As Dorothy discovered soon after entering the World of Oz, when you visit the artistic world of Michael Parkes, you “aren’t in Kansas anymore.” Michael’s degree in graphic art from the University of Kansas followed by years travelling through Europe and Asia don’t begin to explain his success. As with everything he touches, there are layers of meaning nestled within his beautiful works of art. While he hesitates to ascribe a singular meaning to the symbolism in his painting, his professorial background prompts him to willingly elucidate the historical influences which pervade his work. A long way from the college classrooms in which he taught Art History, by sharing some of the reasons behind his color, subject and composition choices in his quest to achieve artistic harmony, Michael continues in the role of educator. He willingly discusses myth, symbolism and ancient philosophy as he unlocks some of the mysteries within his paintings.
Long before his canvases are varnished and framed, he is attending to the one thing he believes all great masterpieces have in common: “a great harmony that makes you stop. “ Though he lives in Spain, he remains accessible, offering insight into this creative process in a variety of ways, such as an online interview in which he divulges some of his avant-garde methods. By choosing to sketch images on a thin, tracing-like paper, he facilitates an ability to flip the image forward and back to assess its best placement within a project. Initially, he may draw a sketch and then set it aside to gel before working on it further. Or in other cases, he will do a complete small portrait, and then from that small version, he will make decisions on how to expand it to a larger scale, 2 to 3 times the size of the original drawing. He finds it most invigorating to work on 4 or 5 projects simultaneously, so that, as he consciously works on one painting, his peripheral vision, indeed his subconscious, continues to pick up vibrations from the other works in progress, helping him identify the missing elements or adjustments that are needed. His colors are the painstaking result of first sketching in brownish tones, referred to as underpainting and then literally layering on the colors using a glaze of paint straight from the tube mixed with turpentine, in a technique first established during the Renaissance. Completed works are scanned and then printed onto canvas so that a variety of varnish treatments can be applied to avoid choosing a varnish which conflicts with the overall intention. Once the correct varnish is selected, the original canvas can be completed.
The decision to settle in Spain has much to do with the climate and setting. He estimates that his home is ensconced in 320 days of “wonderful golden light” which is a big change from working in Zurich. He adds that the “rhythm of the waves” reinforces the vibrations of his creativity. Visitors to his studio are at first surprised to see his paintings apparently standing haphazardly, sometimes even lying sideways and upside down. Again, Michael reveals that by spinning and flipping his work 360 degrees, he is better able to define the balance and composition which he seeks. Though none would call him vain, his studio contains mirrors which he puts to an unusual use. By holding a mirror up and gazing at the reflection of his work, his artistic eye perceives subtle but necessary changes that were not evident when facing his work head on. Though perhaps unconventional, this circular approach which takes in all angles from 360 degrees creates award winning work.
Global doesn’t begin to describe his following. In fact, with his recognition by ASFA’s Chesley as well as Locus, it seems fair to say that Michael Parkes has a universal appeal. His paintings have been chosen to grace the cover of numerous book jackets and the homes of celebrities too numerous to name. Persistently asked to exhibit new work throughout the world, Michael’s art continues to gain recognition and captivate new collectors. FineArt360 is delighted to offer you the work of Michael Parkes.