Mike Graves was born in Colorado and besides a short 3-year stint in Hawaii he has been filling up galleries and walls in our state since he got out of high school. You have probably seen his work around town, big cartoonish characters and mash-up creatures spawned from his imagination as well as his daughter, Olive. Each mural begins with a ton of sketches and then sketching on a wall, Mike uses no grids or projectors, just his memory and a can of spray-paint. This style has brought him recognition around Denver and has taken him on the road to places like Las Vegas, San Francisco, Phoenix, Miami, Chicago, Houston, LA, New York, Canada, Australia and the U.K. You may have caught him painting live at a music festival or tossing paint around at the Crush festival in Denver but if he is not painting, you can always catch him and Olive going through books for the next creature they might collaborate on.
Mike Graves on Art, Books, and Libraries
- What book as a kid, influenced your imagination to pick up a crayon and begin making art?
- What book are you currently reading that influences you in either a creative way or a professional way?
Currently, Olive and I have been catching up in the adventures of TumTum & Nutmeg which is about a couple of Mice taking care of some children who are poor, and because they are out of sight, the children believe that fairies are helping them clean up their rooms and doing daily chores. It is a series by Emily Bearn and has some awesome illustrations by Nick Price.
- What do you think is the most important resource that Libraries provide to you as an artist?
Definitely inspiration, if not through the massive artbook collection at the Central branch then just going through piles of kids’ books with Olive at the Sam Gary Branch and trying to choose which adventure to take home and share with her that might lead to an octopus with a cats head or a cross between a bee and a bird.
- What is your current/favorite/most-used branch of the Denver Public Library?
- If you were offered a gigantic wall on the outside of a Library, what would your paint to display what a library means to you?
I would do a giant mural of all the characters from my favorite kids books all gathered up behind a small kid reading a book, kind of like looking over the child’s shoulders to see which book they were reading.
Ex Libris: Denver Artists is a series featuring local street artists, focusing on their connection to books and the importance of libraries to the artistic community. Series concept and interview by Sean Ryerson.