every trout I ever hooked

They either jump off

or twist off

or squirm off

or break my lead

or flop off

or fuck off

I’ve never even gotten my hands on a trout

For all its frustration

I believe it was an interesting experiment

in total loss

but next year somebody else

will have to go trout fishing

Somebody else will have to go

out there’

2015 Paintings

  • Bear Carver (Diptych Left), 48 x 60 inches, Acrylic on Panel, 2015

    Bear Carver (Diptych Left)
    I was riding alone one morning on the Redwood Highway just outside of the National Park when I came upon a mega-mart of carved bears. There are zillions of carved redwood bears in Northern California. I stopped and tried to talk to a man who was just starting his carving shift. He had a block of redwood and an unlit cigarette, about to fire up his chainsaw and the cigarette. I was a guy traveling through on a 15 lb. bicycle who likely wasn't going to buy a bear. Looked like I wasn’t going to alter his routine.
  • Bear Carver (Diptych Right), Acrylic on Panel, 48 x 60 inches, 2015

    Awarded 1st Place: President's Best of show Award, 3rd Biennial Maryland Regional Juried Art Exhibit
  • Through Chandler with Jaehyo, 48 x 60 inches, Acrylic on Panel, 2015

    Through Chandler with Jaehyo
    My two big ambitions as a kid were to go to Disneyland and to drive through that big redwood tree in California I saw on TV. Never made it to Disneyland but I got to ride my bike through that big tree recently. You pay $3 and get to ride through the tree as many times you want. Yeah, kind of a letdown. A big ambition for me now is to own one of Jaehyo Lee’s pieces. He’s a South Korean sculptor who makes large intricate work from logs and bent nails. I’ve only seen pictures of his work. The flat shapes in my painting with the log-like things come from that.
  • Between Tuscany, 36 x 48 inches, Acrylic on Panel, 2015

    Between Tuscany
    I’ve never been to Tuscany but I like traveling through this painting I made up about it.
  • David's Tie, 48 x 60 inches, Acrylic on Panel, 2015

    David's Tie
    I did this painting after seeing David Hockney's "Large Interior"painting in the massive Wallace Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My painting is is a homage to Hockney and his favorite painters showing him gazing at one of Picasso's ceramic owls and at Matisse's grey dog. Also one of Hockney's blue and white striped ties that he was regularly seen wearing in the 1960s is draped on a chair to the right.
  • Overheard at Giverny, 36 x 48 inches, Acrylic on Panel, 2015

    Overheard at Giverny
    Thoughts from a rainy day touring Monet’s home and gardens. It was a crowded tour with an international group speaking many languages.
  • Milton Glaser Rebuilds the Enchanted Forest, 48 x 48 inches, Acrylic on Panel, 2015

    Milton Glaser Rebuilds the Enchanted Forest
    The Enchanted Forest was a nursery rhyme theme park on Rt 40 near Ellicot City. It closed in the late 1980s and was sold for development. A shopping center took over much of the space. Some of the attractions were salvaged and moved to a nearby farm. The remainder of the park sat decaying until 2015 when it was finally bulldozed. The dark area at the top of my painting reminded me of Milton Glazer's Bob Dylan poster.
  • Another Hockney Shower, 36 x 48 inches, Acrylic on Panel, 2015

    Another Hockney Shower
    That black three leaved plant thing in the painting is from David Hockney's 1964 painting "Man in Shower in Beverly Hills". I think that if you're a painter like me who's strongly influenced by Hockney the plant will eventually find it's way into at least one of your paintings. I redecorated and expanded the shower outdoors.

2014 Paintings

  • Henri in Mendocino, 48 x 36 inches, Acrylic on Panel, 2014

    Henri in Mendocino
    Mendocino is a small town on the Northern Coast of California that I decided I want to move to after riding through it once on a bicycle. When I move there I’ll take Henri Matisse with me. I put a travel size version of his Red Studio painting on the ledge under the chair. His goldfish are on the table next to the chair.
  • The Drive From Esalen to Monterey, 48 x 48 inches, Acrylic on Panel, 2014

    The Drive From Esalen to Monterey
    I started painting again after a 30 year break by taking a workshop at Esalen, a retreat in Big Sur, California. The easiest way for me to get there was to fly to Monterey and drive along the coast to Esalen. It’s only 45 miles but it takes over an hour and a half to drive. The coast there is incredibly beautiful but treacherous. The winding two lane road takes you 400’ directly above the ocean in some spots. It's impossible to take in the beauty and keep your car on the road at the same time. Fortunately there are a few overlooks to stop at safely.
  • The Pole Dancers are Not What They Seem, 60 x 60 inches, Acrylic on Panel, 2014

    The Pole Dancers are Not What They Seem
    The questionably dressed girls in the painting are from an abandoned motel on the Pacific Highway above the Redwood National Forest. They were part of a scene that was painted on the inside of a window of what was the resturaunt and bar. I put a Giuseppe Capogrossi pattern on the tree on the right. Picasso's owl is in the leaves. The tree on the left is a coctail olive tree. The title of the painting plays on a line from David Lynch's show "Twin Peaks".
  • Henri's Fish Visit Paul's, 24 x 18 inches, Acrylic on Panel, 2014

    Henri's Fish Visit Paul's
    From the day Henri Matisse dropped off his goldfish at Paul Klee's aquarium for a visit.
  • Heron, 48 x 36 inches, Acrylic on Panel, 2014

    Heron
    I live on several acres that are noticeably less groomed than my neighbors yards. I have a smallish pond next to my house that is stocked with blue gills and largmouth bass. I planted several species of oxingenating pond plants to benefit the fish. Oxigenating pond plants I came to find are really just prolific weeds. But everything seems happy. Different forms of herons will visit my pond as part of their meal plan. They stand stoically unnoticed for long periods. There’s a heron in the painting.
  • Chautauqua Opening, 30 x 24 inches, Acrylic on Panel, 2014

    Chautauqua Opening
    I was juried into the 57th Chautauqua Annual by Jerry Saltz. I'd never seen Chautauqua or Jerry Saltz. Both were delightful. The drive from Baltimore to Chautauqua is mostly rural. The bands on the upper part of my painting contain the names of the small towns I drove through to get there.
  • Snake River Picnic, 18 x 18 inches, Acrylic on Panel, 2014

    Snake River Picnic
    On a bike trip through Idaho we stopped for a picnic lunch along the Snake River Canyon. We were perched very high up over the river with a view that went forever. The towns we rode through that day are written in the bands in the upper left of the painting.

2013 Paintings

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