Michiel Folkers – from street artist to mixed media tour de force
Michiel’s extroverted works are the expression of his biggest passion. Weighing up risk and independence, the artist’s heart ultimately did the choosing and determined his path. Nowadays, Michiel
is a successful all-rounder who sells his collages all over the world. You can find out here what makes this exceptional multi-talent tick.
His works of art are without exception cult objects – unusual and eccentric, a mix of pop art and contemporary urban art. The path from graffiti artist to mixed media artist was by no means
mapped out for Michiel Folkers. Originally, he used to prowl the streets of Amsterdam with his spray cans, hovering on the borders of legality. In the end, he decided to transfer his skills
and process from vertical to horizontal.
Today, he marries up different urban elements, which make his motifs really stand out from the crowd. His form of collage is unique, at times even extreme, but our very likeable artist is
by no means trying to appeal to everyone’s taste. Dutch-born Michiel Folkers believes that there is no such thing as negative criticism – ‘the more the merrier’, as it increases an artist’s
recognition and enhances his/her public profile.
Those on the lookout for hidden meta levels are looking at the wrong artist. Being absolutely open about it, he reveals to us that he cannot be doing with artists who attempt to make their
art more interesting by retroactively adding deep interpretations to their work. Michiel, by contrast, does what he likes and what feels right to him, without analysing things too much.
His life as an artist is as exciting as his creative output. We took him up on his offer to take a look behind the scenes and gain an authentic insight into the life of this unconventional,
confident and talented Dutchman, who appears to know how to live life, find out where Michiel gets his inspiration from and watch the maker at work.
“In the beginning, I thought I would never be able to live from my art. But I just kept on doing it, and so I gained more and more self-confidence.”
A perfect symbiosis of graffiti and glamour
Besides superheroes or famous cartoon characters, there are also many iconic pop and film stars from the 60s through to the 90s that adorn the images of Michiel Folkers. Famous faces such as Marilyn Monroe,
Kate Moss, the Beatles, Madonna or Bob Dylan invariably increase the glamour effect of his creations, which is why Michiel appeals to a broad audience. The skilled stylistic mix of old and new, graffiti
coupled with music sheets, stars or comic book heroes really works to great effect and the demand for his wall pictures in our shop is increasing steadily.
This free-spirited individual with a talent for creative expression draws inspiration from travelling to new destinations, from exhibitions and from works by earlier Dutch masters, for example
van Gogh or Rembrandt. Here it is much less the motifs themselves but rather their lives’ trials and tribulations that impress Michiel. Despite all the difficulties and self-doubt they faced,
their paintings are today renowned all over the world, while their value has long since skyrocketed.
At the same token, contemporary artists, such as Shepard Fairey, Piet Parra or Rob Scholte,
also have had an influence on Michiel’s unique style. Just like them, he makes use of signal colours such as red, yellow and blue to create drama and grab the viewer’s attention.
His style – as unique as a fingerprint
At first glance, Michiel’s collage-style art may look like a digital illustration, however, his pictures are true old-school, handmade creations. To source his materials, Michiel takes
regular trips driving through the streets of Amsterdam in search of old billboard posters, scratches posters off walls and rips them up into smaller fragments to be used as pieces of paper to serve as the background for his collages.
In this way, he integrates street art elements into his works, mimicking the wear and tear of blemished urban walls. He uses many more mixed media techniques in addition, such as stencilling or screen-printing.
Michiel did indeed start his artistic career as a graffiti artist. Bored with the limited possibilities that his hometown near Utrecht offered,
it didn’t take long before he and his closest friend moved to Amsterdam, where ‘bombing’ and ‘tagging’ soon became a full-time occupation.
His first four collages showed Carla Bruni, who rose to fame in the 1990s as a French-Italian musician and model. Within record time he was able to sell the works as demand for these images was huge,
a fact that boosted his confidence and his motivation.
Michiel regards his early graffiti art as the foundation of his style and is using spray cans in his work to this day.
“There is no deeper meaning in my art; you like it or you don’t.”
Peeping over the shoulder of a professional artist
Our artist’s 30-m2-large studio is in the same area where his career began: right in the heart of Amsterdam. This is where he produces his work whenever he feels the irresistible urge to create. The thing that
Michiel values most in his life as an artist is his independence because he can do pretty much as he pleases. Nobody to tell him what to do or to impose limits. Michiel has been selling to his growing global
fan base for some years now.
It goes without saying that this also requires logistical and admin skills. Mornings are frequently spent dealing with paperwork and invoices, answering e-mails and shipping artwork;
once this is done, Michiel can start working on his art. Thanks to online platforms such as Posterlounge, Michiel is able to keep expenditure as low as possible.
Often, our artist works on several pieces at the same time. Having said that, there are, of course, times when even his head is devoid of any creative idea or when the finished article simply fails to meet his expectations.
However, he is well aware that even unsuccessful pieces are part and parcel of an artist’s process of creation and are a necessary evil to arrive at one’s own style.
“Every unsuccessful work of art is an investment in something better.”
More recently, Michiel has been spending more time on producing more abstract work. He tends to get started without any prior preconceived plan, so as not to get lost in the planning process. With loud music
playing in the background and a clear head, Michiel says, to him his work process seems reminiscent of meditation. Despite all of this, he is not able to spend the whole day making art, which is why he often
takes a photo of the status quo when he stops and looks at this in the evening. He then thinks it through, takes mental notes and usually can’t wait for the next day to implement them.
Adventure and challenge at the same time is how Michiel classifies his efforts in procuring billboard fragments. Using material that he had printed himself would liberate him from certain colour and motif limitations,
but it is his express need to work with what he can find on the streets. More often than not this results in his best works, too. It’s only the faces of the iconic stars in his images that he prints out himself, so as
to cut them out and fuse them with the remaining components that make up the finished collage.
Last but not least
For Michiel the key to his current success is simply to be daring something without spending too much time on weighing the pros and cons. In his opinion, it is important to do something that is dear to one’s heart,
to be patient and to have fun in the process. Sure, one’s art can never suit everybody at all times, but one should not get disheartened by this.
Being an artist is in a way also like a never-ending adventure for Michiel. It is not a fail-proof way of life – nobody can be certain where the journey ends – but it totally fulfils him. Ultimately, this passion
shines through in his images: he who dares, wins. Michiel is travelling on the fast track and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.
Discover more motifs by Michiel Folkers
The absence of fear is love