Happy Hour with Mike Perry
Way back when in 2004, we built our business on a profound love of creativity, craft, and community. Smack dab at the center of that Venn diagram is an ever-expanding network of artists. Though all murals are gorgeous in our eyes, there is something particularly powerful about bringing the work of an artist we admire to a Colossal wall. It’s an affirmation of purpose, and another line in the continuous dialogue between art and audience.
What better way, we thought, to show business partners our appreciation during the 2022 holiday, than to collaborate with a world-renowned artist? Enter the Emmy award winner, Brooklyn legend, and long-time friend of Colossal: Mike Perry. Commissioning a custom wine label design was not only a chance to enjoy some ecstatic art, but also an opportunity for our Creative Director John Samels to connect with his college buddy.
After a few weeks’ work and a job well done, the two friends made some time to chat and catch up over the fermented fruits of their labor.
John Samels, Creative Director at Colossal (left) and Mike Perry, Artist (right).
How did you two meet?
John Samels: It really wasn’t until the last year or two when the design students had our own studio space. It felt more like a clubhouse and we were all kind of like hanging out and talking. That was really the best for me.
Mike Perry: I forgot about that! I think that’s where I learned to talk aggressively about my work. I was a pretty shy child.
Can you tell us a bit about how you’ve developed your personal style since art school?
MP: Oh, I had the calling when I was young. It’s been quite a ride, so much learning and discovery. When I was in high school, I discovered oil painting. That’s when the fire was properly lit. Then I got to college, where I met John, and graphic design was presented as creative problem solving.
JS: I went to art school with the intention of graduating with a film major.
It wasn’t until I explored the curriculum and saw what the design students were making that it all changed for me.
MP: I didn’t even know what it was! Then all of a sudden, we just had these great teachers who presented design as just this way of thinking and coming up with ideas and solutions. So I stepped away from painting, just out of passion for design. I also just needed to make money because you know, as an idiot and who went to art school you’re like, I gotta figure out how to pay for all this shit! Luckily, design was a job. Now, jump ahead twenty years and all I wanna do is go back to my high school self and make landscape paintings. Just geek out on clouds.
How has your relationship with your artwork changed since those first oil paintings in high school? Or has it?
MP: I don’t think it’s changed at all.
That’s kind of beautiful.
MP: I don’t really want my work, I want it to be out there. I never have felt precious about it — just the opposite. It’s like, all right, I’m done, let’s put it in the world. And that’s how I felt at the beginning. When I was in high school, I didn’t have the money to buy a million canvases. So I’d make a painting and then I just paint over it. Do another one.
John, what inspired you to reach out to Mike to design our 2022 gift?
JS: I’ve been a fan of Mike’s work since we were in school together. It really has been incredible watching your career and success. There’s been some crossovers over the past 20 years, which has just been so much fun.
MP: John DJ’d my wedding reception. That was really fun.
JS: That was one of the best parties in the last ten years.
MP: But sorry, I interrupted.
JS: I think that Mike’s art really touches a broad range of people. Some of these things can be very niche, and I think Mike’s work connects with a lot of people.
MP: Thanks, John.
JS: Yeah, man! I want to do more of that. I’m trying to make Colossal the go-to for those types of projects. Connecting people that make great work and making unique opportunities for clients.
This isn’t your first time working with Colossal, Mike — can you tell us a bit about the projects you’ve done in the past?
MP: I think the first thing I did was a mural over on Franklin and Atlantic Avenue. It was an Emblem Healthcare mural. I remember I was making watercolor paintings at the time and I was really concerned about brushstrokes. And [the people at Colossal] were just like, relax it’s all good, whatever it looks like on paper it’ll look like that. Then when I was doing the Broad City stuff. We did that crazy interactive one…
MP: Well yes but no, the paint by number one? And then I actually hired you guys ‘cause we did a mural in Dumbo and I was not about to hang off the side of the building. I don’t know, there’s some other ones too. I can’t remember.
I didn’t realize it went that far back.
MP: I’m an old man.
Well, Colossal’s been lucky.
MP: I’ve been lucky. It’s good to see your work big in the world.
A few of our past projects with Mike Perry.
What do you do to push yourself creatively? Or how do you access your imagination when maybe it feels closed off?
MP: I keep my sketchbook, I can’t leave home without it. I have a tendency to forget what I’ve done, which is great. So sometimes when I need inspiration, I just open it to an old sketch. Drawings or ideas, you know, they take time. I try to just go down memory lane. I’m in an interesting space right now where…I’ve made so many things. I’m trying to figure out, what am I making? And I’m trying to not be in a rush to figure that out. It feels good.
Is this the first time you’ve given yourself the space to do that?
MP: Yeah. It’s amazing. I’ve just been rushing. Now the machine keeps plowing forward, but it’s nice to not feel like I have to make a new body of work twice a year.
Is it challenging to take a step back having had so much momentum behind you before?
MP: Hopefully the momentum doesn’t stop though. That’s the catch! I have some really big things that I want to make that are kind of daunting. I’m trying to make sure…if I start them, I gotta finish ’em. You know?
Did you make any professional resolutions for this year? Starting big projects, answering existential questions maybe?
MP: I don’t really have any goals in that sense of the year. I just want to just keep going. Keep it all from falling apart, you know? Everybody is just trying to keep it all together. So that you can keep going and then hopefully, you know, make it till you’re an old person and then the end.
JS: For me, it’s been the same every year. It’s about trusting myself and not being so concerned about what people are gonna think. What do I want? What do I like? And put that out into the world.
How’s the wine, by the way?
MP: It’s delicious. It tastes like wine.
And with that, let’s raise our glasses in a toast to the friendships that inspire us, the work that motivates us, and the artwork that makes life more interesting. Cheers!
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. We’d like to thank our partners at Brooklyn Winery, our hosts at The Palace, and of course our friend Mike Perry. To learn more about artist sourcing opportunities, email us at [email protected].