Mike Hayes was born in a small town in Mid-western Canada, moved to Montreal when he was five, then moved down to San Diego when he was Fifteen. Mike moved up to San Jose when he was Twenty to finish his degree then moved back at Twenty-three. He have been working as a professional illustrator for about 6 months now as well as working very part-time for his Father as a Bookkeeper. Mike says " I don't really have much in the way of free time, but when I am not painting I enjoy just hanging out with friends, playing pool, watching movies, hitting on women that are out of my league,reading novels, and occasionally indulging the nerdier side of my personality playing trading card or miniatures games.
1. What inspired you to become an artist/illustrator?
This is actually quite a long story, if anyone is interested, the full version is on my website (www.artofmike.com) The short version goes something like this though: I had planned on becoming a software engineer, which led to web programming, then web graphics, then 3d modelling, then traditional sculpture and finally to traditional drawing and painting. From there, specializing in illustration was a natural fit for me given my tastes and desire to work on all aspects of a project, from start to finish.
2. What first drew you to study at Watts Atelier?
I had heard good things about the Atelier through the internet and a few friends. Initially I had only planned to stay for about a year, I had only really seen it as a place to hang out and work on my drawing a bit before I went off to get my masters degree. Within a few weeks of attending Watts I began to question that plan, by the end of the first quarter I was completely sold on the place and decided to stick around indefinetly. That was a bit more than 3 years ago, and was, without a doubt, one of the best decisions of my life.
3. What is you favorite genre/subject to illustrate?
While I enjoy painting just about anything in or related to the fantasy genre, I would say my favorite sub-genre would be mythology, specifically myths and legends from cultures that haven't been depicted as often as the Greeks and Romans. For me this is the right balance of making a painting historically and realistically grounded, while at the same time letting my imagination run free. As far as subject matter is concerned, you can take one look at my work and tell that I have a soft spot for painting beautiful women. I have been told I will grow out of this eventually, I sure as hell hope not.
4. What is your dream job/project to work on?
This is a bit of a tough question to answer, I have heard from many people in many different art related industries that the "dream jobs" are not usually all they are cracked up to be. I could give you a few stock answers such as working on my own book, doing a cover for [x] author or painting [x] character. I think though, when it comes down to it, my dream job is simply one that I really enjoy working on and leaves me with a painting I am truly proud of. I have already had a few of those and I hope to have a few more.
5. Which of your artistic achievments are you most proud of?
During my senior year of college when I decided I was going to abandon a potential career in 3d modeling to pursue traditional painting instead, I had a few professors and classmates tell me I was crazy and that I wouldn't make it. One professor in particular was especially zealous in trying to talk me out of it, going so far as to spend half an hour talking to my parents about his views on my future. This may sound a little arrogant and spiteful,(and I am not sure if qualify as having "made it" yet) but the achievment I am most proud of is working my ass off and proving him wrong.
6. What is your education background?
I finished high school in 2000, studied at a local community college for 2 years, graduated with honors from Cogswell Polytechnical College in 2005. I studied full time at Watts Atelier for 3 years and have recently moved down to part time status and plan to stay there indefinetely.
7. What do you feel has been most valuable to you in getting to where you are as a professional illustrator?
There is absolutely no way I will be able to narrow this down to a single answer, I think I could write a book on this. In no particular order: Hard work, smart work, patience, tenacity/persistance, excellent instruction/mentors, very supportive parents, great environment at the Atelier, friends who were willing to model for me, caffiene, the internet, illustrators/art directors who critiqued my work, luck... I could probably go on all day but you get the idea.
8. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Doing the same thing I am doing now, only I hope to be better at it, get paid more and work on higher-profile gigs. If circumstances permit,
I would also like to teach part-time in some way, shape or form.
9. What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
For strengths: Patience, persistance and strong work ethic. I am simply not the type to half-ass things, whether it be my education or career in general or repainting a nose ten times until it is right. I have never seen myself as naturally "talented" but I think these other attributes have helped make up for that. As far as specifics go, I like to think that I am pretty good at faces/portraits.
For weaknesses. Here is another one I could write a book on... In the interest of not looking completely incompetant, I will try and narrow it down.
Speed , or lack thereof. I am a slow, methodical draftsman and painter. Thus, at the moment, I can't take as much work as I would like to, and I have to be really careful about taking work with tight deadlines. I am also a bit overly reliant on photoreference, I can make do without, but I don't like to and it slows me down quite a bit. For specifics: thumbs (the finger, not thumbnail sketches), I couldn't tell you why, but I *&%*ing hate those things.
10. What is your favorite book?
Without a doubt, "The Song of Fire and Ice" series by George R.R. Martin. Other notables are The Lord of the Rings, anything by Morgan Llywelyn and a newfound favorite of mine: Bernard Cornwell.