Mike McLean is an artist based in Torquay, Australia. He is also my cousin, which could make me biased, but I promise he truly is a great artist. As long as I remember, my Aunty’s always had paintings by Mike and his brother around their homes, mostly self portraits, family portraits, or in Mike’s case paintings of his travels. He travelled extensively throughout his twenties, in fact I think about ten years went by where I didn’t see him once! He travelled through Canada, America, Europe, and finally settling in Brighton, England where he met Stephanie who soon became his wife.
In recent years, since moving back to Australia and settling into family life in Torquay with Steph and their three children, Mike has been able to dedicate more time to his art, setting up a garage studio at their house. Surrounded by children’s bikes, skateboards, surf boards and the chaos of family life, Mike spends his spare time working on his art.
His paintings are bright, striking and full of colour. His drawings complex and engaging. His work has attracted the attention of many high profile Australian celebrities including Jesinta Campbell, Lindy Klim, Lauren Phillips and Megan Gale. Megan even uses a portrait by Mike as her Instagram profile picture. Not a bad plug!
I thought it would be fun instead of interviewing Mike about his own work, to interview his wife and ‘manager on trial’ Steph – the wives always have the best inside scoop!
AF: What do you think inspires Mike’s work?
STEPH: Mike is inspired by everything around him. Where we live in Torquay, our children, the students he works with, other artists. His style has certainly evolved over the years and is constantly changing. I think the female faces are here to stay and will be his signature style.
AF: I wouldn’t say either of Mike’s parents (a doctor and a nurse) are particularly artistic, do you think any of your children have picked up the gene?
STEPH: Our three children are surrounded by their Dad’s work on the walls of our home and love to watch him paint in his studio so it has definitely rubbed off on them. Harrison (11) loves street art and stencils where as Fern (7) loves to paint portraits. Boston is only two so prefers to dig in the mud with his trucks at the moment but has been known to grab a paintbrush and get artistic with Mikes work when his back is turned!
AF: Your husband spends a lot of time staring at and drawing beautiful women. How do you think he would feel if the tables were turned and you were staring at men all day?
STEPH: I don’t think he would like it at all! It doesn’t bother me the majority of the time, but we all have days where we don’t feel as confident about our bodies and I have to walk into the studio to a beautiful woman’s face as large as me!
AF: What do you think is Mike’s career dream?
STEPH: Mike has always said that even if he could make a living solely from his paintings he would still continue to teach. I think the students really inspire him. Working with disengaged youth is something he is very passionate about and through his artwork he is able to engage them in a classroom setting and keep them in school.
Ideally he would earn enough money to be able to hire staff to manage and promote his artwork for him. Mike is very creative and has great ideas but he isn’t always the most organised which is why I have recently taken on the responsibility to manage his artwork for him.
AF: I’ve heard you say before that Mike often paints a canvas, decides he doesn’t like it then paints straight over it again. Do you think he’s ever regretted it?
STEPH: He says he doesn’t but I do! He has painted some amazing pieces that are now buried under another painting. The good thing is Mike can reproduce them and is happy to adjust colours to suit a client’s home.
AF: Good luck with the manager trial Steph! Xx
And now, a quick Q&A with the man himself……. Mike Mclean – follow him on Insta @mikemcleanartist