Monday, January 14

Unexpected Guests: Michael Wertz.

This is one fun and über colorful visit! Today we're paying a visit to Michael Wertz, a talented illustrator and a lovely person who lives and works in Oakland with his husband, musician and programmer Andrew Cowitt and their beautiful pup, Olive. I was introduced to Michael over the holidays by another talented illustrator and good friend of Michael's, Leigh Wells. As I shared with you on Friday, Michael invited us in for tea, a tour of his studio and a quick lesson on Gocco printing, of which he is a wizard! Michael is also a silk-screener extraordinaire, and is most excited right now about his posters for the Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker shows. He designed and hand silk-screened 100 posters for their shows at the end of 2007. It's the kind of work Michael sees himself doing more of moving forward. Let's find out a little bit more about Michael, shall we?

Where do you live?
I live in Oakland, CA, pretty close to Lake Merritt. I've lived in the Bay Area all my life, with extended stints in Santa Cruz and San Francisco. I see myself moving back to Santa Cruz someday. It's beautiful there. The air is still good. You can drive along the water and see people biking and surfing. I'd like to live for part of the year in New York City, as well. That place just thrills me.

What is your favorite outing in Oakland?
My favorite thing to do, though not in Oakland proper, is to take my dog Olive to the Albany Bulb and look at the art whilst letting Olive run amok and off-leash. Off-leash time is critical for my dog. The other favorite thing for me to do is to go to the Parkway Theatre and sit down for a beer, a pizza, and a flick on a comfortable old couch. Funky. My third favorite outing is to open my back door and work in my garden, which is in dire need of a haircut.

What's the best thing about your city?
I think the best thing about Oakland (for the foreseeable future, anyway) is that there's 'elbow room' here. People smile at you when you walk along the lake, and other folks with dogs stop for a chat. There's a good vibe here (though my neighborhood has gotten a tad dangerous at night). It's a very mixed place: age-wise, sexual preference-wise, and race-wise. You never know what kind of a person you might run in to when you go for a walk. The other best thing about Oakland is the incredible tile work you see on some of the older buildings. Oakland has an incredibly rich history that I'm lucky to soak in.

Who are your favorite artists?

Lynda Barry. Leigh Wells. Ward Schumaker. Vivienne Flesher. Marcos Sorensen. Isabel Samaras. Robert Rauschenberg. Maira Kalman. Rex Ray. Peter Max. Jim Winters. Rama Hughes. Luc LaTulippe. Mats!?!. Flower Frankenstein. Dave Warnke. Shepard Fairey. The Flaming Lips. Adam McCauley. Calef Brown. Rhode Montijo. Sara Fanelli. Esther Pearl Watson and Mark Todd. Maurice Vellekoop. The Little Friends of Printmaking. Dan McCarthy. Eric White. Robert Shadbolt. Edwin Fotheringham. Sarajo Frieden. Alison Bechdel. Phranc. Gronk. Lloyd Dangle

Where do you find inspiration?
Dogs. I've been working on a 'dog blog', the second installment of 100 dog drawings. I'm up to 76 drawings on the second dog blog - so that makes 176 drawings. I'm still trying to finish the second set. It's taking me a lot longer than I would have liked, but then I can step back and say to myself "Hey, Self! You finished 176 drawings! And some of them are pretty good! Righteous!" They're not all drawings (though most of them start that way). Some are mono prints, some are finished in the computer. Some are collage. Some were done with a crayon.

I'm finding screen printing to be incredibly inspirational. I love flat color, and I love the endless possibilities that silk-screening provides. I feel like I'm just scratching the surface here, and that there's lots more to discover. I love pulling paint, and making multiples so I can give them as gifts (and make a bit of extra cash).

I like music, too. I'm in a little garage electronic project called Svelte. Oh! Here's a list I compiled of online inspiration. I actually do refer back to these sites, quite a bit.

Who do you admire and why?
I admire anyone who is able to make a living off of their artwork, because it's incredibly difficult and it takes perseverance, which I am learning to cultivate. I admire free thinkers, since there seem to be less and less of them these days. I admire Wayne from the Flaming Lips, because he encourages everyone to live their life as if it were an epic adventure. I admire people who dance alone in their apartments and sing in the shower, because it's necessary, and we shouldn't be leaving all the dancing and singing up to the 'professionals'. I admire drag queens because they're bittersweet and they dress funny and they're strong.

