Michael Connor is a freelance illustrator and artist living and working in southern Maine. He is Assistant Professor of Illustration and Pre-College instructor at Maine College of Art & Design. When not teaching or drawing , he spends his time with his family on small daily adventures of walks in the woods, looking in tide pools, treasure‐hunting at thrift stores, and noticing small phenomena. His studio space doubles as a clubhouse in which he immerses himself in a collection of old toys, old monster movies, classic cartoons, oddball comics, Garbage Pail Kids, MAD Magazine, Nintendo games, old Doctor Who and Star Trek episodes, and music by DEVO, Talking Heads, id m theftable, Frank Zappa, Kate Bush, Blondie, the Rutles, and listening to Star Talk podcasts, and reading books on evolutionary biology and astrophysics.
Sometimes he puts away the traditional pen (or brush) & ink toys to dabble in graphite drawing, collage, painting, assemblage. He makes sequential narratives, many starring a small mammal called Asmwe, much of which has been self‐published in a zine titled Coelacanthus.
Illustrated Monsters by Monster Illustrators/ Lewis Gallery, Portland Public Library, 2021, Portland, ME
The Art of Cute/ Illustration Institute, Brickstore Museum, 2019, Kennebunk, ME
The Art of the Comic/ University of New England, 2019, Portland, ME
30”x30” by 30/ Lewis Gallery, Portland Public Library, 2018, Portland, ME
Bounty: MECA Faculty exhibit/ ICA, Maine College of Art, 2016, Portland, ME
Wake Up Alice /Lewis Gallery, Portland Public Library, 2015, Portland, ME
Transitions: USM Alumni Show/ Area Gallery, USM, 2014, Portland, ME
Stone House Book Arts Faculty/ Atrium Gallery, USM, 2012, Lewiston, ME
Mythomaniography/ Ubu Studio, 2006, Portland, ME -two artist exhibit with Neill Ewing-Wegmann
Funny-Scary-Happy-Sad: Contemporary Clown Art/ Ubu Studio, 2006, Portland, ME
Collage-Collage/ Ubu Studio, 2005, Portland, ME
Monkey Business /Ubu Studio, 2005, Portland, ME
Fuzzy Allotropes 1-3/ Green Hand Book Store, 2011, 2012, 2013, Portland, ME -solo exhibits
Bockses and Blox/ Wishcamper Center, USM, 2009, Portland, ME -solo exhibit
I’m inclined to avoid talking about my work, for fear of over-explaining it and dissolving the mystery. Then I think of science only enhancing the wonder, so I don’t really mind.
I work primarily with traditional materials, pen and brush and ink, graphite, collage, gouache, watercolor, acrylic. Physical materials are key to my work, as they allow for equal parts play and virtuosity. Real materials allow for fun accidents as well as the capacity (more often than not) of exceeding my vision. Proper india ink, with a nib dip-pen and/or brush on paper are my favorite, creating an aesthetic that is often mimicked by never surpassed by other tools.
What motivates me to create? I used to subscribe to the role of a “visionary” in that I would construct visions based on vague images that would pop into my head through playing with materials or engaging the world. These days I’m more of a formalist, composing drawings, comics, paintings, etc. based on essential pictorial needs, as well as focusing on craft (the way I handle the materials.) All my work has had a narrative purpose underpinning it, however obscure or specific. This is all silly since much of my work has cute animals and weird creatures. Client-based work is a keen and welcome challenge, providing me a means by which I must summon my best skills to communicate an idea for someone else with very specific parameters. As a teacher of art, I constantly push my work in concept and craft to keep me on my toes!
Nature is my greatest inspiration, though I refuse to record it through mimetic means. Human culture is something that stymies and frustrates me, so I inavoidably comment on it. I like to consider my work as stemming from an illustration background (classic cartoons, old school cartoonists and comics masters, and children’s book artists) filtered through the Surrealist and Dadaist ideas, garnished with a heavy dose of kitsch (rock and roll music, monster movies, 80’s pop culture for kids.) But then, I’m an insider!