Artist, Graphic Designer and Broad City Illustrator Mike Perry Channels an Obsessive Compulsive Passion to Create

By Alex Vallis |

Anna Wolf

FWx Artist of the Month Mike Perry has created a dream career for himself, maintaining true indie cred (see nude art parties and Broad City) while mastering commercial success with cult brands like Nike and Urban Outfitters. Here, he shares insight into how he built such an inspiring portfolio, from a formative experience at Minneapolis College of Art and Design to a Kickstarter whim that he's just now recovering from (in a good way).

Your first influential job was at Urban Outfitters—how did you start making a name for yourself?
While I was at Urban, I felt so fortunate to have the job. I thought it was the best thing in the world. I put in every ounce, and second, and who I was as a human, into that job. That’s just who I am, so as soon as I left, I did the same thing, but I did that for myself.

How did you build your brand?
The fact that I’m not afraid of sharing is a very powerful step towards having lots of exposure. I also pretty blindly jump into things. I did my first book in 2004 after I just graduated from school. Confidence and ignorance combined to allow that to happen. I like to work and collaborate and stay busy. It’s probably a genetic thing, an obsessive compulsion desire to create things and share them.

What gave you an edge?
I built my first website with my portfolio in 2001. It was a little more complicated to have a web presence back then, and it was a smaller audience. So I’m sure that helped. It was a lucky moment of time: I was the exact age and temperament to make stuff and put it on the Internet. I never wanted to move to New York, but moving here was also a massive part of it, because you can’t help but be around people who make work and people who pay you to make work.

How did you get involved with the Amy Poehler-produced series Broad City?
I met Abbi Jacobson, [one of the creators], at Art Basel, three or four years ago. I hadn’t heard from her since and they reached out and said, do you want to do this? I did a different title sequence for every episode so it’s a fun journey over the next season. I couldn’t ask for a better project: It’s dirty and crude and colorful and fun—that’s what I’m into.

What are three decisions over the course of your life that helped you get to where you are today?

1. Lets go back in time. I got a set of oil paints from my grandfather when I was 14 that pushed me over the edge. I had been painting a little, but I just got all of the suppliesall of these magical colors, and it was brilliant. That set it off. I couldn’t stop. I was obsessed. I would sit in class and think about how much I wanted to be working on a painting and stay up all night to do it.

2. Going to art school. When I got to school, I felt like I had been painting for so long that I wanted to push myself, and I had a great graphic design teacher. What I learned is how I exist as a person and studio today: Here’s a brief. Figure it out. That brief doesn’t need to be one-, two-, or three-dimensional. It could be six-dimensional!

3. My Kickstarter exhibit. I did this big show in 2012. I raised money on Kickstarter and rented a space. It was three months long and the most complex thing I’ve ever pulled off. And I still don’t really know how I did it, because it was on a scale that is unreasonable. That fully changed my life because it took what I made in the studio and put it out at street level. That one sucked a lot of my life out of me—probably in a good way—but I’m just now recovered enough to think along the lines of doing it again. That one was epic but I’m not sure it even falls into the importance of the first two since those were life-changing. So maybe I’m still searching for that third one.

What do you dream of doing next?
I really want to make a film—an animated short film or longer. I’ve been working on a pretty epic story with a friend of mine and the deeper we get into it the more I want to hear the voices and see them move—that fully immersive universe. But I have so much fun doing everything, I just want to do more of all of it.

Use #FWx and @foodandwine on Twitter to tell us which rising star artists, illustrators and designers you want to create doodles for the FWx logo. Also, there's no shame in nominating yourself. It'll be like the self-promotional, ego-boosting version of a Barbara Walters selfie.

Related: About the FWx Logo Art by Mike Perry