Dancing with design in an infinite universe • An interview with Mikael Brandrup and his sharp fascinating style in a vibrant world.
Contemporary artist from Copenhagen Denmark, Brandrup started his career in his early 20’s but creativity was a part of him since his childhood, during school recess. He would express himself by drawing tattoos on his classmates and soon after painting their walls at home. At the age of 22 Mikael Brandrup sold his design business to focus more on his love for painting and large scale murals. His first art show was in 2013 in Denmark. The show focused on a World map series which was a major breakthrough in his social media platform, reaching over one million followers over night. This marked a pinnacle moment in his career and motivation to move to Los Angeles to live the American dream and continue to follow his passion for a style like no other that combines a futuristic approach of cubism meets baroque.
Thank you again for taking the time to sit with us and talk about your creative passion and background. Let’s start off with the early years of Mikael Brandrup and growing up in Copenhagen as well as your personal creative influences.
In terms of creativity, my parents have always supported me. I had many possibilities to experiment with art and have been drawing and painting since I could hold a pen. My art evolved and developed slowly. I think I have always had it in me to create and experiment so that I could express myself visually. I think when I was 15, it was a natural step for me to experiment with a spray can. At the age of 15, it was 1999 and the graffiti, hip hop culture, DJing, break dancing and the whole movement became an obsession for me. I saw how the big graffiti writers in Europe were, painting all the trains. In Copenhagen there were tags and pieces and throw ups everywhere which inspired me to grab a spray can and try to paint wild style letters. I fell in love with it from day one. I put up some wood panels in the backyard of my parents and started painting and I was hooked but I still wanted more. I started taking art classes in high school and painting with acrylics and oils but it was still the spray can that was talking to me, somehow as my preferred tool and wanted to try something digital as well. That’s when I started studying graphic design.
Where did you study graphic design?
It was in Copenhagen, in a four or five year long education program but after two years I wanted to start my own design agency and actually Micky that you just met, our online manager, we started the design agency together with my brother. Micky was 17, me and my brother were 22, a couple of young guns trying to conquer the advertising world. We did logo design, web design and campaigns to grow the business. After five years we had some of the biggest clients in the corporate world of Copenhagen but for me that was not my passion because for me somehow I could not express myself the way I wanted to. We had clients and rules and the need to attract a certain type of audience within visual communication. It was to corporate and too strict and I was doing my art on the side of it and I wanted the graffiti and art to be my main focus. We ended up selling the design agency six years ago to a competitor so I could live out my dream as an artist. We then established the art brand Mikael B. Design in Europe and then within one and a half years we decided to go to the United States to expand the business… and here we are.
What was your biggest obstacle in your transition from running a design agency to developing your art brand Mikael B. Design?
Actually there was a year, where I wasn’t sure what I wanted with my life. Still I had an idea but it was tough somehow because I needed to figure out what I wanted. I still had those five years with the design agency as my education. It was one one of my first artworks that helped me to figure out what I wanted, I was just passionate about melting these two worlds, graffiti and graphic design.
What was that project? I feel like that was the pinnacle moment of transition from commercial to your fine art career. Talk to us more about that transition.
I’m just realizing that actually right now… It’s like whoa! Somehow with out even knowing it I started combining my graphic design with my graffiti background. I think you know it was just natural. I didn’t just sit down and say hmm I want to invent a new style and combine my graffiti and graphic design, it just came from my heart and my brain. The style came from inside and that combined with my eager to travel the world inspired me to design my own world map. Like a really colorful one. An abstract one but still functional. The first one I did was called vibrant world. I posted it on facebook and it went viral, reaching over a million people overnight.
How do you start a project? Walk us through your creative process.
I always start with pen. That’s the way I can get my thoughts out in the best possible way. I do alot of sketches on how I want the composition first. I work only in black and white until I am totally satisfied with the composition. It focuses my eye on just the composition and the shapes. When I have the final sketch I go to my computer and redraw it and I try different color themes to get a digital mockup of what I want, like a mural render. After that I am ready to go to the wall or canvas and start painting.
Do you have any advice for aspiring graffiti artists and muralists when following their dreams and keeping a positive outlook on their career and goals?
Yes. Of course it has to be your biggest passion in life and I think you have to be nearly obsessed about creating and experimenting. I also think you have to be good with people and LA did that to me. I have always been social and outgoing but not as much in Copenhagen, that’s why I settled in Los Angeles. It has changed me so much and it’s been a lot easier for me to network. Networking is everything to me. To meet the right people, talk with the right people, gives you the right opportunities. I think that’s my best advice, never forget that to be an artist is also to be an entrepreneur. It’s a business and if you don’t know how to create a business out of your art then you need to surround yourself with people or work with people that believe in you and want to take care of that part.
So Get yourself out there?
I have a saying… “get out of the studio because nobody will know that your work exists if you just keep it in the studio.”
How do you get out of the studio?
Sometimes I’m too much out, I have to tell myself get into the studio haha. It’s a fine balance. Seriously I think the first six to eight months I was in Los Angeles all by myself and I went to museum and gallery show opening nights three or four times a week. Of course I wanted to get an idea of what the LA art scene was like because I had only been on vacation here. It’s just different when you live here, you have a different approach.