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Michael Kimber: Full Interview

September 10, 2010

For my article on my collaboration with Michael Kimber (which you can read here) I asked Michael a few questions to get his perspective. As it turned out Michael had a lot to say on the subject, so as a kind of appendix to that article for those who are interested, I’m posting the full text of our initial interview.

Can you describe or comment on our meeting over halifaxlocals, and your approach to our collaboration?

Following the end of my mental breakdown, I began writing a blog called Colony of Losers.  It describes the twists, turns, trials and tribulations of trying to find your future and falling on your face in the process. Part of that process included some very awkward self promotion for the Blog. I joined Halifaxlocals, a den of miscreants, cynics and hopped up hipsters with a desire for debate and degradation in order to spread the word. I posed as an eccentric writer obsessed with Famous Ray’s candy corn and received some criticism constructive and otherwise and found an unlikely ally in a man by the name of Scrotomancer. He read my stories extremely carefully and liked the good things and disliked the bad things. My friend Hermit knew the identity of said Scrotomancer and he was an artist by the name of Peter Diamond. He told me I should check him out.

I did. I saw Peter’s art and was immediately struck by an intense feeling of artistic admiration. As such I felt it necessary to seduce him to become my Ralph Steadman. Because he was weird like me. Because there was a point to every odd eccentricity in his work that related to getting at something innately human and real. He was weird because he was looking for the language to express what he meant, because the words weren’t there so he had to create images to get at them.  Many artists constantly trace themselves in their work, getting stuck in surface intrepratations. I felt like he was digging deep into his guts and pulling shit out of himself for the world to see. Sort of like what I want my art to be at its best.  Plus most of the pictures looked like something that an acid tripping free love hippy would stare at until the trip was over and since that was my target audience he seemed the perfect choice.

While my attempts at self promotion failed and I stooped to create a fictitious anarchist named Depressionliquor who wore a “Jesus is a Cunt “sweatshirt to pick a fight with myself to get more views to no avail, I did meet Peter.

Which began an artistic collaboration I hope will last for years. Here is a look at the thread.

Our collaboration is strangely non participatory on my part. I write about my life and my struggles and he reads it and creates images that reflect what the stories bring out in him. Somehow they always end up being what I was looking for even though I would never ask him to create them. In any collaboration, sexual, physical, artistic and metaphysical the key point is trust. I trust Pete with my art even if I don’t know him well enough to know whether he prefers to be called Pete or Peter or whether he is a pumpkin eater or minds if his girlfriend farts or if he eats picking popcorn out of his teeth and refuses to eat it at the movies.  I trust him because he doesn’t go for easy work.

We were working on lettering for Colony of Losers and he created a picture based on what we talked about during our first and only meeting over omelets at the Paperchase. He sent it to me and I didn’t like it. Even though it was mostly my idea. Because he doesn’t make work for other people when he is doing his best work. He takes my thoughts and makes them his own and adds something to my work rather than retells it.  Gives of himself to further my own story. Instead of the lettering he drew a whale on a bicycle that was being attacked by a colony of sailors and it was perfect. For me collaboration is about two artists doing what they do and complimenting each other. Pete has found a resonance in my work that allows him to create some of his best stuff in collaboration with my writing. Which is lucky for me.

Considering the deeply personal nature of your work, what’s it like to trust someone you barely know to interpret your writing, and hence your personal troubles?

This question is an interesting one for me as I have to worry about everyone’s interpretation of my work.  My extended family, girlfriends past, present and future get to read about the most fucked moments of my life.  What they do with my recollections from those moments great, terrifying and terrific is out of my control. I don’t really feel like I have control over what I put out, in the same way I wouldn’t want to have control over what Pete creates. I’m trying to figure out a way to say this and not sound like a pretentious philosophy student masturbating to get a good grade.

Ok.

Courage Willow, courage.

For me, his work shows that dividing line between inspiration and experience and my life isn’t the experience he is capturing, merely the inspiration for the experience he creates in his work. I like that it’s out of my hands and in the hands of a someone whose talent I relate to. He makes something new and different out of my life in ways I could never have imagined.  Just as my work touches people in ways that I could never have planned for or imagined. That’s the magic of being an artist, you don’t know what you are creating because what you make doesn’t exist on the canvas or on the computer screen or in the felt parchment of a published work,  but in the hearts and minds of your audience. I don’t get to experience what I do to other people. I do get to experience what I do to Pete and for me that’s something intensely special.

