Main ART-ery recently caught up with twin artists, Mr. Atomic, to ask a few insightful questions of them. So without further ado…
Origins of Mr. Atomic
When did you and your brother become full time business partners under the name Mr. Atomic?
We began as Mr. Atomic (in a studio setting together) shortly after arriving at the name, Mr. Atomic (circa 1992).
What is the story behind the concept of going under the pseudonym “Mr. Atomic”?
Our name concept actually was devised from what had been happening for decades in portions of the music business (Beatles, Supremes, Four Tops, etc.). Anyone who was truly interested in the product (music) knew that there were people’s individual names behind the group’s names. Mr. Atomic symbolized a mysterious and dynamic individual behind the paintings signature.
Why have you stayed under the Mr. Atomic name and not credited yourselves individually for your work?
We are quite satisfied that with each other’s input into the originality and technical excellence of each painting- authorship is incidental. We also regard the other twin as an equal. We believe the finished concept is greater than the two parts.
How did you come up with the name “Mr. Atomic”?
We took some time bouncing ideas for names off of each other’s headboard. Some were really “out there” and downright ridiculous. But when Michaels “Mr.” saddled alongside my “Atomic” something jelled. It also sounded like an individual with a veiled past, which led to a big finishing question mark on the signed pieces.
The actual name was constructed quite by happy accident and not in reference to the robot (we were at the time unaware of its existence). Gamma rays, atomic bombs, and similar phrases were part of the science fiction lingo we absorbed from our tenure with comic
Are you full-time artists? How many hours a week would you say you both devote to all facets of your art weekly? How do you structure that? Are you both in the studio together daily or do you have a system of working hours?
40 hours + each week. We average 3-6 weeks on each painting. 90% are a uniformed 3 ft. X 4 ft horizontal or vertical depending on which format compliments the idea best.
We’re definitely full-time artists, working independently side by side on our own projects. But always soliciting input from the other twin (whom we respect because of our similar, yet different influences and tastes). We were never two peas in the same pod except at birth. We argue and fight on a myriad of subjects. Yet agree on other subjects from time to time. We devise our concepts and articulate them quite independently…. but always seek input along the journey.
I have a memory of Mr. Atomic making pop art painted cutouts… fruit, flowers etc. Those were a big hit. Did you both consciously distance yourself from that type of art? Was it hard to make the transition from decorative art to narrative paintings? How did the decision to change your business trajectory happen? Was it a definitive business decision or consequential as your paintings became appreciated?
Yes, we distanced ourselves from the original “cut-outs” because our imaginations were limited by the set silhouette shapes. We evolved from singular ideas (one dimensional-one piece images) to layering as many as 6 or 7 sandwiched levels to achieve rather ‘depthy’ & complete compositions. But in the end there was too much jig sawing, noise , sawdust , toxic paint fumes and transportation issues. The painting of our ideas on a simple stretched canvas seemed a more logical and successful end to our goals!
Childhood Art Development:
Did you and your brother take art lessons as children?
As children we were exposed to art, like all children in our school curriculum. Children all love to be engaged in art and we were no different. Except that in our cases we brought the joyful passion home to continue. In no time we excelled and with that came a certain pride and identity at being really good at a learned exercise and respected for it. We also, I suspect, were known as the twin terrors of art among our peers. Before long, our Teachers recognized our abilities and singled us out to head special art projects in our individual classrooms. I was awarded this mantle as was Michael, and we worked hard to be better than any & all of the competition. We incidentally loved drawing truly and passionately!
Were there any teachers in the past that made a big difference in your art course of action? Did your parents encourage you both to be professional artists?
As I said the teachers noticed and took advantage of our prowess by assigning us special school projects requiring a creative eye. Our parents were informed and our futures were directed to maturing through programs at the Toledo Museum of Art.
Around this time, we were also entered into a citywide art contest to be awarded to seven lucky young adults for further personal education by a renowned teacher at the Museum (Diane Attie). We ended up being 2 of the 7.
Our Parents (especially our mother, Laura) certainly encouraged us both at every juncture. From enrolling us into Toledo Museum of Art classes right through to a couple of famous artist correspondence courses and a renowned art mentor and teacher watercolorist Walter Chapman. Our mother loving art herself, was undisputedly the catalyst in pointing us into this direction and ensuring that we were properly motivated towards those ends.
Also, at 13 years of age a very pivotal chapter entered into our lives. We discovered Superhero comic books and the artwork within. The. artistic dynamics, the sometime unrealistic but powerful coloring of spectacular panels, the original concepts all meshed to create a super colossal Impact on our Imaginations.
Can you share how you actually are distinguished from one another in a painterly or technical way?
Our particular painting styles differ somewhat… but even our own individual styles change slightly from painting to painting. The constant is the 3′ X 4′ gallery wrap canvas and the acrylic paints and brushes we employ.
Michael tends to be more exploratory in the general washes of color he uses initially, as to Mark who goes into a sketched idea with a finished treatment in mind. We are similar as to doing basic preliminary sketches beforehand and then transferring them to the canvases. Mike struggles with painting concepts at the sketch stage more than Mark, (lucky me).
You seem to avoid being individually distinguished in your paintings. Can you share your philosophy on that?
We’re happy to affix the Mr. Atomic moniker to the pieces when the finished product is loosely approved by the two of us. Knowing fully well that there will always be the exceptional pieces and also the less successful pieces. It’s true of artists across the board regardless of their good intentions. You simply do your best and the tides of time will elevate the loftier pieces to their proper place in your catalog! I’m also happy to take credit for MIKES greater pieces and I’m sure the feelings mutual. After all, we’ve both worked on a piece in a sense if only intellectually!
How would Mr. Atomic like to be remembered in the art history? In other words, if you could point to the technical strengths you value in the Mr. Atomic body of work what are the top things you want your audience to notice and appreciate?
As far as our place in art history…. we study art from around the world regardless of the medium. Anyone can & does influence us, by an individual piece or body of work -if we love it. But we critique and disapprove of 98% of the work we view and absorb only that which is worthwhile to us for future reference or simply as a great expression of another human soul. It sounds elitist and perhaps it is… but we must always filter what we experience so that we’re not unduly influenced. When we set out to create we’re aware of the type of art we wish to indulge ourselves with.
We’re technically Narrative Painters. We enjoy abstract but don’t wish to follow that course. We have very concrete idea that need to be realized. A blank canvas is a virgin landscape waiting to see some dose of life. We don’t restrict ourselves, but let inspiration lead the charge.
We enjoy social interaction but don’t seek out other artists. It’s a lonely profession except for the gallery opening. We are each other’s best friends, mentors and confidants. We alas, have a long spiraling history together and don’t seek out reviews because it’s such an individual quest… how could somebody else possibly know what the ingredients are that led us to a statement we’ve arrived at on canvas? We’re not just painters… I liken us to composers first and foremost. And twin brothers with the same passion to the end. : ) : )