Local artist creates posters to bring out the emotion in his viewers
By Christie MathernePosted Oct 31, 2012
When meeting with Jay Michael in person, it isn’t hard to see the connection between personality and art. The Baton Rouge artist is graceful in his hand gestures as he speaks, and with hair pulled back into a ponytail and clothes akin to the musicians that he pulls inspiration from – Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead, Hendrix, Bob Marley – there isn’t much disconnect from the psychedelic-style art Michael creates through Fly Right Studios.
Soft spoken, but constantly enthusiastic while speaking, Michael talked about love and emotion in the idealistic ways of the hippie movement of the 1960s. It’s a nice coincidence that Michael was born at the beginning of the summer of 1969.
“I want to be spiritually everywhere with my art,” Michael said. “That’s kind of the whole trip. In my spirit and soul, I’m a peace and love kind of guy, so in my heart I try to embody that vibe.”
Specializing in concert, festival and band posters, Michael’s artwork is a call back to the colorful, swirling psychedelic concert posters of the ‘60s and ‘70s. With powerful, bright colors and bold shapes, Michael tries to elicit an emotion with his art, much like the connection one feels to music.
Through November and December, there is a small exhibit of Michael’s works hanging in the Manship Theatre gallery in the Shaw Center for the Performing Arts, downtown.
“It’s all emotional art,” Michael said. “That’s what this is, emotional art. When I go into a gig, I don’t try to preconceive things, usually. It’s a flow.”
Born in Stillwater, Okla., Michael moved at an early age to Baton Rouge with his mother to live with his grandmother. The two women, along with his aunt, were Michael’s first introduction to art. As painters they taught him technique and color use, though they never forced any type of practice on him. Michael was drawn to art and pursued it as a hobby, but never had any formal training beyond a few high school art classes.
“Even when I was moving around outside of Baton Rouge, and working different jobs, they never felt right,” Michael said. “I couldn’t fit in; nothing beside art made me feel right.”
Michael said he was first attracted to the style of poster art he now creates after seeing similar posters hanging in a shoe store window as a kid. Later, in high school, he would create his band’s show posters to hang on Chimes Street.
After some local success creating band posters encouraged him, Michael pushed outside of the Baton Rouge area, creating posters for festivals.
“It’s worked in sections,” Michael said. “I started building a portfolio with bands, then to festivals and got hired by those festivals. I camped out and met other bands at these festivals and started doing band work out side of my area, and up and up and out.”
To keep track of his business, Michael started Fly Right Studios in 1992, but things didn’t start taking off until 1998 when he got his first real gigs. He looks back to his first professional poster he created for a co-operative concert between the Varsity and Chelsea’s – back when Chelsea’s was in the Northgate area.
Since then, Michael has created poster art for venues like House of Blues, Tipitina’s, Howlin’ Wolf, Chelsea’s; worked with members of The Allman Brothers Band, Black Crowes and Steppenwolf; and also produced the chalk art for the Varsity and Chimes since 2001. He has also become friends with Jimi Hendrix’s brother and niece, and is now in talks to create art for Hendrix’s birthday celebration in November.
“Man, if you had told me I would get to meet some of these people just a couple of years ago, I would have been blown away,” Michael said when asked if he’s surprised at how far his artwork has gone.
Michael is careful to clarify by saying the only motivation he has is the love and feeling he tries to convey through his work.
“I lean back and let [art] come out. I have all the tools and it happens, and usually the fuel for the whole trip is the love of music,” Michael said. “I want my work to be an extrasensory, emotional trip for people. Something anyone of any age can dig. Hitting at the heart and the gut.”
Jay Michael’s work can be see at the Manship Theatre Gallery through November.