Interview: Michael Kerbow, Founder at MK Studios, San Francisco

Michael Kerbow is a San Francisco-based artist who works in a variety of media including painting, drawing, assemblage, and digitally-manipulated photography. He received his MFA from Pratt Institute in New York. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and has appeared in multiple publications.

He left his regular job at print advertising only to pursue his passion for painting and drawing. He is of the view that the role of an artist is to distill the world they inhabit for others to see the things that may elude them. Recently, we got an opportunity of squeezing some of his time and digging out gems from the mind of the creative genius. His analysis and insights into the creative world of colors were worth sharing, please scroll down and enjoy yourself,


TechieTonics: How did your career in painting/drawing/ assemblage/ photography begin? Where did you grow up and how far is the environment responsible for shaping up of your profession.

Michael Kerbow: I grew up in the eastern half of the United States.  It was a fairly average suburban upbringing.  I don’t know what influence this may have had upon the type of work I create today, but it probably played a role somehow.  Even though I was painting and drawing since I was young, it’s only been recently that I began pursuing art as a career.  I used to work as a digital retoucher for print advertising.  I had a fairly creative job, but it rarely afforded me the time to create my own artwork.  I came to realize how unsatisfied I was with this.  So about five years ago, I made the decision to curtail my day job as a retoucher and began working full time upon my art.

TechieTonics: From where do you get your inspiration to spill out your creative genius? What is for you the best way to stay energized?

Michael Kerbow: I get inspiration for ideas from anywhere and everywhere.  It could be from something I read or a film, or it may derive from a conversation with someone.  I think the role of the artist is to distill the world they inhabit for others to see the things that may elude them.  I guess I stay energized simply by making my art.  It’s a self-nourishing practice.

Hollow Pursuits

TechieTonics: In your bio you have mentioned that your work explores the way in which we engage with our surroundings and the possible consequences our actions have upon the world in which we live. Does that mean that you insinuating futuristic undertones in your work of art?

Michael Kerbow: Yes.  Definitely with my painting series I call “Portents”.  These images portray visions of our possible future, based upon what I see going on in the world  today, and the current trajectory of our society.  I suppose I view these works as warnings of what we need to be mindful of in the world, so that we may course correct and re-think our actions.

TechieTonics: Do you believe in the philosophy that art should have an effect, should communicate something or are you of the view that its sole purpose is simply to provide a platform for an artist’s expression?

Michael Kerbow: I view art as a helpful resource as it allows us to communicate things that may fall outside the scope of what can be said with language.  I like to believe that my artwork has something meaningful to say.  I want to engage my viewer and have a dialog with them about what I see happening in the world.  That being said, I don’t want my work to become overly didactic so that it lacks room for interpretation.

Fool's Gold

TechieTonics: As I was going through your paintings, I came across one art named ‘Fool’s Gold’ (shown above). As I went li’l further, I realized that you have done the work in phases and not in one sitting. I am curious to know, how you gear up your artistic efforts. What makes you think that bring about the change? How much time do you spend painting per week?

Michael Kerbow: I try to work in my studio every day.  I tend to work on several paintings simultaneously, rather than one at a time.  This allows me the opportunity to move from one painting to another, depending on the mood I am in.  Some paintings may done quickly, taking only a day to finish. But more often, I will work on a painting over several days, weeks, or maybe months.  Things are always fluid.  I might have an initial idea for a painting, but I try to stay receptive to what happens during the painting process so that I can respond.  In other words, I don’t force a painting to become exactly as my initial mental image.  I try to allow the image to evolve as it is being painted and respond to what it reveals to me as it is being created.  (I hope this makes sense.)

Their Refinement of the Decline

TechieTonics: Technological advancements will bring about non-tangible interface something like holographic projection systems. How far do you think am I correct in holding the view?

Michael Kerbow: We are social creatures.  And we rely on our vision as a major interface with the world around us.  So, I suspect we will continue to find new ways to  communicate information visually to one another, as you describe.


TechieTonics: Is there anywhere in the world that you would particularly like to visit to photograph and why?

Michael Kerbow: Sure.  There are a number of places I would like to visit.  Shanghai and Dubai come to mind, because I am intrigued by how rapidly cities like this are growing.  For natural landscapes, I’d like to visit Patagonia, Iceland and Namibia. Any eerily beautiful place on the planet.

TechieTonics: Would you like to share your upcoming projects (photography or painting-related) that you have in the pipeline?

Michael Kerbow: I keep a list of paintings I have not yet painted.  I’ll sometimes create small sketches of these ideas in my journal, so I won’t forget them.  My biggest challenge right now is that I get new ideas faster than I can paint them.  I estimate it would take me over 10 years to paint all the ideas I currently have, and new ideas come to me all the time.

study for Convoy

TechieTonics: What’s the most valuable lesson you’re learned during your career in painting/photography ?

Michael Kerbow: Stay true to what you are passionate about.

TechieTonics: Before wrapping up would you like to share any words of wisdom with our readers?

Michael Kerbow: Life is not a dress rehearsal.  Make every day count.

A Means to an End

Now some rapid-fire questions:

TT: What websites and magazines do you read on a regular basis?

MK: New York Times, National Public Radio, BBC News, Time magazine, Wired, and various art related blogs.

TT: Your favorite piece of music would be?

MK: Whatever best matches how I am feeling at any particular moment.

TT: If you had to walk in another man’s shoes for a day, it would have to be?

MK: Someone who wears comfortable shoes.

TT: If you have been bestowed with one super power, it would be?

MK: To freeze time.  I think it would be wonderful to have unlimited time to read, to create, to explore, to learn, and grow.

TT: If you were a historical person, it would have to be?

MK: Not to sound flippant, but I can’t see wanting to be someone else.  Everybody’s life has its pluses and minuses.  I’m just trying to make due with the one I got.

Sequester study

This was indeed an amazing interview, thank you Michael for taking out time in helping us go about a virtual meet up. Your work is truly an inspiration, am sure like me readers too have enjoyed it thoroughly. Please know that you are welcome back any time and we look forward to visiting with you again and seeing much more of your work in the future. Wish you all the very best for all your future endeavors.

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