Michel Balasis’ paintings will be showcased in Entendre a la Mode beginning November 5.
What made you want to become an artist? How did you come about directing your focus onto Pop Art?
As a young boy I realized I had some talent when other kids would ask me to draw things for them. During those years my family spent the summers in Europe, mostly Greece, and because I couldn’t speak the languages, I clung to my American comic books as my source of culture. I became addicted to comic style imagery and that lead to the Pop Art aesthetic. I have been painting my comic style for over 25 years, and I have developed a sincere love for the process and the results.
How does Pop Art differ from other art forms in terms of technical approaches and viewer experiences/appreciation?
Pop Art by definition is a form of art that is naturally re-produced. The sources of imagery come from existing popular culture, which is the origination of the name Pop Art – POPular Culture. Many of the sources are directly re-produced, but mine is different. My style is very detail oriented and of the many variations in Pop Art, I have found that developing precise comic style illustrations is a talent that has become very popular and successful for me. Although I often look at comic books, I have developed the ability to create my own comic book style characters. This gives my Pop Art a slice of originality which I enjoy.
How long have you worked for Loyola’s Department of Fine and Performing Arts and how is it different from other organizations you have worked for in the past?
This is my 16th year as a Professor at Loyola in the DFPA. I worked as a professional graphic designer for nine years before starting my career as an educator. I was the owner of my own design firm, “B Creative.” This move to an academic career has allowed me to focus much more on my Pop Art career. I feel that the two career paths complement each other very well. I work mostly on computer teaching in my Viscom and Design classes, and then mostly on canvas and paint for my Pop Art career. It’s a good balance.
What is the most rewarding part of being a part of Loyola’s Department of Fine and Performing Arts?
When I first arrived in Chicago I was looking for the opportunity to show my Pop Art paintings in galleries and the fact that I was a full-time professor in Fine Arts worked as a huge advantage. Every time I presented my work and met the gallery owners, they were all very excited to show my work, but just as much excited about the fact that they could promote the fact that one of their artists was a professional educator and a full-time Professor at Loyola University Chicago. Since then, I have been very happy with the obvious public relations advantage that Loyola provides. Not to mention my absolute enjoyment and the rewarding opportunity to teach classes in a field and medium that are the basis for all of my art activities. I very much enjoy the multiple opportunities to suggest, advise, and watch the students blossom under my tutelage.
What is your typical process of creating a piece of Pop Art? How long does one piece take to complete?
First I sketch in pencil and try to develop a comic-style character with some dramatic impact or attitude. Sometimes I have the quote or idiom for the text bubble before I sketch and other times I apply the quote/idiom after the sketch has been developed. Then I take that rough sketch and scan it into Photoshop where I clean it up and prepare it for projection onto a canvas. When the image is projected on the canvas, I sketch the black outlines with pencil on the canvas. The next step is to paint the black outlines directly over the pencil sketch. As that develops, I can customize the look and feel of the character during the process. When I have the first black outline finished, I then prepare to start adding color into the appropriate areas defined by the outlines. Usually two to three coats of paint are applied to achieve the level of smooth and accurate precision I demand. When I have the color completed, I go over the entire painting again with black paint to clean up and define the edges a bit more. The final two steps are hand painting in the quote/idiom in black paint. This can be very difficult and time consuming due to my high level of precision standard in my aesthetic. I also take the time to hand paint my signature in black paint as it has become a valuable addition to my work -clients ask for it. The time to complete a painting is variable due to the size and level of detail for specific characters. The average time it takes to complete is about one to two weeks per painting.
If there is one, what is your favorite piece that is a part of your exhibition? Why?
My favorite piece of any of my exhibits is always the most recent painting that had been completed before the show. My process is such that it forces me to become passionate about each piece as I work on it. I don’t lose any passion for the previous paintings, but naturally the most recent is closest to my creative spirit and is still connected to my “overactive imagination”.
What is the overall experience you hope viewers achieve from your exhibition?
My Pop Art paintings often drive immediate reaction form the viewers on a visual basis because they are eye catching with bright contrasting color and graphic/comic style. But the reaction to the quote/idiom is often what drives the emotional reaction. I often plan to have at least 2 or 3 possible interpretations to the context of the quote/image combination. Most of the time there is a double or triple “entendre” – hence the title of this exhibit and a large number of my paintings also drive a sexual innuendo. Many of my collectors and fans love the combination of the retro comic style with the modern quotes. Often humorous and always related to current popular culture, most of the admirers of my work say “I do that” or “I say that” and that creates a bond for them. I believe that contextual connection is what drives the majority of my fan base, including hundreds of collectors.