Michael Hsiung’s home is like walking into a museum of strange and incredible objects. Everything in it’s right place, everything with it’s own story. Assembled among found objects, crystals and thrift store finds is his own artwork: whimsical homages to mythology: mermen and centaurs, animals and bearded skateboarders. The eclectic decor is a pretty accurate representation of the artist himself, a guy who doesn’t take himself too seriously, a guy with an insatiable curiosity for stories. We caught up with Michael to find out more about his work, his belief in aliens and how he came to discover his “edge to edge” life philosophy. Check out Michael’s work below!
Hi Michael! We’re in the thick of the holiday season! How are you holding up?
I’m doing good so far! Basically gearing up for a winter fair my wife Rachel help start here in LA called Bitchcraft. My sister Pearl who is also an artist and I team up every year to collaborate on a design for shirts and apparel. We call it Fight To The Death because that’s what our dad used to say to us when we fought as kids, so it sort of made the most sense name wise. We joke it’s a collaboration on the verge of disintegration. I’ll also be selling a handful of items that I make here at home or have from various projects, such as enamel pins and little chapbooks I illustrated. It’s a nice way to talk to folks and make some cash to pay the bills. It’s always a BLAST.
You apartment is incredible, can you tell us a little bit about how you decorated it and where you got everything from?
I always kind of forget how crazy our decorations might look to folks who have never been over, but before Rachel and I met and got married, we were both collectors of various stuff. I collected old books, unicorns and stuff like transistor radios in the shape of a Knight’s helmet. She collected all kinds of things from owl figurines to vintage jeweler / statues / figurines. We both are thrift store and garage sale rummagers and junkies. We love old, weird and bizarre things – and could tell you where each item is from. I used to collect a lot of unicorns things – paintings, statues, and etc. and friends and folks were giving me unicorn stuff during b-days and holidays.
After Rachel and I lived together for a few years, I sort of stopped collecting in general. We have definitely trimmed down our collection over the years, but let’s just say a lot of it is in the garage. In terms of actually decorating our place, I’ve sort of taken the lead and hung up things and/or arranged them on our walls, while Rachel arranges all the crystals and figurines on the shelves. Everything MUST have its place 😉
Your artwork has a youthful/humorous element to it, do you think that’s an accurate representation of who you are in real life?
I’d say that’s probably accurate. I’m pretty sure folks would say I’m pretty not serious in real life. I like to have a good time, laugh, and rebel rouse when I can. I’ve always been pretty light hearted when I can and I think those aspects of my personality are reflected in my artwork. When I’m sad or depressed, you’ll probably see a sad merman drawing. When I’m happy or light hearted, you’ll probably see me drawing artwork with people partying, goofing off and/or hanging out.
Your work has a lot of folklore-ish/mythology aspects to it: mermen, centaurs, can you tell us where that comes from?
Growing up as well with Chinese folks: my mom from Taiwan and my dad from China, I always heard stories about ghouls, ghosts and Chinese mythology. My interest later grew when I started studying about folklore and mythology in elementary school and then as a teen with Dungeons & Dragons. As I was in college, I found one of my favorite subjects was, in fact, English Literature, which I would later major in. My main interest was mythology, folklore and epics from folks like Homer and so forth. From there on, I’ve always been fascinated with old ancient accounts and texts, which later become texts about animals, creatures or fantastical beasts. Now looking back I see it was natural for me to start drawings with creatures like my merman and centaur because I was constantly thinking about things of that nature. Now, it is a fun way for me to express these interests and use them to create my own narratives and stories.
Do you believe in any myths? Would you consider yourself superstitious? Have you experienced anything paranormal?
I’m not superstitious, but I do think that myths hold a bottom truth, elaborated in stories, but ultimately they’re expressing a truth about the human condition. I also believe in aliens! I haven’t really experienced anything paranormal but I grew up hearing tons of strange ghost stories from my grandmother and my dad. Long story short, my dad used to have this photo of my sister, him and I standing in front of our old house in the San Fernando valley. It used to be on his desk all the time, but one day I noticed it was gone. I asked him years later – What ever happened to that photo? He replied that he got rid of it because he had seen a strange image in it which he said was a type of succubus. I couldn’t believe it! I was like show me show me, but of course he had already burned it.
Does skateboarding inform you in any way or vice versa?
Skateboarding really has been the greatest thing because it exposed me to another world of art music and attitude through a very different lens. I think a lot about the rebellious nature and DIY, attitudes I’ve grown up with through skateboarding as well as meeting so many rad and inspiring people, that has really shaped the way I am about art and art making.
What’s your best advice for working with clients/brands?
My best advice for folks working with clients and brands is to make sure you can live with it after its done.
How much time do you get to spend creating vs marketing yourself & other admin stuff?
I spend a lot of time during the day, sketching and / or getting ideas flushed out. The more years go by I find that I have to work on the creative process more and more. In terms of marketing and other admin stuff, I used to spend more time on that when I first started, but nowadays I try and focus on creating things daily as a tool for marketing. I’d say 80% trying to draw and create 20% marketing and admin stuff.
Do you ever get bored of working from home? Do you ever just wake up somedays and think, man I wish I could go work at an office somewhere!
Working from home is terrific, but it does get somewhat claustrophobic at times. The most I go out some weeks are strictly to the post office and grocery store. I used to catch a happy hour every Friday, but you know how that goes, it’s rough on your wallet and liver. But yeah, it makes sense why you always see artists hanging out in coffee shops or sharing studio spaces, right? I’ve worked in a office or job since I was about 16, so I don’t miss much of it, but I do miss working with people of course. We all probably take human interaction for granted and wouldn’t realize it until you find out that the only person you’re excited to talk to is some old lady in front of you at the post office.
Do you ever find it hard to plan for the future as an artist? What are your next big dreams/goals/projects?
The future is definitely hard to plan for as an artist. Personally, I often do not know what is coming up next and you’re just living on the edge so to speak. I’ve just gotten better at living edge to edge. Things usually work out, but eventually they won’t and you have to find a way to make it happen. You have to keep your head up while keeping your head down drawing. Starting January 2017 I’ll be doing a sort of solo show at Artists Republic in Laguna Beach, CA. It has been a while since I’ve shown any work, so I am looking forward to sharing my original drawings in person versus online!