Michael Ezzell is an illustrator who focuses on the femininity of characters. His work is one that I have admired and loved for a long time because of the personalities he creates radiating from his 2d drawings and etchings with a delicate balance of detail. His perseverance as an artist is inspiring for other aspiring artists or people pursuing their dreams in general.
Hi Michael, can you explain a little about yourself and what type of artist you are?
I guess you could call me an illustrator. I studied illustration in school, so it is my profession. I create portraits of people (mostly women) that you have and haven’t heard of, or could relate in some way to. Illustrator is a broader term that I think encompasses printmaking. I use etching and lithography as a medium to create my illustrations, as well as paint and pen.
What inspires your work?
So much inspires my work! People I see everyday spark curiosity in me. The subject matter I find myself so drawn to is mythology, folk lore, and fairy tales. There’s a magic and whimsy about the allegories and metaphors used in ancient text. It sends my mind into a creative realm that has endless possibilities. Fashion also intrigues me to no end.
I love that I can identify your style and know that it is Michael Ezzell work. How did you get to that point? How did you find your style and continue to evolve it?
I have been drawing since I can remember. I was one of those kids in school who knew he wanted to be an ‘artist’ when he grew up. It’s funny to think of an actual beginning point. I’ve always been drawing these fanciful women in my head and much hasn’t changed. But over time, the technique has grown and matured. The other day I was looking at a piece I did in early high school, and thought ‘Wow, how terrible is this?’ But then I noticed aspects about it that were familiar. There were pieces that I had obviously kept with me and evolved, from the line work to the hair shapes. It’s so crazy to think that was me years ago.
Why the women? What’s the story behind it?
Ever since I was a kid, it was always women. It may have to do with my own femininity, and curiosity of how it was to be a woman. Nowadays, I find that women are more interesting to style. Historically, their wardrobes, makeup and hair were far more fascinating than men’s’. More recently, in the past couple years, I’ve been noticing a more androgynous aspect to the women I draw though. Before, I would make them as beautiful and ideal as possible, but now I find the mystery of a figure that harbors traits of both sexes far more interesting.
You mix your work with lots of text as well, how do you keep a balance? What part does the text play? And are they clearly thought out pages or more of an accent to the women themselves?
The Junior Classic is an on-going series of book page illustrations that I’ve been creating since high school. I found this antique book of fairy tales with beautiful illustrations wonderfully aged pages. Somehow I started drawing and painting all over it. Last year, I really honed in and fine-tuned my technique for them. The text in the background of each illustration is more often than not important. I’ve always created an illustration that embodied either the story itself or the ominous nature of the title. In some cases, the text is purely compositional.
What medium do you usually use and what size is your work typically?
My mediums vary based on what I’m illustrating. My etchings are very important to me and take a bit of time to fully develop a clear concept. With that, I can get these gorgeous effects from the plates and different techniques. I also use paint and pen for the book pages, but those are smaller scale and quicker studies for larger works. I’ve recently gotten into large scale painting and love it! It’s definitely difficult to get my bearings, because I’m so used to working small to achieve the immense detail.
Some, if not most, of the women are very sassy but also extremely relatable and lovable, how do you make their fierce personalities or decide whom they will be?
Each drawing that I have done usually starts out as a stranger to me. Eventually, she’ll introduce herself, through hair and wardrobe. I find that not knowing what’s going to happen is far more exciting and successful, because planning too much can cause boredom and letdown. I like to keep my relationships with these girls fun and exciting.
You are having an exhibition soon, correct? Can you tell us a little bit about it?
I am having two! The first is coming up next week. It will showcase a collection of book pages and past etchings, alongside another great artist, Denise Duong. I’m so excited! The second will be my first solo show, and it will consist of paintings (another first). Since jumping into painting recently, I’ve finally figured out what I like, so I’m going to challenge myself to come up with a series of paintings of women. The series will reflect on beauty, love and allegory, taking concepts from myths and fairy tales.
What advice can you give to the readers about having their own exhibition and working towards an art career?
Be true to yourself. It can be so easy to create just anything for a quick buck, but you’ll find a much greater fulfillment creating your own work for you. I had been wanting to have a solo show for a long time, but was scared of not having good enough work to present a strong enough appeal. My work, now, is something I’m proud of. Believe in yourself.
What does the future hold for you as an artist?
I’ve spent so much time thinking about where I need to be in the coming years, and how much money I need to make. In the past several months, I have dove deep into my work, trying hard to stay in the present and nurturing what I have here and now. I’m excited to see where it takes me.