What's the last great book you read?
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.

What's your favorite film?
Ooh, that's hard. I have several. Doctor Strangelove. Female Trouble. Grey Gardens. Star Wars (episode four). Auntie Mame (the one with Roz Russell, not the one with Lucille Ball). Juliet of the Spirits.

If you could photograph anyone in the world, who might that be?
My husband, I think. He's pretty shy. I'd like to show him a picture of himself that he would say "wow" to. I'd like to get all my friends and family together in one place to photograph them, because time changes everyone so quickly. It's lovely to have that remembrance.

Who would you like to sit down to tea with?
I love tea. I am a fiend for the tea. High tea is especially good, because that involves tiny sandwiches and butter and jam. I will sit down to tea with anyone who asks. I'd like to sit down and have around table discussion with Al Gore, Andy Cowitt, Barack Obama, Billary, the folks who used to publish Mondo 2000, Henry Rollins, James Baldwin, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Angela Davis. Jello Biafra would probably monologue, get pissed off, grab a cucumber sandwich, and then leave.

Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Strangers With Candy. I have watched every episode of that show at *least* ten times. I can quote you memorable lines: "Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!" I love Amy Sedaris. I admire a nice square jaw. Contraband desserts. Flickr. Burning Man.

What is your most treasured belonging?
My eyesight. My love. My dog.

What do you despise?
President Bush once told me that I looked like a sex-crazed counter-culture prevert (sic). I asked him if he knew where to buy any blow. I hate the haters.

What's your favorite word?
Geez - there are so many to choose from: Interview! Oblique! Opaque! Supplant! Psychedelic! Understand! Breathe! Closure! Listen! Ecstatic! Tone-poem! Yes! I think my favorite word is "Yes".

What are some of your favorite websites, blogs?

Lileks; Coyle & Sharpe; Marlys Magazine; Doom Buggies; Found Magazine; Vectorpark; Hack Your Way Out of Writer's Block; Daily Color Scheme

Wertzateria; Drawn!; Dear Ada; WFMU's Beware of the Blog; Illustration Friday; The Portrait Party; Leigh Wells.

Is there a craft, language, skill etc. you are dying to learn?
I'd like to learn Spanish. I know a little tiny bit from living near the Mission district, but I'd like to know more. I want to know more about silk-screening. I'd love to be able to get a Masters Degree in Printmaking. I want to learn how to drive across the USA. I want to learn how to be a (happy) camper. I'd like to learn how to be a better businessperson.


Anonymous said...

I found your blog today and I love it by now.

Very well done, colourful, pretty and so inspiring!

Thanks for sharing this all with us.

Linnea said...

Ooups, it didn't take me long to order that "Lassie goes to the moon/Camper van Beethoven" print. Love at first sight! Thanks for sharing :)

Uncle Beefy said...

Michael sounds like such a great guy! I bet he'll get lots of invitations to tea now! Laughed at the qualifier on "Auntie Mame" (cause I always make the same qualification).

As a printmaker and silkscreener myself, I thank you for givin' props, Victoria! :)

Great, great post!

Lora said...

I love your "interview" features!

michael said...

Dear Victoria, thank you so much! it's fun to be a guest here, and it was great to have you as a guest at my studio. Here's a shout-out to Jim Winters, who did the incredible flat-color portraits (of us in the kitchen and of VCD in the studio). Have a great day, everyone! xm

sfgirlbybay said...

Thanks Michael - so good to have you!! Thanks for the visit!

Alya said...

Very colorful guy!

Janis said...

What a sweet, adorable person. I wish he lived nearby so we could have tea!

matirose said...

such a great interview! i've heard it through the illustration grapevine that michael's a very dapper dresser to boot!

hampton said...

really enjoyed this interview. if i lived in oakland i think i'd try to make michael be friends with me.

Anonymous said...

how great to see the amazing michael and his home/studio environs! congrats michael and thanks sfgirl for featuring such a creative and great guy...