Interview with Michael Pantuso, LICC Winner in CREATE (Art) in the Professional category. “My artwork explores the intricate connections between nature and humanity expressed in imaginative and sometimes provocative ways.”
Tell us a little about your background. How did your love of art grow?
As an artist, I feel incredibly fortunate to have grown up in a household that celebrated creativity and encouraged me to explore my own artistic state of mind. With a graphic designer father and a nurturing mother, I was surrounded by art and creativity from an early age. I grew up in Orlando, Florida, before the days of Walt Disney World and Universal, during the Apollo missions which was a thrilling experience that nourished my imagination. Witnessing the launches of the Apollo missions from my backyard fill my memory with awe-inspiring moments that I still hold dear to this day. All of these factors played significant roles in shaping my artistic perspective, creative mindset and nurtured my instincts as an artist.
Attending Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida, proved to be a pivotal moment in my life as well. Under the tutelage of my esteemed professors, Donald Martin and Enzo Torcoletti, I experienced a profound transformation. Don was a no-nonsense, disciplined educator who demanded excellence from his students. In contrast, Enzo embodied a more avant-garde approach to education, encouraging us to explore our creative potential and think outside the box. Together, their guidance enabled me to harness my creative energies in ways that have proved invaluable throughout my life’s journey.
What steps do you take in the creative process and what tools do you use?
My creative process arises from my observation and active engagement with the world around me. I am continually seeking out new sources of inspiration and often find myself deeply absorbed in my own thoughts. I cultivate my creativity through long walks and drives accompanied by music, as well as through travel and a diverse range of life experiences.
I work on multiple projects simultaneously, often having several pieces in progress at the same time. This approach allows me to work quickly and efficiently, producing a significant amount of artwork. I prefer painting on large canvases, utilizing traditional oil painting methods and layering techniques. I do a considerable amount of digital art as well and are very comfortable with both mediums.
I like to stand while painting. Painting is a physical activity for me. By standing I am able to put the proper energy into my work.
I view myself as a perpetual learner, constantly striving to improve my artistic skills and craftsmanship. Drawing on my background in design, I possess a thorough understanding of color, form, and composition, which I infuse into my artwork. My paintings convey intricate emotions and ideas through the use of rich symbolism, reflecting my dedication to my craft.
I think quality and craftsmanship is very important, and as such, I ensure that I use only the finest materials and employ archival methods and techniques.
Best in CREATE (Professional): “Nude With Octopus” by Michael Pantuso
The specific steps that I take when creating a painting are:
I prepare my canvas by stretching it, then applying a layer of gesso. Occasionally, I will also add a tonal wash.
Using charcoal, I sketch my composition, then block in my colors and establish the basic forms.
From there, I refine the details, sign the painting, and ensure the edges are clean.
Once the painting has dried, I apply a layer of oil as an isolation barrier before proceeding to apply varnish.
After the varnish is dry, I affix hanging wire and hardware to the back and record the painting’s title and control number in an Excel spreadsheet.
Finally, I take photographs of the piece for promotional purposes then deliver it to the gallery.
Where do you find your inspiration and motivation for your work?
My artistic inspiration and motivation stem from a diverse range of sources, including personal experiences, education, and background influences. Art has been a constant companion throughout my entire life, shaping the way I view and interact with the world around me. It’s an inseparable part of my being, fueling my energy and creativity. My inspiration and motivation is also influenced by a variety of tangible factors, such as music, art museums, live performances, travel and cultural events. My son and daughter also serve as a great source of inspiration for me. My daughter who is a ballerina with the Royal Ballet in London and my son who works as a video editor for a prominent advertising agency in Chicago.
What merits do you see in being Winner in Create (art)? What does receiving this award personally mean to you?
Winning the LICC (London International Creative Competition) Award for CREATE (Art) is an exceptional honor that I am incredibly proud of. As a global competition that recognizes outstanding creativity across multiple disciplines, including art, design, fashion, and photography, the LICC attracts thousands of entries from all over the world, making it an incredibly competitive event.
Winning this award means that my artwork has stood out from among the very best, demonstrating a unique and innovative approach to the creative process. It is a validation of my hard work and serves as an encouragement to continue pursuing my passions. Receiving this award is not only a significant achievement, but it also opens doors to new opportunities and recognition in the art world.
Overall, winning the LICC Award for CREATE (Art) is a momentous achievement that I will celebrate and cherish. It speaks volumes about my creativity and artistic vision and I hope will inspire other artists to strive for excellence in their own artistic pursuits.
What do you believe to be the current significant possibilities and problems in your field?
I think AI is going to have a significant impact on the arts, which could potentially pose a challenge for artists to maintain their unique skills and values while using these tools to their advantage. Ignoring this reality may not be a practical approach, while fully embracing it may not be ideal either. The challenge for artists will be to find a way to make friends with AI while also preserving their creative spirit and practices.
How do you think design has changed over time, and how do you envision it changing moving forward?
