Our previous Artists & Spaces interview, we featured Rhianna Wurman, so it makes sense that this time we would be talking to her multi-talented husband, Mike Wurman. Yes folks, we have an artistic power couple over here!
I met Mike at the same time I met Rhianna, honestly not fully understanding the multitude of skills he had. He casually mentioned he was a drawer that first meeting, but until I visited his home for photos I had no idea he was also a writer and made furniture. I must point out that the images of his drawings truly do not do them justice. In person, his graphite sketches and finished pieces are so lovely, with much depth and detail. I was so happy to take a step into his workspace!
Q: Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.
A: I’m an artist who draws in pen and ink, and pastels, but my favorite media is pencil. I'm also an author with one published book about hiking the southern portion of the Appalachian Trail called A Sketch & A Prayer. It's a journal-style book with tips and tricks on backpacking and facts about interesting things along the trail, but primarily shares stories and drawings from my experience of hiking the southern section of the AT. In the very near future I will be releasing a second book on my section hike through Virginia and as of July 11th of this year, I'll be hiking through West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, and begin the groundwork for a third installment. I'm also a woodworker and run a business with my best friend called Mike & Mike Rustic & Reclaimed. Our mission is to re-purpose items that others discard and give them a new life and functionality than was originally intended.
Q: What drew you to your art? Or arts, in your case!
A: As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been creative with my hands, but it wasn’t until I was in a car accident in the summer of ’85 that drawing was actually brought to the forefront and that maybe this was something I could do for a living. Following the accident, I was laid up in bed for a month or so following surgery on my left shoulder which had been completely separated. One can only take so much television and I quickly became bored, so I picked up some paper and a pencil to pass the time and I discovered that I could draw. From there, I took a few classes on my own but veered off and ended up getting a job as a production artist at a printing company in Texas. I eventually lost that dream and desire to draw after working at the company for over 20 years with little to no creativity of my own being utilized. It wasn’t until I met Rhianna, my future wife and also an artist, that I was encouraged to continue drawing. It was also around this time that we met a singer/songwriter who would also become my best man at our wedding and future business partner, Mike Schikora. He was instrumental in getting both Rhianna and myself to follow our dreams which led us to move from Dallas to Asheville just four short months after marrying. It’s a decision that we never regretted, but I, like many artists, am my own worst critic. Within a year of moving, self-doubt in my abilities as an artist destroyed any desire to draw, so I basically quit for a short time. It wasn't until May 6th, 2014 when we took a little hike out to Max Patch, NC that all that changed. We walked to the summit, where the Appalachian Trail just so happens to cross and as I crouched to take a picture of a lone white blaze on an old weather beaten wooden post that marks the trail, I instantly had the desire to draw again. That's when the idea hit me to sketch and hike my way along the Appalachian Trail.
Two months later, with no hiking experience, but with a sketchbook and pencil in hand, I began my northbound journey on the AT.
Woodworking became another big part of my life once we moved to Asheville. When we were married, we had a barn reception at my best friend's barn and used pallets as dinner tables. We added 4x4's to make legs and that was it. After the wedding, we had somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 pallets and no idea what to do with them. I took the two pallets that were used as the bride and groom's tables with us to North Carolina. Here I deconstructed them and turned them into our kitchen table. People loved it and we both saw the potential in a woodworking business here. With a good supply of pallets we were all set to get started.
Q: Tell me about your process - what compels you to sketch or draw the scenes you do?
A: My process is simple, I just start walking. Before I began hiking, nature scenes were the hardest subject for me to draw, but I've had a little practice the past couple of summers that helps alleviate some of the struggle. During the course of a section hike on the Appalachian Trail, I'll hike anywhere from 450 to 550 miles and take countless numbers of photos of things I find interesting and make for good drawing subjects. That could be anything from a leaf, to mountains with fog moving through. At times, I'll stop and sketch, but I'll still take a photo so I can finish later, otherwise I'll never get anywhere. Once I return home, I'll pick a few photos and/ or sketches to render as full detailed pencil drawings. I like a lot of contrast in my drawings, so I'll make the lightest value the white of the paper and the darkest, the blackest graphite pencil I might have. I believe it's that contrast and the play between shadows and light that really give a drawing depth.
What compels me to draw nature scenes still goes back to that one moment on top of Max Patch over two years ago. Why or how it happened, I have no idea, but it did and even today, the AT calls me to hike her beautiful footpath. After hiking more than half of the trail and spending so much time surrounded by the beauty of nature 24/7, it's no wonder why I continue to draw her.
Q: How does the space you currently work in influence your work?
A: I’ve never had a studio to work in or a set place to actually draw. It’s always been kind of willy nilly, I’d sit on the sofa, the floor, stand at the kitchen island, wherever there was room for me and my drawing board. It was only recently that I realized that maybe I was missing out on something. My wife, Rhianna, who’s an illustrator/graphic designer, has a great studio with this incredible old table from France that we had purchased while still living in Texas. This table became the focal point of her studio and to be honest, I was a little envious that she had her own place that inspired and motivated her to produce some beautiful work. Then, not too long ago, I received an old desk from a friend that I was going to transform and sell in my booth at The Regeneration Station. This desk was old, heavy, made from solid wood and was previously a preacher's desk at a local church. As I began to play around with some ideas on how to repurpose it, I fell in love with the wood and the fact that it was solid, not the particle board stuff you find today. That’s when I decided to transform it into a drawing table with a little industrial feel to it. Once I moved it into the house and into the only corner that it would fit, the walls were just begging for the same treatment. I made some wooden shelves, covered the entire wall with pallet slats and left room for a chalkboard. Now I have my own area to work, whether it’s drawing or writing a book. I enjoy the raw, industrial, yet old feel of my studio and the inspiration it gives me. Plus, I think it's pretty darn cool.
Q: What are your thoughts on the relationship between artists, their workplace/environment/ studio, and the art they create?
A: An artist needs to be inspired by the environment they work in or it will reflect in their work. That inspiration might involve painting in a park or drawing while seated on a mountainside. As wonderful as that sounds, work can't always be done outside. An artist needs a space that motivates and inspires them to continue to produce. That inspiration might come from other works of art, books, furniture, quotes, and even music.
Q: What does your art mean to you and how would you like it to affect others?
A: When I create a drawing or a piece of furniture, it has to spark from something that inspires me. If the inspiration isn't there from the start, it's going to be really hard to sell someone on the idea. When someone looks at one of my drawings and I can see the raw emotion in their face, it's the best feeling. It's a way of deeply connecting with someone and telling a story without any words. When I repurpose a piece of furniture, I want it to tell a story of transformation. I love the process of rescuing something that may be broken or tossed aside and turning it into something completely new. I can see the potential in those pieces and I want to create something useful and unique out of them for others to enjoy.
Q: Where can we find more information about you and your work?
A: You can find my Appalachian Trail related work at www.asketchandaprayer.com and also at A Sketch & A Prayer on Facebook.
My woodworking can be found at Mike & Mike: Rustic and Reclaimed on Facebook and also at The Regeneration Station in Asheville.
Thanks so much to Mike & Rhianna, again, for letting me run around their home and workspaces with them as well as cuddle their adorable dog, Radley.
If you are a artist or know of an artist who would like to get involved with our "Artists & Spaces" project, email Shonie at email@example.com to learn more.