May Featured Artist Spotlight | Mike Kraus

We are pleased to spotlight Mike Kraus the May Featured Artist

 About Mike Kraus

Michael Kraus was born on the industrial shoreline of Muskegon, Michigan. After earning his Fine Arts Degree from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he attended Grand Valley State University for his graduate degree. From there, he gained varied experiences from the Chicago Architecture Foundation, Art Institute of Chicago, Hauenstein Center For Presidential Studies, Lollypop Farm Humane Society, and the Children’s Memorial Foundation. And every place he worked, he had his sketchbook with him and found ways to be actively creative. In 2014, Kraus became a full-time artist by establishing Mike Kraus Art. Since then, he has sold hundreds of paintings that are displayed in nearly every state and dozens of countries. Currently, Kraus lives in Rochester, New York with his beautiful wife and goofy dog.

See more more of his work here

This is your second gallery show with 540WMain how will this art show be different from your last?
MK: My first show was a bit more eclectic. I wanted to see how certain pieces worked in the space. How well some pieces would look on the brick wall. What would work in the hallway. And just experiment with the space. For this show, the subject and pieces will be more uniform. I want to create an intimate experience for the patrons of 540WMain. To get lost in the colors and landscapes.

 together is often where my work is directed. 

Why did you decide to be a featured artist art 540WMain for the second time?

MK: 540WMain is a wonderful organization and it was a fun experience. Calvin has created a welcoming space that does so much for the community. I’m honored to have been invited.

What have you been doing since your last art show at 540WMain?

MK: I’ve been very busy as an artist. Much of my time has been spent creating pieces for shows and galleries, creating pieces commissioned by patrons, and work that I’m inspired to make. And, between all of that, I’ve done a little traveling as well.

Where did you get the inspiration for this art show for the month of May?
MK: In preparing for the show, Calvin mentioned that May is Chronic Pain Awareness Month.  I wanted to create something to alleviate that chronic pain.  For people to imagine wandering around southern France.  To have the warm sensation of the sun while hiking through fields of lavender.  To see amazing medieval towns as waves of the Mediterranean splash against the beach.  To be transported somewhere away from that chronic pain they may be experiencing.
How are you growing as a working artist?
MK: Each piece sharpens the focus of my vision a little bit more.  There’s a lot of trial and error.  Some failures and success.  And there are discoveries in that exploration.  And finding that unique vision and style has become stronger.
For you how do intersect your art with the concepts of health and wellness?
MK: For me, health and wellness start with my state of mind.  If I’m mentally flexible, relaxed, and content my body tends to follow.  And my artwork is a form of mediation.  And that meditation informs my art.  So, art is a way to keep me mentally engaged to remove negativity.  And that’s been helpful for me as I try to stay healthy.
How are you balancing your growing art career with your personal life.
MK: It’s all about routine.  And I treat it as a “career.”  I have a set schedule for my work and studio time, just like any other job.  To balance my personal life, I also set aside time that I’m not allowed to work in my studio. Obviously, I’m fairly flexible with those rules.  If someone wants to see my artwork at an off time or I’m hit with inspiration, I will make an adjustment.  But, I’ll try to correct that imbalance very soon after.  
Tell us about the most challenging piece you have ever been commissioned to paint?
MK: Every commissioned piece is challenging.  Mostly because I really have to focus on being empathetic.  Each patron that has commissioned me comes with certain ideas, inspirations, color schemes, and so much more.  So, I spend a lot of time just discussing what their vision for the final piece will be.  Sometimes this includes sketches.  Other times it’s looking through Pinterest Boards.  But, I try to pull out as much usable information as possible for what they are trying to accomplish with this piece of artwork.  During the process, there is still a lot of communication.  I will take photos of the work-in-progress so they can see how it is developing.  This way, changes can be made before the piece is complete.  This sounds easy, but the execution of it can be very difficult.  Each step can be confusing, frustrating, and take a long time.  For me, creating the artwork is the easy part.  The challenge, and best part, of a commission is fulfilling the patron’s vision.
When you aren’t painting/drawing/photographing what are you doing?
MK:Most of the time, nothing too exciting.  Just like everyone else I’m at the grocery store, making dinner, walking my dog, and watching movies on the couch.  But, I do like to travel.  Sometimes, we take larger trips to places out west or Europe.  But, I also enjoy smaller trips around the Finger Lakes or camping in the Thousand Islands.  I’m always happy to hike through the woods or cities too.  Hot days are good for the beach and cold nights are great for going out for drinks.  
What is it that inspires you to keep going as professional artist?
MK: It’s just who I am and always have been.  I’ve been drawing since I was old enough to hold a crayon.  My school textbooks were full of doodles.  I started selling my work to friends between classes and eventually went to art school.  For some reason, I was born very visually oriented.  So, making art for me is just like breathing oxygen.
What are you working on now?
MK: My studio is like a laboratory of a mad scientist.  There’s a lot of noise, messes, and equipment, but  you don’t know exactly what’s going to come out.  Currently, I have about 10 paintings at various stages of completion.  All have different styles, subjects, and concepts behind them.  While one is drying, I work on another and continue the process until I have to take a break for lunch or something.  I’ll stare at my progress to see what I like and dislike about my pieces.  And then continue painting again.  I’m very process oriented.  And if I stick to my system, I find that’s when I make my biggest breakthroughs.  It’s all about exploration and discovery.
What’s has been your best experience so far as an artist?
MK: It’s all about relationships.  The opportunity to put your artwork in front of people is humbling.  There’s a lot of praise and criticism.  And you find people who become your biggest fans and support you in countless ways big and small.  I’m always excited when someone posts a photo of one of my pieces on social media.  It surprises me to see my art on walls of homes in France, Australia, and other places.  It’s also amazing when someone commissions me to memorialize their special pet too.  And meeting other artists, interior designers, art collectors have lead to so many friendships.  Being an “artist” is the “experience.”
What advice do you have for others interested in pursuing as career in art?
MK: The best advice I received is what I’ll share.  “Just keep making.”  It is so easy to get lost in the countless little details around money, time, energy, creativity, originality, galleries, etc.  But, the important thing is to “just keep making” and all the small stuff will eventually take care of itself.
Is there anything else you would like the readers to know?
MK: Please feel free to contact me.  Or even hashtag stuff #MikeKrausArt for a conversation.  It doesn’t have to be about buying my artwork.  I love talking to other artists about their work.  Or to chefs about food, architects about buildings, interior designers about homes. or anything else creative. 


Attend Mike’s Opening Reception on

Sunday May 6 //4-6 PM // no registration required

Published by Calvin Eaton

(he/his/him) Calvin Eaton is a disabled community educator, content creator, and social entrepreneur, whose area of expertise includes antiracism, equity, justice, instructional design, and program development. In 2016 Mr. Eaton founded 540WMain, Inc. a non-profit online and community-based organization for accessible education and events that promote justice for all.

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