Design has evolved significantly, reflecting changes in technology, society, and cultural values. Historically, design was often seen as a luxury with a focus on aesthetics and ornamentation. However, as technology has progressed, design has become increasingly integrated into everyday life, with a greater emphasis on functionality and usability.
One of the major shifts in design in recent years has been the increased focus on user-centered design, which places the needs and preferences of users at the forefront of the design process. This approach has been driven by advances in technology, which have made it easier to collect and analyze data on user behavior and preferences, and by changing cultural values, which prioritize inclusivity, accessibility, and sustainability.
Another important trend in design has been the rise of digital design and the increasing importance of digital experiences. With the proliferation of smartphones, social media, and other digital technologies, designers have had to adapt their skills to create effective and engaging digital experiences.
Looking ahead, it is likely that design will continue to be shaped by new technological advances, such as virtual and augmented reality, and artificial intelligence. At the same time, designers will also need to consider the ethical and social implications of these technologies, and ensure that their designs are accessible and inclusive for all users.
In addition, there is likely to be a greater emphasis on sustainability and environmental responsibility in design, as designers strive to create products and experiences that minimize their impact on the planet. This could involve using eco-friendly materials, designing for reuse and recycling, and creating products that are energy-efficient and minimize waste.
What impact do you believe your own culture and environment have had on your creative vision both personally and professionally?
I am primarily based in the Chicago area, but I frequently travel to distant locations, especially London. This allows me to immerse myself in a range of distinct cultures on a semi-regular basis. Each culture I encounter is unique, presenting its own set of challenges and opportunities for enrichment. Chicago, for instance, is a vibrant and diverse city with a thriving arts and culture scene, renowned for its deep-dish pizza, sport teams and BOBAK’S Sausage. While the city celebrates individualism, entrepreneurship, and innovation, it also struggles with issues such as inequality, violence, and racial tensions. On the other hand, London is a cosmopolitan metropolis, featuring both historical landmarks and modern attractions, such as the Tate Modern and the Shard, along with its rich culinary scene (I especially love the street food experiences found in the Borough Market). It values tradition, etiquette, and social class while promoting diversity and tolerance.
Although I do not believe that any specific culture directly influences my work, my experience encountering different worlds and diverse cultures has a positive emotional and energetic impact on me.
What design endeavor would you most like to pursue?
I’m not afraid to dream big. My ultimate goal as an artist is to show my work in a major city’s museum. The Tate Modern in London or The Guggenheim in New York or Venice will do just fine. An opportunity to share my work at that level would be very exciting.
Which photographers and designers in your industry do you most admire, and why?
One of the designers that I admire most is Kit Hinrichs. Kit Hinrichs is a highly influential figure in the world of design who has made significant contributions to the field of design over the past few decades. In his words, “Design at its best is a visual story with the excitement, pacing, and emotional power of a great play or musical composition.”
I have a great deal of admiration for Craig Frazier. Craig Frazier is a renowned illustrator based in Northern California, known for his whimsical, colorful, and playful illustrations. Craig has an amazing ability to express complex creative ideas in the simplest of expressions. I think both Kit and Craig might just be the Henri Matisse’s of our day.
Carmit Haller from Carmit Design Studio impresses me with her imaginative and distinctive conceptual expressions.
And I find inspiration in the work being produced by the various Pentagram offices around the world.
Annie Leibovitz, Cindi Sherman, and Hiroshi Sugimoto’s work in photography are among my favorites. As a young high school student taking my first art class, I became aware of Jerry Uelsmann, the pioneer of surreal fine art photography. Before Photoshop. To this day, Uelsmann remains one of my favorite photographers.
Tell us about a project that you feel has been your most successful achievement.
My “Mechanical Integration” Series, consisting of hand-drawn digital fine art prints, has been very successful both commercially and by opening numerous doors for me. Even today, I continue to work on the series and add a few new pieces each year. I am immensely grateful for my invaluable experiences with GRAPHIS, the international design publication. The support of Martin Pedersen, Owner and Publisher of GRAPHIS and a legendary designer has been invaluable. Additionally, the support of my home gallery, Acquisitions of Fine Art, and art dealers Thomas Karr and Sheryl Srivastava has been instrumental in my success. I am very thankful for all these people and experiences that have contributed to my growth as an artist.
“ENTANGLED” by Michael Pantuso
What are you working on right now, if you could give us a sneak peek?
I am currently in the process of creating new artwork for the 2024 Venice Biennale. This exhibition will be held for seven months, from April 20, 2024, until November 24, 2024, and will coincide with the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. The ECC venues, including Palazzo Bembo, Palazzo Mora, and Marinaressa Gardens, will host the exhibition.
In addition to this, I am also preparing for two other shows. One of these will take place in my hometown of Illinois at the Hinsdale Library. It will be an evening showing accompanied by an art talk. The other show will be held at Lewis University, where I have been invited as a guest artist for a month and will also deliver a talk.
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