Nostalgic yet futuristic instagram world of Mike McKenney @the_real_theory

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We have been inspired by the surreal instagram feed of Mike McKenney (@the_real_theory) which bursts with colourful graphic images and extraordinary composition ideas in his works. In these nostalgic yet futuristic scenes Mike combines a truly dramatic colour palette with environmental views of all types filled with some insane graphic tweaks. We were delighted to ask Mike a couple of questions about his work and life. Enjoy the interview!

AMM: Hi Mike! We’d love to know about your artistic journey and how you first encountered the art world.

MM: My exposure to art came early. I believe sometime around 3rd or 4th grade I started painting with water color and sketching out architecture in pen/pencil. I would also draw cartoons, or make up my own characters and draw them, things like that.

AMM: Could you describe the subject matter and the content of your work?

MM: The subject matter of my work is really whatever I’m feeling that particular night. I might have some objective going into it, but usually I surf through a few content places and just start putting the pieces together like a puzzle.

AMM: Why did you decide to use ‘the real theory’ as an outline for your work?

MM: As I’ve said in previous interviews, ‘the real theory’ is important to me because it reflects how subjective most of life really is. Even many of the most objective, scientific things are quite loose when it comes right down to it. I spent a lot of time in my youth thinking things had to be “perfect”, I was wrong.

AMM: Your art is truly extraordinary! Why did you decide to work with collage? What inspired you about this medium and how has your work evolved as opposed to when you first started making art?

MM: Thank you. I appreciate that. Collage initially happened mostly by accident and it continues to happen by accident, almost every day. I just think I’ve become more receptive to learning new techniques and / or my eyes have become better able to identify new opportunities when I’m out looking for content or actually working with content.

AMM: The scenes in your artworks are so surreal and dramatic especially with the highlight of vivid colors! Could you elaborate on where your inspiration lies when you start making work? 

Sure, firstly, my inspiration usually lies in my desire to create something each day, sometimes to blow off the steam from that day & relax. I don’t do this stuff for a living, I work in tech. The collage / graphic making has become a major outlet for me and it’s very special to me. I’m truly able to relax and focus when I’m working on a piece. As far as my colors go, I just think I go through phases. If you run through my feed you’ll see cycles of grit, vibrant pop, and some darker blue / moody tones.

AMM: Is there one word or a short phrase or perhaps a quote that could describe your aesthetics?

MM: Cyclical.

AMM: Describe your perfect day in the studio. 

I’ll create a piece in like an hour that I’m somewhat happy with. I’ll have aggregated some good content for that day, made some good mistakes creating new backgrounds etc. meant for the first piece, but didn’t end up using them. I’ll get in the groove after that first one and will whip up a couple more pieces that day that I’m quite happy with.

AMM: What events in life made the strongest impact on your work? Who were your early influencers?

MM: Hard to say… all parts of my life impact my work. Early influencers and still to this day include Beeple, Stanley Donwood and mr. babies

AMM: Your work is very popular online. Why do you think people have such a strong connection with your work?

MM: I have no idea. I’m not even going to attempt to figure this one out. But it’s always extremely rewarding for me when I pick up a cool client or get a DM with some kind words.

AMM: If you were to give advice to an aspiring artist on how he/she would go about discovering his/her artistic voice, what would you say to them?

MM: I think I would say it’s more about life and that is to never give up.

AMM: What’s next for you?

MM: I just hope someday my daughter will say I was a good dad. She is 1.

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