Welcome to an interview with an artist who cannot be labelled. An artist that constantly immerses himself in a world of art and that influence evidently shows in his work. An artist that forces you to embrace the darkness instead of running away from it. One whose art will stop you in your tracks, and make you marvel as you notice all the tiny details that painstakingly goes into the art he produces. Welcome to this thought-provoking and eye-opening interview with a stellar creative, BIG MIKE.
Aberrant Maia: Heyy… What’s up?
BIG MIKE: I’m good, I’m good. I’m fine. How are you doing?
Aberrant Maia: I’m okay. I could be better, but I’m definitely okay. Alright, let’s get started! When I’m asking people the first question, it’s usually “How would you describe yourself” and after so many interviews, I’m bored of that question, so I decided to put a little spin on yours. BIG MIKE, if your 13-year-old self was to look at you now, how would that person describe you as compared to then?
BIG MIKE: Hmm…Terrified. (pauses) Strong. (pauses) Discomforting. Terrified in the sense that the 13-year-old me would have never imagined the type of person that I’ve become. Discomforting because that person wouldn’t be comfortable with who I am now. And strong because it took a lot, but then I was able to make it here, and I’m still going.
Aberrant Maia: Okayyy, that’s actually pretty deep. So, I want to go straight into the art now. Personally, I started seeing your art on Twitter during COVID, and I was like, okayyyy, you’re an artist. How did the art journey begin for you?
BIG MIKE: Like from day one day one or like recently?
Aberrant Maia: All the way back…Day one!
BIG MIKE: Day one…Alright! It began when I was 9 or 7. I had a habit of drawing or scribbling using anything I could find – felt tips, crayons – and when I started scribbling on the walls, that’s when my parents got me a sketchbook. Since then, I was obsessed with trying to materialise whatever I could imagine in my head. That’s what started me with art and keeps me going.
Aberrant Maia: And jumping from there till now, what has been the story as well? I always knew you were artistic, but I wasn’t seeing your visual art side until 2020. What made you start making your art public?
BIG MIKE: For me, art has always been more than drawing and stuff. It’s like a language. I don’t really know how to put it in words, but it’s just a thing that I, other creatives and artists get, and we know how to express and explain. It’s not just limited to visual arts. (chuckles) I’m not going to do a demo, so don’t ask me, but then around that age, I also got into opera singing –
Aberrant Maia: Ouu! Wooww! Ok…wait, you said I shouldn’t ask you for a demo…sure (laughs)
BIG MIKE: (laughs) It was also another way of expressing my artistic thirst – that’s the name we’ll call it. I actually heard it from this game I used to play – Super Smash Bros Brawl – I don’t know if you know it but basically Mario –
Aberrant Maia: Ouu yeahh… I know it.
BIG MIKE: Yeah, I heard the song and was instantly obsessed. I learned the lyrics, and that’s when I understood art. That moment made me realise that I learn through an artistic lens. So, when I started getting into more fields of art, I wanted to make it into a career, but my dad was like “No, it’s not really lucrative” and he wasn’t lying then so I understood the caution. Still, anything else I tried my hands on didn’t make sense because I wasn’t viewing it through an artistic lens. It would make sense to me in private but during moments when I could display that level of intelligence, it wasn’t anywhere to be found. But yeah, with my beginnings, I had many re-beginnings with art. The age of 7 to 9 was the first beginning. The second beginning was at Merton, my first primary school in Ghana. I had another beginning at Tema International School, but that was just the educative side. But the point in time where I was like no, this is my style of seeing the world was like a year ago. Things were getting quite turbulent with my university studies, so I had to either adapt to the way I was or force something unnatural, and I went with what was easiest. Now, I’ve been seeing everything through an artistic lens, and everything makes sense. It may not sound so rational, but it’s just a different way your brain can piece together information – an abstract sort of learning. Those are my art beginnings.
Aberrant Maia: Yeah. I actually find it intriguing– I don’t even know if that’s the apt word. I do have a question though. Is it like subjects that most people view as non-artistic – let’s say math – are you still able to have an artistic view or perspective of it? Is that like what you are saying?
BIG MIKE: (nods head) Yeah exactly.
Aberrant Maia: Wow! (stares in fascination) That’s actually so cool! The only person I know sees things differently is D3mz and he sees music, but you are the first person I’ve talked to about having an artistic lens. It’s so cool. So, how do you develop as an artist? You have talent, but how do you build on it?