What do you see as the value of illustration for a writer and for writing? What does it bring to the table?

There are many different advantages to having a talented illustrator on your side.  A picture holds a thousand words is true in regards to spatial reality. More questions and answers can be crammed into an image–more than in an explanatory paragraph because so much more is left open. For getting people to stop and stare at your work, an illustrator is one of hell of an advantage.

People stop and stare at Pete’s shit. That feeling of confusion and wonder translates to curiosity and often to reading more of my work.  The picture gets them to read my thousand words. Visuals adds another level to the work and deepens it.

Also a big reason to work with Pete is that other blogs don’t go out of their way to reach out to mediums beyond words. Having that on my blog adds a huge advantage.

For future branding having Pete on my side is like having Bruce Lee as a bodyguard. Picture T-shirts by this motherfucker. Like haircuts from Phat the Barber a T-Shirt by Pete Diamond is guaranteed to get you laid.  Also if you are lucky and you find someone who has both the talent and the drive to make it then you can help eachother. I think a lot of people are going to be introduced to Pete’s work by reading Colony of Losers. I feel the same will be true of people being introduced to my work through Pete’s. We’ve met once and are going to change each other’s lives. The power of the internet, not just for finding pornography featuring pregnant women anymore.

– You’ve recently teamed up with Mike Holmes on a comic strip. Do you see more comics in your future?

Collaborating with Mike was pretty much the same sort of thing. I checked out his work on True Story and American Dream and I loved it.  The main difference is that with Mike he’s capturing what I’m writing about, rather than expanding its reality.  His shit is raw and real and hilarious and absurd.  The comic book was hilarious and exactly as I hoped it would be. My goal is to convince him to do a book with me based around Colony of Losers and to see if we can get it serialized in the Coast and other papers to turn into a viral shit storm. He doesn’t know this yet but I’m hoping the gigantic reaction we have been getting from Birds will convince him. This was my first 10,000 hit week on Colony-of-losers.com.  Bam. I really like this medium and feel like I know how to write for it.  So we shall see what happens.

– Had you paid much attention to illustration prior to these collaborations? If so, who/what caught your eye and why?

Ummmm I have done some collaborative work with Rebecca Hanson, a really talented artist in Halifax for the cover of my rap album. I just realized one of the keys to collaboration for me is asking someone to do something I can’t.  I can’t even draw a stick figure. My handwriting is terrible.  I can’t play an instrument, DJ or make a beat so I have had to rely on others and so I have to trust. I have been profoundly lucky to be surrounded by talented people and benefitted from their skills.  I think the knowledge that I can’t do it myself has led to some great collaborations. I have always been drawn to thematic pieces like Escher or Dali. Someone who is not just creating something pleasing to the eye but pleasing to the mind.

Is there something in particular you’d like to mention about what you’re up to these days, that anyone reading this should know about?

I’m working on finding a publisher for The Cure that I’m hoping to get Pete to illustrate. I like on the spot proposals. I’d be that dude proposing at a baseball game, pressuring the crowd to get the girl to say yes. If she said no I would lead the crowd in booing her. Wait…that doesn’t help my argument.

I’m pitching my screenplay Sick at the film festival in Halifax and hope to get funding for a feature film. I’ve begin collaborating with Halifax Magazine on creating a regular home for Colony of Losers articles and am pretty excited about that. Right now I’m reaching to people who are interested in my art and spreading the word about what I’m doing. If you are one such person, help me spread the word and make my dreams come true.

Now for that message moment.

A lot of my work concerns mental health, especially the Cure. The motivation behind that is both therapeutic and political. Right now only one third of people suffering from mental illness get help due to stigma. I’m trying to provide a human face so that people won’t be ashamed of shit that isn’t their fault. Because I know what it’s like to feel alone and scared. I want to give my experiences to help that road feel a little less lonely. Too many of our best friends, brothers and sisters live in stress in secret. If you are one such person check out the Cure and you might get a sense that a lot of people are just as fucked up as you. Remember when you see people they are wearing tuxedos, just like every couple fights, and every happy person feels lonely. No one lives in a Hallmark card. Unless Pete starts designing Hallmark cards. Then we all live in Hallmark cards.

Oh and check out the Dalhousie Gazette’s Mental Health Issue.  Pete will be doing the cover and I will be writing the feature story.

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