Interview with pop surreal lowbrow artist Michael Mararian

Rendering traditionally cheerful images and concepts into frightening, yet humorous, tableaus, Michael Mararian often focuses on children as the last bastion of innocence to explore the dark humor behind social and psychological issues. What can on one level be construed as melancholy and cruel, can alternately be viewed as amusing, even charming. He enjoys letting his viewers decide.
Hello dear Michael, please, tell us how did you find the artist inside you? How long have you been doing art? Is art something that you always wanted to do?
I found the artist in me by being alone my whole childhood.  Being an only child and finding ways to entertain and express myself.  I have been doing art my whole life but just started to actively focus on a fine art career late in life at the age of 40.  I was always good at drawing and painting so I never thought it was something I had to study or focus on.  I forayed instead in the performing arts- writing for the stage and screen prior to falling back on my art.  I felt having failed at all my other creative endeavors, the art world was my final attempt at success.  I guess the jury is still out :)

What was / is your major influences? Other artists, books, movies, music or any other media....What inspires you to create your artworks?
I have discovered over time that your tastes in art- like music, change.  Mature and evolve.  Some influences have remind like my love of photography as an art form.  Artists like Helen Levitt, Roger Ballen and Joel Peter Witkin were early influencers.  My interest in the early "lowbrow" movement inspired me to pursue my own art since it most reflected what was happening at that time even though I have to say artists of that early stage have lost my interest to an extent and lately I have been finding myself infatuated with minimalist artists like Richard Serra and Ellsworth Kelly and I'm not sure why.  Perhaps I'm looking for simplicity in a now chaotic world.  But beyond all this I am most inspired by current events often discuss on National Public Radio and other outlets- Facebook even!
How does "a normal day of artist" in your life look like?
I'm an early riser.  Up and about by 6:30 am.  I'm not a painter that burns the midnight oil.  I'm in bed by 10 every night!  I usually try to get to the gym. The morning and be back by 10am to start painting.  I find in goof off a lot and paint furiously for a couple hours at a time then jump on social media for awhile to maybe post process shots of what I have just worked on.  People 's reactions and input will usually create a wave effect to give me another rush of painting- and it goes like that until about 5:30 pm when my wife arrives home and I call it a day.  I try to make my art making as if I am at a job when I clock in the morning and put my time in.
What’s your background? Are you self-taught artist or did you study art? Do you think an art education is important or imperitive for anybody wishing to be an artist? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages that you have encountered throughout your career with/without the formal training of the Art Academy?
I never studied art academically although I did attend the Arts Students League for a short time.  I don't think academically studying art is imperative although I do you believe there is a sense of cronyism when it comes to the more prestigious Galleries and prestigious art schools.  I think Artists probably have a better chance of being considered who have gotten their masters degree and studied with someone the gallery is familiar with.  Although history shows that many of the artists who sell at high prices at auctions right now have never had formal arts training. I think the biggest advantage about not having art training for some is that sense of reckless abandonment- creating what feels right as oppose to what you are told is right.
What fascinates you the most about pop surrealism? How would you describe your style? What themes do you pursue, what surrealism mean to you and what do you hope the viewer will take away from your art?
I think what fascinates me the most about the whole pop surrealism scene is the scope of work and styles- the quality of the work.  How most of it is on the illustrative side and rendered beautifully.   The work I have been doing recently is figurative with almost a pop art sensibility - I tried to bring satire to my work and explore the world of contradictions, absurdities, and pathos in our society.  I hope ultimately my viewers will take away with them a different way of experiencing society, perceived roles, consumerism and violence.
What do you love most about creating and being an artist? What does “being creative” mean to you?
I think like most art forms the greatest feeling is getting reactions from an audience.  I don't always enjoy the art creating process - sometimes it can be a real pain, sometimes it can be frustrating and then sometimes it can be really exciting when you're painting for example, takes a turn and starts coming alive.  That's really exciting.  For me though, when I have a piece that I really like, there's is nothing like more than the excitement I get from the anticipation of showing it publicly.