BIG MIKE: For me, it’s just living in a world of art. First and foremost, as an artist, it’s very important to take care of your mental. I have planned slots for resting, taking breaks, and meditating throughout my day. For my routine, when I wake up, I turn to my phone because I’m tagged to certain art magazines so I read them. I also go through my emails because I’m connected to some of their email tags. I’m also on Discord channels servers, and forum channels. Then, I go straight to my laptop, and work from 8-12. I take a break, exercise, blah blah blah. At 2, I get back to work till 6 or 8. And I stay off Twitter; that’s one thing I have to put a lot of effort into. You know, it’s just my world and I surround myself with it. And when I’m bored, I do an origami craft.
Aberrant Maia: Interestinggg. Alrighty, so going unto inspiration, I got this quote from your Behance where you said you are inspired by “decadence, chaos, and the unknown with inspiration from spirituality and metaphysics.” These are a lot of themes that you mentioned. Could you just go a bit deeper into how these themes actually influence you when you are creating?
BIG MIKE: I’ve always had an interest in religious themes, themes of spirituality, supernormal, supernatural…so ever since childhood, I’ve always been into those sort of fiction and books and just reading whatever I could find. I realised a lot of them taught lessons, morals, and principles tending towards the light side to flash out the darkness ensuing in the world around them. But for me, I am pointing towards the opposite direction. I’m instead creating work that encourages people to embrace the darkness; appreciate, confront, acknowledge in the sense of uniting with it to make them stronger. Not flushing it out with positivity in the hopes that it will disappear. With reference to spirituality, it’s been in my interest to look at spiritual doctrines across Africa, Asia, the Caribbeans and whatnot. Though I do reference to them so that you know where to look at the end of the day, I also take inspiration from them and include it in my artworks. With reference to the metaphysical concepts, it’s with making you question yourself and confront your doubts. Why do I struggle to sleep at night? What’s the real reason for my insomnia? Those hard questions. The reason why so many people are struggling to be alone during COVID-19 isolation.
Aberrant Maia: With those kinds of themes, I’m curious, do you consider yourself an abstract person?
BIG MIKE: Umm, I don’t really like defining myself, but I see myself thinking more about abstract stuff.
Aberrant Maia: Noted. Now, we’re going deeper into the works you’ve done. We’ll start with my favourite piece of yours titled “Album Art Concept (#1).” I like psychedelic themes and when I first saw it on Instagram, I could see that it was psychedelic art, and I loved it! What were the inspiration and the process behind that particular piece?
BIG MIKE: If I’m going to explain inspiration, I have to explain how I usually get inspired. If I want to get inspired on the spot, I usually have this thing I do with myself. You know when you accomplish something, and there’s this feeling of accomplishment, or when you work towards something, and you put so much effort into but after accomplishing it you realise that oh, it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it was. That feeling of underwhelment. Those types of feelings. I remember exactly how those feelings feel so that whenever I find myself in a situation where I need the idea or inspiration that, when achieved, will stimulate those feelings of underwhelment or satisfaction, I feel the feelings in order to generate the corresponding idea/inspiration that would be the solution to my given situation or issue. It’s sort of the reverse-way of getting inspired. With the feeling of satisfaction, I feel for when I’ve thought of something so crazy and my mind is just going like “Wow, what the hell?!” I remember precisely how it feels and hold on to it for when someone gives me a contract. I don’t know if you get what I’m trying to say.
Aberrant Maia: Yeah, I think I’m getting it.
BIG MIKE: Okay calm, calm. Alright, so for this piece, I got a call from Cliff, 30 minutes to the end of the lecture, so you know I had to say goodbye to the lecturer. He was like, he’s dropping an EP soon. Can I do the cover art and a visualiser for him in like 2/3 weeks? I was like ok sure, and I didn’t have enough time, so then I did that feeling of “yes, I have a crazy idea,” that I said. Within 2 or 3 minutes, I instantly got an idea. It was actually going to be more complicated, but I had to simmer it down. It was inspired by a succubus and incubus composed of wine inside their own wine bottles, being drunk by a straight couple on a restaurant dinner date. As the wine is drunk, so does their sustenance deplete. Fed up, they give each other this (attempts to show a seducing look). That look they were giving each other wasn’t just a seductive look per se, but a “let’s take control” gaze. The humans drink from the glasses once again, but this time the incubus and succubus use this as an opportunity take control of them, rather than have their sustenance deplete. The scene ends suggestively.
