justART! Mike Mason

Interview by Jenkin and Alan Ng
Words by Ryan Goldade and Amie Nguyen
Photography by Jenkin Au

Location: Montreal




Meet Mike Mason, a freelance graphic designer and illustrator based in Montréal. Having worked with an impressive list of clients such as McGill University, WeSC, and SID LEE, he isn’t settling down anytime soon. For those that think Mike is only an emerging artist, he has already held many art exhibitions across Québec. As the Co-Founder and Director of Une Banane Collective, he is leading a strong multi-disciplinary team with partners Danny Demers and David Oliva promoting personal creativity and self-exploration through art.

Please introduce yourself to our readers

I’m Mike Mason. I’m a designer and illustrator in Montreal. I’m pretty much freelance these days but I’m also working for Chez Valois and starting UQAM for my bachelors.

Is there a symbolic meaning behind the strokes in your logo?

I feel as if I’ve always been interested in tribal symbolism so I feel that it, as a symbol, is pretty obscure but it also makes reference to design. When working with page layout, instead of inserting text, you insert that sort of movement to refer to text and refer to what you’ll be putting there afterwards.

How did you get into art?

I don’t know. I always thought I was going to go into Fine Arts and I was going to be an illustrator. I got into graphic design and thought I was going to be a designer but these days I’m more into the illustration domain. I’m also into art history too.

What do you think the new technology-driven generation of artists are forgetting about the history of art?

I feel as if technology isn’t that much of a burden. I feel as if it’s just another tool and another way of expressing things.

Your portfolio ranges from multimedia to packaged design. Tell us about the tools you use to create your art.

It feels as if it’s all the same thing in the end. When you’re designing something, it’s like you’re approaching a problem that you’re trying to solve. When it comes to multimedia or packaging, it’s pretty much the same thing. You have one sort of idea that you want to express. I find the restraints and the restrictions help guide me and develop more concrete ideas.

How would you describe your style and what drove you towards this style?

Pretty much my influences. I feel as though a lot of designers try to tackle a lot of different things and I’ve always been into artisans and people who develop a certain craft, like someone who’s really good at shoemaking or weaving. I feel as if you develop a certain style, you’ll grow more as an individual as well as a designer.

What are some of your influences?

I’ve really been into surrealism, like Andre Breton. As far as contemporary illustrators, I would say: Marc Bell, Mark Weaver, lots of independent artists. There’s a store on St. Laurent Street call Monastiraki. It’s a bunch of arts and craft indie artists and I get a lot influence from them.

Tell us about your collaborative involvement with Une Banane. How did you get involved with it and where do you want to take it?

I feel as if there are a lot of young designers and artists these days and I feel as if it’s important to collaborate. It’s more of a learning experience.

How does simplicity play a role in your design?

I feel as if it’s the general approach. I feel as if you always need to start off with something really minimalist and expand off that. I feel that you can communicate something more easily and have more impact if it’s just one visual.

What were some of the challenges you faced with visual art when you first started off?

Typography. It kind of scared me in the beginning. I’ve been always been somebody that likes to work with something from the very basics. With typography, you’re given a huge library to work with so it’s not just you. It’s kind of like working with a collage and taking things from others.

A lot of people are very pro or against attending art school. As a person that’s been through the formal education, what is it about school that you couldn’t have learned anywhere else?

I think the networking was great. You meet a lot of people that will end up going places or different directions than yourself. I think that’s a huge part of school.

If you had to choose one of your pieces to showcase, what would you consider to be your most impressive work?

One of my school projects. It was for a gallery called Armatta.

Why were you most proud of this particular piece?

Because I’m really into systems and how you can come up with one thing and try to apply it to a bunch of applications.

What are some of your upcoming goals as an artist?

Collaborate more. Work on more personal projects. I’m working on a book right now. I’m really into craft. I’m always folding things and making little trinkets and whatnot. I always used to fold up old bus passes so right now I’m working on a book of origami of things that you would find in Montreal, such as Montreal bus transfers or cigarette packs.

Do you look to collaborate to add skills you don’t have or do you look to compliment your existing skills?

It’s just a learning experience. Everyone thinks so differently and has a different approach to things. You’ll never really learn about anything new without talking to somebody who’s doing something completely different.

What are your views on the Montreal art scene?

I like the whole crafting approach to things that are going on these days. I like the whole indie art. I’m really into that. But otherwise I’m not really sure.

What is HYPE?

Something blown out of proportion. But in a good way.



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