Artist and Illustrator Michael Mullan

Michael Mullan is an artist and illustrator living in Vermont.

Michael came to Wild Apple from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) after earning his Masters in Illustration. He worked on staff here at Wild Apple as a designer and artist and grew a wide following for his signature style featuring hand drawn typography and artful design. Michael works as a full time illustrator and artist now, and I visited him recently in his home on a hilltop in Vermont. This month his art is featured on limited editions on the cover of Country Living magazine. He was commissioned to create a custom map, Illustrated USA, for them and we are excited to offer a version of it soon!

Q&A With Michael Mullen

What time of day do you do your best work?

I get up early and stretch out the legs. Coffee. Then get started around 8am. Working at Wild Apple helped me be creative in the morning hours after my years at SCAD. The hours between 10 and 1 are my most productive. I like to do a midday run to break up the day.

You grew up in Chicago, but live in rural Vermont. That’s quite a juxtaposition! How do both places inform your art?

My art has that balance of city and country. A lot of my work is nature inspired now. I spend a lot of time running on trails, including the Appalachian Trail that is close to my house. But I always go back to the city. I like visiting new cities and drawing the architecture.

Where do you go to clear your head and get new ideas?

Running is my outlet. I probably run more than most people. Sometimes up to 8 hours when I’m training for ultra marathon events. It clears my head and renews my creative process.

Are there any favorite websites you like to visit?

What about print magazines?

Uppercase. Love the feel of it. Also, Communication Arts.

Michael Mullan in his studio

Are there any artists and designers you admire in particular?

I’m not as focused on other artists as I was when I first started. I would be looking constantly and learning. I find it easier to do my own thing now that I’ve stepped it back how much I’m looking at other’s art. But there are a few that always inspire me.
  • Lisa Congdon
  • Calef Brown’s children’s book illustrations
  • Dante Terzigni, illustrator, editorial, advertising, surface design. Funky stuff. Digital, traditional blend.
  • Nate Williams
  • Olaf Hajek 

Talk a little about being a male artist in a female dominated industry.

I never noticed until I was at Surtex this year, and I realize I’m surrounded by women. It’s played to my advantage at times since women tend to be the purchaser for household goods, they may gravitate to my work thinking it will appeal to the men in the house too. I try to keep feminine palettes in mind when I’m working. I tow that line a bit. Feedback I get is that my work is not too feminine or masculine, but a good blend. Androngynous!

Do you have a favorite possession?

Yes! It’s a painting I saw in a favorite vintage and collectibles shop in Littleton, NH. It is a 1970s era painting that I just loved but didn’t buy. My fiancé called the shop later and arranged to get it for me. It showed up in my living room on my birthday a few years ago.

Dog or cat?

I’m more of dog person but I’m starting to become a cat person by force. Our cat is pretty low key, and I like that, but he’s also super mean. Now, when I meet a nice one I’m always impressed. They’re not bad when they’re nice!

Beer or wine?

Definitely beer. I’m doing some packaging for a craft beer company here in Vermont which is really fun. I’m hoping my artwork will help the cans fly off the shelves.

Sweet or salty?

Both. Chocolate is my go to sweet. I like most foods extra salty. Salted peanuts are my favorite… especially after a long run!

Coffee or tea?

Coffee for sure.

Travel seems to be part of your art a lot. What is your most memorable trip?

The England and Ireland trip stands out. I went with my brother a few years back. I got back to my roots: I have a good amount of British and Irish in me. We are huge Beatles fans so it was a huge experience to go to Liverpool. Penny Lane, Strawberry Field (which is only a gate with a garden beyond it). John and Paul’s childhood homes. Cavern Club — still operating! Listened to music and a Beatles cover band played – they were great. Sounded just like them, so good. Liverpool is a crazy town.

Do you listen to music in the studio?

Yes. A lot of folk music, 60s and early 70s classic rock. I’m learning to appreciate the music of the 80s in the last year or so—it’s hilarious to dance to—I’ll probably play a lot at my wedding this fall. I also love The Band and Levon Helm. I saw him play at his house/barn in Woodstock, NY. His barn concerts were casual, limited to 100 or so people and included a potluck. I went back to an open house last year after he died. His daughter showed up and decided to put on an impromptu show. She had a 5 person band, with stand up bass and lots of vocal harmony. I didn’t go expecting a show. We had front row seats and it was amazing. 

Tell me about the gold items I’m seeing in your studio.

I bought some road signs at yard sales and thought they needed some gold leaf. Then I started to find globes, so I threw some gold leaf on there too. Then antlers… it makes total sense. It’s fun for me to change it up once in a while from the digital drawing and do works that are in 3 dimensions.