by Edie Moser
Creativity seems to be moving through Mike Mann as the river that flows beneath the bridge that spans the Delaware River towns. This career artist will be profiled, along with writers, musicians and other performers over the next several months. Mann is a familiar sight on local streets as he sets up his easel, pulls out his paintbrushes and fills up his palette with a panoply of hues and shades. His line drawings and sketches bring to life the musical artistry of those tapping on piano keys, plucking the strings of guitars and harps and drumming on percussion instruments. Images of summer vacationers are an invitation to head ‘down the shore’. Local landscapes beckon meandering exploration.
DRT: When did you first pick up a pencil or paintbrush to create?
MM: I got into art in 1973, although I went to college to be a history teacher. I was living in Lake Tahoe and had a friend who was an artist. It became my life’s work. I took classes at Art Students’ League. Famed illustrator Steven R. Kidd was my teacher. I’m looking at a piece right now that he did of me. He always worked with great clarity. He encouraged me to step back from a picture and still see things. They always change depending on perspective.
DRT: How would you describe your art?
MM: Realistic impressionist or impressionistic realist. It is realistic in that I create something that’s recognized so that people say they know that place or should know that place. The style of painting and the goal is to have great color and life and keep the thing moving. I believe that a good work of art should always seem familiar…that looks like someone I know. With many of my paintings that I sell….someone may say that bridge reminds him of a place he kissed his wife. It feels familiar even if you’ve never seen it.
DRT: What fascinates you about the characters you draw?
MM: I like to capture people in action and what they’re doing. It’s like storytelling. It appeals to the illustrator side of me. I tend to draw people I know or passengers on a train or receptionist in a doctor’s office, or sometimes the doctor. I carry a sketchpad everywhere I go.
DRT: Would you say that you are a keen observer of life?
MM: I would like to think so. It’s part of the reason I like to paint and work from life. The fascinating part is what you see and notice. You end up showing people the world and they notice it. It’s the job of the artist to show people the world around them and filter through your perspective.
DRT: You mention on your Facebook page that you also like juggling, poetry and nature. How do they interweave with your artistry?
MM: I consider juggling a kinetic art. It is the art of motion. It’s my hobby. I was a poet long before I was an artist. It was a way of interpreting the world. I do poetry shares, rather than poetry slams. I spend a lot of time in nature. It is one of my favorite subjects.
DRT: Are the scenes you paint primarily local?
MM: 90% of what I paint, I get to by my bicycle. The other 10%, I draw and paint wherever I go. My wife annd I took a trip to Morocco and I would draw a picture while others were busy taking photographs.
DRT: What do you find most appealing about living in this area?
MM: I love this area. I have lived in Stockton for 21 years. I was in Lambertville for many years before that. It has colorful places and really great people. This area has always attracted creative people.
Mann is opening a show on May 19th 3:30-5:30 which will run until mid-June at the Bank of Princeton in Lambertville.