Megan DiBello Interviews Artist & PTNYC Student Michael Ilkiw for Thursday, March 14th Art Show at M1-5

As a ‘poet’ I am always emoting. By that I mean that every space I write in I feel the emotions from the past lives of those who built where I live, have lived, and have worked. For every wall built for every nail hammered I think to myself about him/her who perspired in this space, who had an emotion in this space, who spent long hours perfecting their craft in this space. How are we as ‘poets’ affected by the walls that create/curate our art? Here we have Michael Ilkiw re-arching arches, re-coloring colors, and giving depth to the pattern and process of his work.

So Michael, tell us about the work that is going to be up at M1-5?

Most of the work I’ll be showing are skylines and skyscrapers in this grid-like pattern I’ve developed.

Brooklyn BridgeDidn’t you hear about the opening in the bathtub?

Well, I heard I was chosen to be in the show while reading John Green’s, an Abundance of Katherines while in the bathtub.

Do you have a process that you use when creating your work?

Usually I will be somewhere and take a picture of some buildings that for one reason or another interest me. From there, I usually try to recreate it with sorts of optical illusions or whatnot. I also tend to use Google Earth to get a better understanding of the surrounding buildings, or change the viewpoint. Then I do some measurements on the canvas and start coloring.

What materials do you use?

I use oil paint markers made by DecoColor

What inspires the work you have recently been doing?

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been interested by architecture. MC Escher, Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondrian are big influences on my style.

Talk about the color schemes you use in your work, they are often colorful, does the color have any specific meaning?

The colors don’t really have any meaning. I usually use three colors plus white to color in the buildings. I try to use color schemes from baseball teams in my buildings. The Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays are my favorite combinations.

What is your goal for your artwork?

There’s a quote that goes, “You can’t see the forest for the trees,” or something like that and I feel like that’s what this grid pattern does with the buildings. From far away you see a lot of white blocks with colors mixed in to make the cityscape, but then up close you can break apart the buildings by their respective color schemes. I’d say that ideally, I’d like to paint murals.

887017_546128438751686_1093374579_o“If comedy was prettier, it would be the ultimate form of art.”

How do you know a piece is complete, if ever?

This is an interesting question. As a filmmaker, I know that you can always go back and add, subtract, or change countless things. There is a point in every painting that I reach and I realize that I’m almost done coloring, which cues me that the painting is almost complete. However, there is also a point where I mess up a pattern or color outside of lines, but I have made a conscious effort to not fix those mistakes. I like to think of it as a kind of fingerprint. Imperfect but me.

 Do you create works in a series so that you will have a completed collection?

I aim to add something new in each painting and if I like it, I continue to use it in other works. The grid-like buildings started a new “series” I guess, and then I added perspective, which could be considered a new “series,” but I don’t think I consciously separate them.

How long does it usually take for you to complete one of your paintings, or would you call them drawings?

I call them paintings because I use paint. I feel like a lot of people are disappointed when they find out that I use paint markers and not brushes. I prefer to work on 36”x24” canvases and those paintings have taken anywhere from 25-45 hours to complete.

What is some of the best constructive criticism you have ever received? Often in writing, it is helpful to bring opportunity to a work, and show a way to recreate or move on from a moment of shortness or perhaps non-completeness?


“Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.” Sometimes mistakes can give you a different perspective, which can lead to reinforce ideas, or even create better ones.

What other types of artwork do you create, you write and do film correct?

Yes, I have a YouTube channel where I discuss ideas and try to be funny. I started it because I wanted to keep practicing cinematography and editing, but I really fell in love with making these videos and typically make two a week.

Have you ever wanted to work with paint markers with another medium, perhaps drawing on film or doing some other kind of mixed media art?
When I was in college I made a film and drew on it. I also overlapped color with black and white film, which I was told really messed up the projector. Experimenting was always a huge goal of my filmmaking in school. As far as painting has gone, I’ve used acrylic paint, and oil paint markers on the Astoria painting, and I’ve used colored pencils with paint markers, too.

What are some of the challenges that you face being an artist in 2013? PTNYC is all about students recognizing the challenges in not only c
reating the art, but the process to put it out there and follow through with your goals. 

Not smudging my work is a huge challenge. Hahah. But finding people who enjoy your work sometimes seems impossible. 

Where do you learn to be inspired if there is such a thing? Do you think that it comes from within or perhaps a friend or a funny joke?

Inspiration can come from anywhere. I’m not going to pretend that I don’t have “writer’s block” so to speak but I make a conscious effort to not force the inspiration when it comes to painting. When it comes to videos, I usually draw from personal conversations about ideas, or just random thoughts.

How do you define art? I would define it as something that gives me an emotional reaction, how would you?

I think art is a mixture of visually pleasing aesthetics mixed with a new way of looking at something; a new perspective; maybe even an emotional response. If comedy was prettier, it would be the ultimate form of art.


Please join Michael at his Gallery Opening on March, !4th at M1-5. Clearly this artist makes his own blueprints and defines his art better through the geography of landscape and design. I wonder as ‘Poets’ how we all imagine the spaces we learn art in, create art in.  How do we value a space that generates our art?

What’s your favorite space to write in?



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