Hello and welcome to the website of artist and printmaker, Mike Southern. I lived and worked in Portland, Oregon from 1995 until the summer of 2009. Our family then uprooted our rather pleasant little lives and moved to the wilds of the South Pacific, Christchurch, New Zealand. In 2012 we moved back to the friendly confines of Portland, Oregon
The work you will see on this site is the width and breadth of my artistic pursuits during the last two decades. Take a look at the galleries, check my teaching schedule if you are interested in classes and feel free to send me some feedback. A new addition to the site is the portraits page. I am excited to now offer commissioned portraits. Click on the portraits link for information on pricing and some samples of my portrait work. Most of all, thanks for looking.
Intaglio printmaking is where I received my primary arts training. I made my first etching in 1988 at Amherst College in Massachusetts. I obtained my MFA in printmaking from the University of Georgia in Athens in 1995. These images are all etchings and this is the only type of printmaking that I do. The process saw its origins in the early Renaissance and has been popular with artists for centuries. The image is incised into a copper plate through a variety of techniques and then ink is rubbed into these marks and ultimately transferred to the paper. Big presses, oily inks and a variety of chemicals are used to generate these images. The whole process is fairly involved but it is all done by me, by hand and with affection.
In the fall of 1998 I began painting small oils on masonite. Prior to that time, all of my imagery had been black and white etchings done from life. All of the paintings are imagined, representing no particular area and are created entirely in the studio. They have evolved over the years as I’ve researched the techniques and materials of the old masters. Every painting is an amalgam of places seen and experienced and ultimately idealized based on the needs of the picture and my desire to take part in the realization of a “perfect place”.
I need interaction with nature to feel balance, connection and mystery. I see landscape as a metaphor for an ideal place. Painting is the physical act of constructing my home; a place of refuge. I want the art that I put into the world to be reminiscent of a better place and a more beautiful place (like the distortion of a dream or memory), but not so definable as to be specific or representative of a real place. Memory and experience serve equal measures in the definition of place. There is the “reality” of place; rocks, trees, tall mountains. Then we remember the place after the fact and, based on our inevitable biases, we change the experience into our memories. I am manipulating my memories of places. A place I would want to see and experience without knowing exactly where to go.