Michael Skattum is a damn cool, talented illustrator and musician currently living in Barcelona, Spain. His work covers art-toys, illustration, bronze-work and screen-printing. After many years of art-creation, Michael has recently entered the toy-game too, with his resin ‘Human Slayers’ piece.
(Photo of Michael Skattum + one of his creations, below)
Get to know Michael + his amazing art below…
Basics/Getting to Know
Name + D.O.B?
Michael Skattum, December 17th 1987
City + State + Country you’re Repping?
Right now it’s Barcelona, Spain, by way of Colorado. Tentatively planning for Portland Oregon by summertime.
Describe a memory from three stages of your life ….basically trying to piece together Mr. Skattum’s pivotal moments. Toys, games, art, women, kids, school, college… ANYTHING man.
* age 10 – pre pubes:
My life was a whirlwind of Ninja Turtles, NES, and Marvel trading cards.
* age 15 – pube rage:
Comics and high-school. I don’t really have anything exciting going on in this stage. I was probably copying Jhonen Vasquez drawings and playing videogames still.
* age 20 – acceptance of pubes:
I was in college, probably working in the studio. I was screen-printing a lot and making terrible mini zines and stuff. This was prime time monster development. I had a couple of friends who I would make art with, and one of our professors asked us why no one drew female monsters.
(Photo below of some of Michael’s tapes)
Sonic Youth, Legendary Pink Dots, Slint, 90s grunge stuff and 80s synthesizer weirdo stuff.
Videodrome, Toxic Avenger, The Wizard. I always space when I have to think of favorite things.
(Picture below of a Michael Skattum drawing)
Specifics on the Art Hustle
When did you first start making ‘art’ (drawings, sculpture anything)?
I guess I’ve been drawing since I was little, like most everyone. I just didn’t stop.
Any formal art training? Or pivotal moment/influence?
Yeah, I went to school for fine arts. It was pretty pivotal because I had access to a lot of different techniques and I got to learn what I wanted to. It led me to some cool printmaking techniques and whatever. I also learned how to deal with the major bullshit surrounding a lot of things. I guess I saw what I wanted to be a part of, and what I wanted to avoid.
(Picture below of a Michael Skattum illustration)
Do you consider what you are making to be ‘art’, ‘design’, re-hashed crap?
Art I guess – I’m just taking all of the influences and things I see and spewing them out onto paper.
How do you think the market for art toys has been changed; or even only exists due to the internet?
I don’t know, I’m not in deep with the “art toy” movement, I feel fairly distanced from it all. What I have noticed is the mindset of “hey – I can do that” and its allowing anyone and everyone to create something. In my opinion, majority of those things are awful. There is a huge market for bootleg this and that, star wars everything, mash up whatever. I understand the significance, and where some of these things work, but it just seems like everyone is cutting up their old toys and trying to make a quick buck. But whatever, people are making things, so there definitely isn’t a shortage of things to look at, regardless of weather or not it’s significant.
Worst aspect of the online nature of art + toy sales?
Too much of it.
Best aspect of the online market for art + toys?
Considering I usually buy toys that are older than me, and come from a culture I didn’t grow up with, the internet is great for buying otherwise unavailable toys to me. On a selling aspect- you’ve got the wider audience. I haven’t had the pleasure of attending toy shows or conventions or anything, so the internet is the only way to disseminate the things I create.
Michael Skattum Toy + Sculpture Questions
Why + when did you start making toys?
I made some things in college, but the only really serious effort came into fruition last year with my Human Slayer.
Favorite medium to make toys outta?
Favorite ‘other’ toy artist?
I’m rooting for most of the American makers in the Japanese vinyl world. Rich Montanari of Mutant Vinyl Hardcore is my favorite toy maker right now. He is a one man powerhouse of great design that I relate to, and he is a cool guy as well. In my fantasy world, we would work together on a sculpt or something. I’d love to have one of my monsters exist in his universe.
Your ‘Human Slayers’ resin toy is amazing. Reminds me of the ‘Toxic Crusaders’ line. What was the process like getting that done?
(Photo below of Michael’s ‘Human Slayers’ resin-toy)
Basically Steven (of Papagrim Toys) contacted me out of the blue via Flickr saying something would look cool sculpted. We started having a conversation through email, and I drew up a bunch of designs for the human slayer toy line. He was interested, and we got started from there. Steven handled the sculpting and casting of the toy, and I handled the design and painting and whatever else had to be done.
(Photo below of the production sculpt of the head for a ‘Human Slayers’ toy)
Any plans to make a soft vinyl/sofubi of the ‘Human Slayers’?
There are plans in the future, probably via kickstarter. There might be another possibility, but it’s kind of on the backburner for now. There are some things we need to fix with the sculpt before going into vinyl, and some other things id like to get done first.
You have also made a bronze sculpture of your work. Describe the process and artistic motivation behind that?
(Photo below of a Michael Skattum bronze)
Working in bronze is crazy. I took a class in college on bronze foundry work, and for 15 weeks we made 2 pieces in bronze. The first thing I made was a gigantic weirdo monster (obviously) that is really heavy. The second thing I made was an original monster head sculpt on a bootleg toy body. I wanted to place importance on a piece of plastic, placing the “importance” in the bronze. I basically just wanted a bronze action figure.
