Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Spontaneous Inspiration

Benjamin Dehr

Whatzup Features Writer

Published May 17, 2018

Heads Up! This article is 4 years old.

Sometimes being in the right place at the right time can lead to destruction. A stray bullet finds its way through your body or your car gets caught in a fender bender. Other times, it’s a blessing and stars align to create something special.

For Michael Collins, helping to manage Bravas Burgers on Fairfield Ave. helped his art to flourish in both creative and utilitarian ways.

“I’m extremely proud to be involved with the [Bravas] team, and it’s truly refreshing to be surrounded by so many caring people,” Collins told whatzup via email.

“I didn’t start freelancing until two years ago around the same time I started working with Bravas. Working there, I’ve been given multiple opportunities to create art for a few of the events we’ve held. From there I’ve branched out, working for other restaurants in town and a few bands.

“The pros far outweigh the cons of attempting to do art while working full-time when you’re working with such a great company. The only real con is the lack of free time.”

Some artists’ style comes from so far out of left field that it’s nearly impossible to tell who their inspirations are, or who they’ve learned anything worth copying or working from.

With Collins, the influences are fairly straightforward, though they overlap and definitely vary from piece to piece.

Take his piece “Are We Electric,” for example. The style is a bit denser than Ralph Steadman’s, but the sketchiness (via pen markings) and cartoon-like figures definitely help to relay the same message.

“My biggest influences from a non-local standpoint have been from Egon Schiele, Ralph Steadman, Cleon Peterson, Mike Giant and Keith Harring,” he said. “At a local level I truly enjoy and am inspired by the works of Matt Plett, Jared Andrews, Kara Heingartner, Chris Schrein, and Addeline Griswold. Also doing great things in local art community would be Jon Brown over at Collective State. He’s recently given a home to many artists’ works that don’t always have the time to make it out to all the local art shows.”

The reference to Jared Andrews is interesting. If you’ve seen a gig poster for the Brass Rail in the last year, you’ve undoubtedly seen Andrews’ work. And the Rail’s walls are adorned with many Andrews originals which are highly illustrative with heavy colors and black marker outlines. You can see some of these features in both “A Look Inside” and “Alpha and Omega,” both produced using pen and ink, Collins’ preferred creation medium.

“Pen and ink is my favorite to work with,” he said. “At first this was due to the comics and graphic novels I was reading. Nowadays a large amount of the enjoyment comes from the hassle-free clean-up. A small part of me has been itching to return to making a mess with paints again, though.”

Local influence is an entirely different monster than historical or worldwide. If a local artist influences you, keeping the styles separate might be a little tricky. However, the Fort Wayne community seems to thrive on encouraging artists with similar ideals, and even content, as exemplified by new galleries and art-based stores like the aforementioned Collective State and Rhapsody Art Gallery which have popped up within the last few months.

“I most proud of how warm and receptive the city of Fort Wayne is to burgeoning new artists and old favorites that have been around for years. I feel as though the art community has done nothing but grow and improve since I’ve found myself a part of it,” said Collins.

Some artists sit down, their example set up in the desired light, and plug away within their medium. Collins’ process doesn’t begin with a pen in hand, but out of the blue.

“The process normally starts with an idea very spontaneously coming to mind. From there it’ll become a quick sketch or even just a few words saved as a note on my phone. When I finally have time to sit and work on the idea, it grows from a pencil line drawing until it’s ready to be finished with pen and ink,” he said.

Once an artist has his process down, it’s all about inspiration. This can obviously come from anywhere. There’s no limit to where or when inspiration can strike, especially with the impact of technology and the access to anything and everything via the internet.

“The internet can overwhelm you with the vast amount of art ready to be viewed and shared,” Collins said. “The great thing about that is how quickly you can find inspiration while supporting your fellow artist. The problem that it poses is that all of that great art and ideas you see can lead to you diluting yourself to fit in amongst all these other talented creatives. I think it’s important to never stop running your inspirations through your own personal filter and twisting [them] into something entirely you. I work very consciously to put my own style into each piece I create.

“With my most recent work, I feel like there has been a large absence of theme. Each piece I do seems to stand alone. I enjoy that freedom to jump around between styles and never limited to a recurring theme.”

Young artists can use their own ambition as inspiration, creating piece after piece and strengthening not only their talents and skills but also their intentions with each carefully crafted piece of content.

“My goals vary from piece to piece. Sometimes all I want from a piece is for it to garner a laugh from the audience. Other pieces I hope invoke something deeper. I want those pieces to stick with people and bring forward their own personal memories and interpretations. I hope to inspire others to go and make something. I think it’s important for people to have a creative outlet.”

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