When his hoop dreams faded, another dream was quick to emerge. This time, it was in the form of a naked canvas. “I pick Swizz Beats, his collection of art is amazing. It’ll be an honor to be in company with some of the artist he has in his personal collection,” said Mikal Gibson, 26. With some of Gibson's work already in the homes of art aficionados residing in California, Rhode Island, and New York, his chances of attracting the attention of Swizz Beats could be as realistic as a Thomas Eakins painting. Until then, he’s made it an integral part of his lifestyle to cut back on the things and people that slow down the productivity of his career. Sure it may seem like he's become stingy with his time, but according to the artist, he’s doing it for the people he cares about.
Growing up, Gibson saw just how hard his mother worked to take care of the family, and he wants to change that. In an interview I had with him, he says, “I sacrifice sleep, time with family and friends, and sometimes even my piece of mind. I rarely have time to just chill, and if I do it puts me behind schedule with my workload. I have to stay on point and innovative to keep the bag coming in.” So in efforts to reach his goals quickly, he’s blocked out the distractions and has placed his foot on the gas.
From slinging bags as a baggage handler at the airport, to working on commissioned pieces, Gibson is a living testament to what can happen when you decide to sink or swim. After converting his mother’s basement into an in-home studio, and just a few short years of giving it his all, he stated, “I want my work to show people how beautiful or disastrous life can be and how important it is to chase your dreams no matter what. I want people to feel motivated and good about themselves after dissecting my work.” As an artist, he’s super confident about his ability, yet, simultaneously, very humble when it comes to his growth. Although he frequently refers to himself as “The Art Bully”, he acknowledges the fact that he still has a lot to learn, which would explain his constant studying.
He spends a chunk of his time researching those who came before him. Because to him, they provide a source of great inspiration, and insight into a much deeper world. When it comes to the art scene, he knows that there is a bigger picture—the global magnitude of it. And ultimately, whether it be on a canvas or a sneaker, that’s how widely recognizable he hopes his artwork will soon be.
Q: How does being from Philly either help or slow down your success? Do you believe being from Philly equips you with some rare abilities?
THE ART BULLY: I think being from Philly attributes to my success if anything. Thereʼs like always a lot going on, everybody got ideas that theyʼre trying to see through and I know here we drive a hard bargain. You got to come with your "A-game" and put in work to gain supporters. That fuels my grind and makes me go super hard. Plus, I feel like this one of the best places in America as far as talent and style so with that Philly style & determination Iʼm unstoppable.
Q: What’s your style of art? How did you find your way into this?
THE ART BULLY: I like to add as many elements as possible to my work. I mainly do a lot of street, pop, & abstract type paintings. I found those styles from doing research on those who have been pioneers in the art world from both past and present. Those who stuck out the most to me were artist like Basquiat, Banksy, Mr. Brainwash, Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, Jeff Koons, Kaws, Phillyʼs own King Saladeen, George Condo, Hebru Brantley, Alec Monopoly & the Pichi & Avo duo. After research it took me years of trial and error to get to where I am now as an artist and I still feel as though I havenʼt reached my full potential as far as creating my own unique style. Iʼm always looking for new ways to improve my craft.
Q: As detailed as possible, describe your process; what’s the journey from blank canvas to finished product. Is there always a finished look already in mind?
THE ART BULLY: My process varies depending on what Iʼm working on. If Iʼm working on a commissioned piece for someone I might sketch up the main design first before actually touching the canvas but most times I like to just go in. I start off with spray cans and let the colors on the canvas lead me to the finish line. I donʼt always have a finished look in mind, I like to let the art evolve over time. I often stare at works in progress for long periods of time to make sure everything flows together. Iʼm a bit of a perfectionist, so Iʼm always going in, making small adjustments and tweaks to pieces. When I get artist block, I do research on the GOATS and I always give myself a pep talk to remind myself what Iʼm doing this for.
Q: First day jitters are real! What was happening in and around you the first time you displayed your work publicly?
THE ART BULLY: I wasnʼt really nervous the first time I publicly showcased my work, I always been super confident in my craft. What did make me nervous was when I first started doing interviews in front of a camera. I would get so nervous Iʼd fumble over words and lose my train of thought fast. Since I started Iʼve gotten way better at vlogs.
Q: What projects or collaborations are you in the process of completing? Are there any you would like to speak into existence?
THE ART BULLY: At the moment Iʼm working on a merch collab with common ground (a sneaker shop on Walnut St). I hope to someday work on a collab with a high end designer brand like LV, Gucci, or Christian Louboutin.
Q: Sometimes we fail to acknowledge ourselves as role models. What’s some authentic advice that you would share with someone following in your footsteps?
THE ART BULLY: It might sound cliche, but I would tell them to never give up! No matter what obstacle life throws at you. Donʼt ever stop because in the end, all the pain will be worth it. You also got to work your ass off and stay consistent because in life nothing will be handed to you.
Want to keep tabs on this artist? Follow his instagram page! https://www.instagram.com/theartbully_/