The whole process was using the lost wax technique. Very time consuming and hectic. Sculpting in Super Sculpey, casting in wax, making a sprue of trees and spouts and stuff in wax, dipping the whole thing in a cement mixture (various times apart, for a day or so), burning out the wax in a giant kiln, pouring the bronze, grinding off excess bronze, sanding, and adding a patina and polishing it.
Favorite action figure(s) (I’ll allow self promotion…)?
Action figures? I’ll go with the Toxic Crusader line. It’s perfect to me. I also like old WWF toys, but I don’t have a lot of them.
What does your wife/girl/woman/family make of the whole perpetual adolescence/Peter-Pan/man-child aspect of toy art + toy collecting?
I come from a family of collectors. My dad collects military models, my brother collects star wars/transformers/comics, and I collect toys/books/records/whatever. My wife likes most of the toys I buy; she really likes Gargamel’s Deathra.
Is the rise of ‘art’ toys an indication of the changing nature of ‘art’? OR just a bunch of nerds with too much $$$ and time?
Just a bunch of nerds with too much money. Ha-ha. I don’t know. I like toys because they are toys. Even if it’s an expensive vintage Japanese toy from the 70s, it was created to be a toy. I appreciate the design and sculpt, and wish I was a kid in Japan in the 70s!
Michael Skattum Art Questions
Describe the method of making a ‘Michael Skattum’ art piece? (dot point all o.k.)
(Photo below of Michael Skattum’s desk + some art)
It’s pretty straightforward. Most of the time it goes like this: doodle-sketch-tighten pencils – light box ink – then watercolor or stippling. If I go digital it’s just Photoshop and a couple of layers.
I know you have worked on t-shirt designs for people like the damn talented Joe Merrill + his ‘Splurrt’ line, as well as for ‘Bowery Magazine’, are you going to push this into a full line, or just keep doing commission work?
(Photo below of Michael Skattum x Splurrt T-Shirt)
Right now its just commission work, its too much work trying to deal with producing shirts and selling them when I’m in another country. When I get back into America I will probably go forward with producing some shirts myself and all of that fun stuff.
(Photo below of Michael Skattum x Bowery Mag. T-Shirt)
What was Joe Merrill like to collaborate with? Any future plans with him?
A great collaborator. He has a great character that is fun to draw, and that’s pretty much it. He wanted a shirt, and we worked together to make something cool. We have something up our sleeves for a future collaboration as well.
You have worked on skateboard art. Do you skate? Best skate story? What motivated you to combine skating and your art?
(Photo below of a Michael Skattum deck)
No, I’m an awful skater. My friends in high-school and college skated a lot. I just appreciate the culture and art style involved with skating. I really like Neckface too.
You have made both cloth and paper masks of your characters. What was the motivation behind making the masks – scaring small children, bank-hold-ups? And do you plan to turn your creations into plush work?
(Photo below of Michael wearing his self-made masks)
The masks were in the high time of my screen-printing frenzy. I just really think masks are interesting things, and wanted to make some of my own. I would really like to work with vacuform mask making at some point. I probably won’t turn my things into plush. There is someone called Brutal Knitting that makes amazing pieces of knit artwork, from masks to pillows and tings – I’d love to collaborate with her on some project one day. The things she creates are phenomenal.
You are COVERED in tats. Why the interest in tattoos? And have you considered entering the industry?
Just another collecting habit. If my house ever burns down, I will still have my tattoos. Bold designs, classic images, amazing people. The people who have tattooed me are really nice people, and I have a huge amount of respect for the art form and tradition. One day I’d love to tattoo – but who knows. If I was offered an apprenticeship at any point in my life, it would be tough to turn it down.
I know you have a YouTube channel where you often post short animations. How do you use digital technology in your work and what has it added to your practice?
Ha-ha, those animations are goofy. It’s just messing around in Photoshop again. Nothing too serious. I wish I had the skill to manage legitimate animations, I think it would be fun to see my monster killing each other in animated antics.
You are also a musician – making your own music, as well as drumming for other bands such as ‘Wild Nothing’. Are your music and art separate creative outlets, or do they influence each other?
Yeah, they are separate. I no longer play drums professionally, but I am in another band here in Spain. I also have a silly project where I make songs about monsters and whatnot, but that’s because I love playing guitar and don’t have a drum-set at my house anymore. I also make goofy covers of Billy Idol songs in my spare time.
What do you get out of music that you don’t get out of art and vice-versa?
I got some good exercise when I was playing drums 2/3 of the year. Other than that, things are pretty similar with music and art. I get inspired in one way or another, and try to express that myself via music or a drawing. My music is usually more of a personal thing, and my artwork I try to share with everyone.
Does your self-directed work all exist in its own ‘universe’; such as the ‘Michael Skattum’ universe? (Yes; I am basically asking if you see your characters all interacting in your head. IF so, what do they get up to?)
(Picture below of a Michael Skattum drawing)
Ha-ha, not really. It’s usually a case of seeing an image, and getting it down on paper. If they were to exist together, it would be a mass of sludge and slime, blood and grime, fighting and melting and screeching.
Any collaborations on the horizon?
Yeah! But everything is still in the planning stage, so its kind of hush hush at the moment. Other than that I have a sketchbook zine coming out with publishing madhouse Blood Of The Young. I’m extremely excited for it – it has been a personal goal of mine to do something with them. So be on the look out for that.
Any major projects you want to hype man?
Just keep a watch on my instagram or Facebook. Some little things here and there, but I will let the world know when the human slayers toys are ready to unleash their havoc.