We had the good fortune of connecting with Mike Shisler and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mike, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
The most important factor behind my success is that I draw and paint the places as I experience them in that exact moment. As a plein air painter or urbansketcher I am innately connected to a place in time with all of my senses. The weather, the sights, sounds and smells all get translated through my pen and brush which, when all goes well, creates a unique work of art that is more alive than anything I could make in a studio. I have also found success in following my passion and my interests. Through my art, I seek to tell a story, quench my curiosity and be a general student of the world, which informs my work and informs the viewer.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I have always felt most confident, satisfied and whole when I am creating. With that in mind, from an early age, I knew I wanted to spend my life in a creative endeavor. In my teenage years I considered music, writing, photography and art before finding a passion in architecture and the built environment. I studied architecture at Temple University in Philadelphia and graduated with a 5 year Architecture degree. I then began working in various architecture firms in a variety of roles until I drifted a little too far from the creative and artistic foundation that set me on that initial course. By my 30th birthday, I knew a change was necessary and so I picked up my artistic tools that had sat idle too long and began a mission to start sketching. I wanted to keep a visual journal of the places I went, the life I was living and generally, the world around me. Within a few short years, this simple sketchbook grew into an artistic motivation to quit my full-time job and move into a van. By no longer being tethered to a physical address and a mortgage, I was free to move about the country with the sole purpose of drawing, sketching, painting and capturing the vast and beautiful world around me. I began sharing my work with a larger audience on Instagram (@drawn.there) and opened an online shop to sell prints and take on commissioned projects. There are still daily challenges and obstacles along the way, but I am closer to my childhood dream than ever before.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Being a nomad and an artist, having a friend come to visit would certainly mean one thing — road trip. And even though I live and travel in a van, my favorite mode of transportation is a bicycle. In the Spring of 2020 I biked solo, from New Jersey to California creating drawings and paintings along the way. So a one week bike trip with a friend would look something like this… Starting on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, we would explore the rugged coastline and sea stacks of the Pacific Northwest. We would draw the towering trees as they cling to the rocky and eroding coastline. From there we would bike south along the coast with a daily lunch of fresh sea food and nights around a campfire. In Oregon we would bike up to the high desert of Bend and cool off with a float down the Deschutes River, stuffing our empty bellies with food truck tacos. Another few hundred miles of biking would warrant a stop in some rustic hot springs for a relaxing soak as we paint the dark forests of the Upqua National Forest. Heading West back to the coast, we follow Route 1 and Route 101 into Northern California.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
One of the pivotal moments in my artistic journey was when I was studying architecture in college. During my 4th year, I had the opportunity to spend a semester in Rome, Italy. There, we studied the classical forms and immersed ourselves into Renaissance art and architecture. One of the classes that most inspired me was a sketchbook class that would take us out into the city to observe and capture the city around us. This class was a welcomed break from the academic and structured curriculum and gave me the opportunity to find pleasure and joy in the act of drawing. I would like to thank Temple University Rome and my Italian sketchbook teacher who smelled like patchouli for introducing me to a new way to see the world, interact with it and find my place in it.