A. Michael Shumate
Michael is the son of an artist and a musician. His wife, Mary, is a music teacher. And their eight children have all followed at least one of the arts: music, visual art, photography, film, fine woodworking, writing.
Michael began painting at a relatively early age, receiving awards for his work. When it came time to go to university, Michael initially majored in Marine Biology. Then he took a two year break to be a missionary in Argentina for his church. On returning, he changed his major to Art and then to Graphic Design. “I’ve never regretted that decision. I think it’s the best field for an aspiring visual artist. It keeps you stimulated and motivated as well as demanding real skills.”
After graduating with a BFA degree from Brigham Young University, Michael moved to Prince Edward Island, Canada with his “wife and 2.5 children. There he freelanced as a Graphic Designer and Illustrator for seven years. He was then hired as the senior designer for one of the largest design firms in the Maritime Provinces, Design Associates. Michael’s design experience extends to all areas of graphic design including advertising, corporate identity, institutional design, annual reports, display and interpretive center design as well as print and web design.
For 25 years Michael taught as a professor of Graphic Design at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario, passing on his passion for visual knowledge to younger generations. During that time, he has taught Graphic Techniques, Color Theory, Illustration, Branding, Web Design and Art History. He is now Professor Emeritus.
Concurrent with his teaching Michael pursued his illustration as well as painting careers. Doing stock illustration through The Image Bank and also through Theispot.com, Michael’s work has been used around the world for such clients as British Airways Magazine, Kelley Services, Macmillan McGraw-Hill publishers and Business Week Magazine.
Michael has been a popular speaker for youth and adult audiences as well as a guest lecturer on a range of topics including those embodied in his book, “Success In The Arts: What It Takes to Make It in Creative Fields” and mor srecnetly “Logo Theory: How Branding Design Really Works.”
Here are some of his websites featuring his other talents:
VisualEntity.com For his general illustration
Grand-Poobah.com For his public speaking
Elfstonepress.com For his writing
HandTypes.com For Branding Design Training
As a painter, I am fluent in many styles and media, due to my long years as a commercial illustrator. Being an illustrator is an exciting challenge, requiring you to be ready to solve the client’s needs and not always do things the way you want. It pushes you to learn new skills and broaden your outlook. The world looks down on illustrators as lesser artists, sometimes even ‘fallen’ artists. I think that’s exactly backwards. Michelangelo, Rubens and Rembrandt were all commercial illustrators, doing the art that their clients wanted. That’s what their careers were. Sure they all did personal projects, but the bulk of their work, the stuff that fills the art history books, was mostly done for clients.
The notion of artists mostly doing what they wanted personally began with the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. That’s what I associate with the term Fine Art. It’s the new kid on the block in the long history of art. It’s all art, but way too many people have bought into the snob-appeal mindset that wants to claim all great art as “Fine Art” and look down their noses at commercial art. Most art is commercial, either working for a known client with concrete demands or working for the indefinite “client” of public appeal with indefinite requirements. It’s not much different. If work is presented in a gallery, it is commercial. We only fool ourselves to think differently.
What we really should be celebrating is the diversity of taste in art instead of fostering art bigotry with pejorative terms. Some people like strawberry and some like chocolate. Some people like broccoli and some people don’t. Only a fool tries to argue the merits of one set of tastes over another.
What I seek in my art is beauty, tranquility and peace. I see a lot of art that wants to beat a drum for a cause. Some art is disturbing and agitating. Some art is cathartic for the artist, purging his or her personal demons by getting them out and onto canvas.
That’s OK for them, but it’s not what I want to look at on my living room wall. I already have enough causes and agitation and demons in my daily life. Why would I want someone else’s? I want something uplifting and positive. That’s what I want from art and it is the kind of art I aspire to.
I paint landscapes because there’s something about the tranquility of nature that feeds the soul.
I paint abstracts because non-representational art allows for a free-associative kind of viewer experience that representational art may not. One can relate to it on a visceral level of color and form alone, without the distraction of subject matter. However, with non-representational art it is also possible to render subjects that would otherwise be invisible like emotions, feelings and abstract concepts. I’ve had people say that looking at some of my work is like a spiritual experience. To me that’s the highest compliment I could receive.