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Michael Robert Pollard

“This is definitely an interpretation of my city tranquility.”

Interview by L. Valena

Please tell me what you responded to.

The piece- I don't recall what it was called, but it was a music piece, and seemed like it was about nature in the morning, rising. So I made a rebuttal drawing about me on the train, which is where I do a lot of my work. At least a lot of my sketching.

Did you say rebuttal drawing?

That's what I called my drawing.

Why a rebuttal?

I don't know. My dad was a lawyer, and it just kind of struck me as that. Rebuttal/response. Response sounded too hokey I think. A lot of times I just kind of make something up and go with it.

So tell me about what you heard in the piece.

When I heard the music piece it reminded me of a morning- of a sunrise. I had just been in California for a family wedding, in the Chico area, which is all on fire now. I was there the week before. Living in Chicago, you don't hear quiet, natural things in the morning, but I did there. That just kind of left a mark with me, and this piece reminded me of being back in California- I grew up there.

Tell me more about the morning in California.

It was tranquil, and quiet. Now, I live three blocks from Lake Shore Drive, and I work in downtown Chicago. I can hear my son going 'Dad! Dad! Dad!' right now. So, quiet is not something that happens very often. [Speaking to his son] You gotta give me ten minutes, okay? Okay, I see it, that looks awesome. He's really excited about this Dog Man book I just bought him.

His Dog Man book? That sounds good.

Yeah, it's like a cartoon Batman, but batman is a dog, who eats hot dogs? I'm not real sure.


Yeah. Well, I'm just happy that graphic novels are accepted for kids to read, because back in the day when I was a kid and I showed up with a comic book, it was like world war 3. So the world has come a long way.

Totally! I actually just saw Art Spiegelmen accept a lifetime achievement award from the McDowell Colony recently- that says something about where we're at with graphic novels.

The fact that Stan Lee and all the other people who did the work, that their work is now ingrained in popular culture. When I used to wear my Batman t-shirt in junior high, or read it on the bus going to school, guys would want to beat me up. It's changed a lot.

Are comics something that you think about in your own work?

I think they twisted my mind enough as a kid. I was always told not to reference comic books in my art when I was younger, but I just did it anyway. So illustration, drawing and sketching has always been the stronger part of my work, I think. Or the foundation of it, so it's always there for me. I don't make comic books, per say, or comic book art- there's a lot of people who do that better. But, definitely the superheroes that I watched in cartoons and read in comic books as a kid, all the way into my twenties, has made a big influence on me. Especially my palette, my color choices. The booms and the pops, the Batman TV show goofiness, stuff like that.

I also see a really cool almost iconography in this piece. It's like you've got your own language happening here.

That just kinda happens on it's own. The last few years I've been cleaning it up. If you look at some of my earlier work, it's more collagey, it's seven times busier, which was really overwhelming for a lot of people. So now the icons tend to be floating in white space and create another picture. So that's kind of made it a lot clearer, and people are gravitating to it a lot more. So now I'm expanding that- I haven't posted much of this yet, because it's still in beta. Using that with different colors, the background of the painting will be all black, but the icons will be white. That's what's coming up next.

In this piece, are you expressing tranquility, or the opposite of tranquility? What are you saying in this piece?

The busyness of getting to work on the train is probably the opposite of tranquility, just because when you're drawing people and things on a commuter train, you don't want to stare at people too long. Especially on the subway- there's a lot of wacky people, so I take little bits from things and kind of jump off from there. A lot of times I'll use icons I've used before, or I'll create something new. This is definitely an interpretation of my city tranquility. I like being around trains, and things moving, and whatnot. It's kind of my serenity, in a way.

It's interesting how there is a kind of peace in the city that's so different from that other, nature-focused tranquility.

Now that being said, when I get old, I definitely want to live in a college town in the woods.

So you can yell at people to get off your lawn?

Yeah, pretty much. I think I'm gonna do that, or I'm going to become a crossing guard. Get paid to yell at people.

Nice- and you'd get a whistle!

Yeah. My wife knows me well- she got me a megaphone for Christmas.

That's a very excellent gift.

I only threaten to use it most of the time.

Is there anything else you want to say about this piece or about this process?

No- other than enjoying it, and looking forward to exploring more things. Collaboration is something I want to spend a lot more time with. I'm also collaborating with an old friend on an artist book, I have another friend that does woodcuts, and we're collaborating with some curators here in Chicago, so I have some shows coming up next year that I'm looking forward to.

Chicago is such a cool place.

It can be. It can be a little overwhelming, but I've been here for fifteen years. I went to art school in San Francisco, back in the day, before it was invaded with Sierra Nevada, Dockers, and tech guys. That kind of place is gone now, but Chicago is a good art and a good sports town, and it's worked out well for me.

Do you have any advice for anyone else doing this?

Take your time, think about it. This drawing is actually the third version. I did one, and it was fine, but I wanted to push it again, and then I went and pushed it again. My advice to people in general is to stay true to yourself, and screw the bullshit.

Call Number: Y20MU | Y22VA.poRe



Armed with pencils, ink, paint, found objects, canvas, discarded materials, and recurring marks.  I strive to create a language and exploration reflecting my personal journey in today’s world. My work has been shown across the United States.

Michael Robert Pollard was born in Queens NY in 1970, raised in NYC, Tucson, Arizona and the San Francisco Bay Area. Pollard has resided in Chicago since 2004.  A good art and sports town.