Can you describe your typical workflow when you’re working on your art? What are your tools of trade? What medium do you most often use and why?
When I'm working on a solo show there's usually an overall theme I try to conceive.  Or if I have some other themes that I've never touched upon and I feel might be right at that given time I might start working on something like that.  One thing I know is I always want the work to be engaging and humorous if possible and perhaps have a message which makes it even harder.  There's a lot to hang around time just letting things stew in my head collecting reference photos and laying out scenarios through Photoshop.  When I have a painting thoroughly thought out and laid out then I just start painting from that.  I work in acrylics so if I get pressed for time I can often work on to a three pieces at once.  I like acrylics - I use open acrylics that dry a little slower but still allow me to work fast and get through the pieces really quick.  I have no patience, when I start a piece I work on a gang busters and I can't wait to see how it turns out.

Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
Sculpture or perhaps installation work.
Tell us more about your workspace. What was the most funny or weird thing that happened to you in your studio? What is / was the most strange thing hiding in your studio?
My workspace is a mess.  A trashcan piled high with Starbucks coffee cups. Piles of old paint rags under my drawing desk.  I guess the funniest or weirdest thing happening in my studio is me in there painting in my underwear sometimes (I get paint on all my nice clothes so I disrobe outside the door before I go in).
What toughest challenges have you faced as an artist during your art career? What is the biggest lesson you have learned so far?
The toughest challenge I face is trying not to sell out and paint what everyone else  who is making money paints.  People say "Paint pretty women" and I just have no interest.  Or "Paint animals, people love animals" and I have no interest in that either unless it's in an ironic way. I suppose because I have painted animals in the past.  I like my work to be topical and if that makes it difficult to swallow for some, so be it.  But it has cost me gallery shows because if there IS one thing I have learned so far is that Galleries don't like trying hard to sell art.  And it's a business I understand - they want artist whose work sells out before the show opens but I think it's important for these galleries to be well rounded and that's where it's had for me to fit in at times. To be one of those additions. 
What’s the best and worst advice you ever received in your art career?
The one advice I got was BOTH the best and worst - and that was to be true to yourself and paint what you want to paint.
What do you dislike about the art world? What is the hardest thing on being an artist? Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
Any artist will tell you that the artist life is lonely.  There's a lot of talk radio and music listening to - Netflix streaming or for some artists pure silence while they work.  I do a lot of talking to my cats and I get very excited when the UPS man shows up - I talk his ear off.  But I think one of the hardest things for an artist to keep the level of interest and always trying to top what you have done before and not be predictable.  Trying new things without failing is a concerned but I feel I always you need to try something new because I personally get bored and need to change for my own relief - I'm not one of those artist that likes to do the same thing over and over.  You run the risk of alienating your audience if they really like something you've been doing and suddenly you change it.   As far as the art world goes, I feel it's impossible to love because it's impossibly to ever truly know it.

Where do you see yourself in the future? Professionally, what’s your goal?
I always see my future self creating something that's interesting and fun - my goal however is to create something that's actually really great.
Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others? Maybe advice for beginning artists out there?
My practical advice for beginners is to learn about making your wok archival so years from now it's still around because that's the point.
My inspiring words might be, that there's a lot of room in the art world for everyone and all types.  There's many ways to make an art, write about art, help others make art or sell art.  If art is in your blood and you without a doubt know it is something that you thrive on then you will be successful at some aspect of it.

Your favorite art or life quote is ...

 “Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do” - Edgar Degas
What are you doing when you’re not creating? What (other) hobbies do you have?
I like collecting as a hobby - I do collect other artist work as well. I have a decent collection of 16mm films that I screen often and have friends over to watch and I also have  vintage medical collection on top of all this. I drive a classic car in the summers and go to cars shows and have won awards with my 1962 Dodge Lancer. So I try to keep busy with other things.
Do you have an online portfolio or a blog where we can view your work?
Is there anything else you’d like to say? Is there any project you are working on right now or any ongoing event or exhibition you would like to share with our readers?

I am part of  a group show about Circus Life opening mid January 2015 at the Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles beyond that just working on a new body of work not yet designated for a show.
Thank you dear Michael, it was a honor to interview you, I wish you only the best for you and your art and already looking forward to see your new art works :)
By contributor Linda. December 2014. Find Oh, So Surreal on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google + or RSS