Red Wine Conversations Cover Art
Aberrant Maia: But do you have a favourite art piece? Something you have created?
BIG MIKE: Actually, it’s the one I’m working on.
[The video below is a clip from the interview with BIG MIKE as he explains his favourite art piece and character from his upcoming short film].
Clip from the interview with BIG MIKE as he explains his favourite piece
Aberrant Maia: Wowww…For me, it’s the attention to detail and the thought process. So detailed! So, using percentages, how ready is this?
BIG MIKE: I’d say about 85%. As you can tell, a lot of detail has gone into this and is still going into it, but I’d say by the end of September.
Aberrant Maia: Definitely can’t wait because like eishhh, chale! Alrighty, let’s now talk about NFTs! If someone has never heard of NFTs, how would you explain NFT or NFT art?
BIG MIKE: Hmmmm…You know how the Mona Lisa was painted by Da Vinci? Suppose someone else goes to put a copy of that painting. In that case, it won’t be as valuable as the original painting because the original is by Da Vinci. It’s the same concept with NFTS. You essentially become Da Vinci, and you can make your own original assets – they can be art pieces, land titles, anything essentially. It’s based on this thing called a smart contract, where certain conditions have to be met before a transaction can occur. And with NFTS with art, there’s NFTs and there’s also just selling like regular crypto art. So NFT is a type of unique cryptoart. There’s also non-unique crypto art. There’s so much craze about NFTs because there’s artists who sold pieces and collections for millions of dollars. The biggest ones we’ve heard of is Beeple who sold his collection for $69 million. It’s an opportunity available for everyone worldwide now.
Aberrant Maia: It honestly is. You just explained NFTS and NFT art, but what made you get into it?
BIG MIKE: Umm I’ve always wanted to sell art that I’m passionate about (laughs). I don’t really know about getting a job and stuff. I’m passionate about selling art that I love to create. Ayeyi, you may think I’m talking to you, but people who are reading this interview, they know who I’m talking to (both laugh). But yeah, I’ll still make money, that’s what I’m saying. It was just the fact that I could make art I was passionate about and could eventually open that avenue for others that don’t have that opportunity. That narrative of the struggling artist is dying.
Aberrant Maia: Totally agree.
BIG MIKE’s first stylistic environment art
Aberrant Maia: Once again in very layman terms, if someone wanted to buy NFT art from you, how would that process look like?
BIG MIKE: Well, I haven’t uploaded a piece but you can usually purchase a piece from an NFT artist by going to the marketplace where they’re selling it. They’re websites like Foundation, OpenSea, SuperRare…You look for the account, and it’s there. You are going to need a cryptocurrency wallet – a wallet where you can store cryptocurrency because at the marketplace they usually ask you to log in with your wallet. Pieces are auctioned or it’s a one-off where they just price and whoever wants to buy them, buys them. Auction is when someone says let’s get this start selling at a particular price and someone agrees to that price and whoever has the highest bid gets the art. Usually the auction runs for 24 hours. You should also know that you are in charge of your security so, if you log into a wrong website and lose money, no one can save you. I just felt like I had to put that in there for people who would want to get into it. Yeah, those are usually the buying measures for NFTS.
Aberrant Maia: You explained it pretty simply. I’m sure whoever reads this and had no clue would definitely understand the process now. BIG MIKE, do you have any last words? Anything you want to say about anything? Literally anything. You know, you can just take over now.
BIG MIKE: (laughs) Um, last words I’ll say (ponders) at times you may know what is right for yourself and other times you may not really know what exactly is right for yourself. You should really get to know yourself because other people will know you for you if you don’t know yourself. Once other people know you for you, what are you here for again because you’re here to find out what you came here to do. The type of person you are. So get to know that person you are. Stop running away from that room of four walls. Stop running away from that alone time that you need to spend and get to know you more.
Aberrant Maia: Thank you so much. I really enjoyed this interview –
BIG MIKE: Likewise
Aberrant Maia: – I can put it there as one of the deepest interviews I’ve had. You took the time to share your thought process and your work; I really appreciate that. It made me appreciate your art even more, and I just wish you the best. You’re doing great; I know you’ll do greater. Thank you, honestly.
BIG MIKE: Anytime, thank you. It’s been nice being interviewed.