Greetings Gay Geeks and Gaymers!
We scored an interview with Michael Breyette, an artist from Vermont.
So Michael, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m originally from northern NY State, a rural and fairly conservative area. I never thought I’d earn a living as an artist nor would I be doing it with pastel paintings of male nudes (scandalous!) After moving to a more cosmopolitan area I felt comfortable to be myself and to express myself through my art.
What makes your artwork different or unique than others?
I don’t know if it’s true with most artists, but it’s always been difficult for me to objectively discuss my art. It’s self-expressive and personal, so it feels weird and self-aggrandizing to talk about ‘why I and my art are so special and unique because – yadda yadda..’ Art truly is in the eye of the beholder. But the great thing about art is that it’s as unique as every individual if it’s coming from within. I suppose in a technical sense, the fact that I do male nude and gay-themed paintings with pastel is rather unusual.
What got you into art?
I’m not sure; it’s something I’ve almost always done. Perhaps being an introverted kid, sitting and drawing was where I was comfortable.
Noteworthy mentions of your art (museums, galleries, design companies)?
I’ve had two books of my work published (Summer Moved On, Seasons of Love) and been featured in several other anthologies, in magazines, as cover art on gay-themed novels, been represented by Lyman-Eyer Gallery, and currently Gallery XO in FL, and was part of an exhibition at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in NYC.
Are you into anything nerdy/geeky?
I’m not sure what’s considered nerdy these days, but I enjoy video games like Cities Skylines (I like the creative nature of it), movies like X-Men, Avengers, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings and other sci-fi and fantasy films. The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Big Bang Theory, Daredevil, IZombie are among the shows I watch.
For aspiring artists like yourself, what kind of advice can you give them?
Create what YOU enjoy, not what you think will sell and get exposure. It’s all about finding and reaching the audience that will resonate with your work, not trying to make your work suit the audience.
What’s your background?
I grew up in a rural area of New York State while I did draw and paint as a hobby it never seemed like something I’d do for a living. I later moved to Massachusetts where I was more able to be myself and started showing my work online and selling it on eBay. One thing lead to another, and in a few years, I was selling prints and originals and making enough money at it that I felt I could quit my day job (which I was no longer enjoying at all.)
How has your practice changed over time?
I used to work with acrylic paint, then moved to oil, until I finally found pastels, which provided me with the important ability to work as fast or as slow as I wanted, and without the annoyance of brushes and their rogue hairs messing things up!
What’s your strongest memory of your childhood with art?
Me and my sister used to paint all the time together. She’d do her thing, I do mine while we blasted 80’s pop and dance music.
What art do you most identify with?
When I began to do my own paintings, I was most inspired by the art I saw on sci-fi and fantasy book covers by artist like Boris, Rowena and Michael Whelan. Though my work isn’t primarily that genre, most of my paintings are still ‘fantasies’ in the sense that they are not of actual instances and people but are imagined moments.
What was the scariest experience?
I can’t think of anything that was truly scary, but I think I felt the most anxiety for the opening of my first solo show in a bonified art gallery. Being rather shy, meeting a bunch of people and being the center of attention is not at all my comfort zone.
Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?
Even though I’ve said my paintings are ‘fantasies’ some have stemmed from real life, places I’ve been or things I’ve done. Though they aren’t usually exact recreations, they come from things such as a friend and I did play strip pool at a gay bar, which inspired my painting “Hustler”, I visited the Turkish baths in Budapest which were the genesis for my “Young Turks” painting, things like that.
What’s an embarrassing moment you’ve had?
I think I’m lucky; I haven’t suffered too many. Maybe because I don’t have much shame and try and find the funny in looking foolish. I do remember giving a speech in high school speech class (which was traumatic enough) with my zipper down. I’d forgotten about it, but it was brought up at my high school reunion, so it apparently left a lasting impression!
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
It’s always great whenever someone appreciates and connects with my work, but the emails I’ve gotten from people who are in a situation or especially other countries where it’s nearly impossible to be ‘out’ who tell me that my work has given them hope, are the most moving.
What superpower would you have and why?
Probably invisibility, because observing people, seeing how they behave, is fascinating.
What are you passionate about?
I think I’m a pretty low-key guy, so ‘passionate’ is a pretty strong word. When someone is passionate about something, I imagine them being obsessed almost to the point of addiction. There are lots of things I enjoy, and I have interests in – music, food/nutrition stuff, science, travel, science fiction, history, etc.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Another artist advised me to make (my own) prints of my work…and that made my becoming a self-supported artist a possibility.
Anything you would like to say to your fans?
I’m completely honored and humbled by their appreciation of my work which is reflected in my ability to earn a living doing something I love. It’s something I would never have dreamt possible.