At a young age, Mikael Brandrup loved to sketch in his notebook. His parents noticed his enthusiasm in drawing and introduced him to spray paint and large wooden boards to paint on. As a teenager, he became more involved in Copenhagen’s graffiti scene and painted hundreds of walls in a short amount of time. While painting he studied graphic design. This direction shaped his commercial approach to art, and soon after he opened an agency with his brother. After a few years of branding, the Brandrup brothers sold the agency and moved to Los Angeles to focus their attention back to Mikael’s passion for painting and commercial street art.
Baroquism Reality Shifts
Thank you again for taking the time to sit with us and talk about your creative passion and background. Let’s start off with the early years of Mikael Brandrup and growing up in Copenhagen as well as your personal creative influences.
In terms of creativity, my parents have always supported me. I had many possibilities to experiment with art and have been drawing and painting since I could hold a pen. My art evolved and developed slowly. I think I have always had it in me to create and experiment so that I could express myself visually. I think when I was 15, it was a natural step for me to experiment with a spray can. At the age of 15, it was 1999 and the graffiti, DJing, break dancing, and hip hop culture movement became an obsession for me. I saw how the big graffiti writers in Europe were, painting all the trains.
In Copenhagen, there were tags and pieces and throw-ups everywhere which inspired me to grab a spray can and try to paint wildstyle letters. I fell in love with it from day one. I put up some wood panels in the backyard of my parents and started painting and I was hooked but I still wanted more. I started taking art classes in high school and painting with acrylics and oils but it was still the spray can that was talking to me, somehow as my preferred tool, and wanted to try something digital as well. That’s when I started studying graphic design.
Where did you study graphic design?
In Copenhagen. I was in a four or five-year-long education program for graphic design. Two years into the program, I wanted to start my own design agency, and actually Micky that you just met, our online manager, started the design agency together with my brother. Micky was 17, my brother and I were 22 years old. A couple of young guns trying to conquer the advertising world. We did logo design, web design, and campaigns to grow the business. After five years we had some of the biggest clients in the corporate world of Copenhagen but for me, that was not my passion because for me somehow I could not express myself the way I wanted to.
We had clients and rules and the need to attract a certain type of audience within visual communication. It was too corporate and too strict and I was doing my art on the side of it and I wanted the graffiti and art to be my main focus. We ended up selling the design agency six years ago to a competitor so I could live out my dream as an artist. We then established the art brand Mikael B. Design in Europe and then within one and a half years we decided to go to the United States to expand the business… and here we are.
What was the biggest obstacle in your transition from running a design agency to developing your art brand Mikael B. Design?
Actually there was a year, where I wasn’t sure what I wanted with my life. Still, I had an idea but it was tough somehow because I needed to figure out what I wanted. I still had those five years with the design agency as my education. It was with one of my first artworks that helped me to figure out what I wanted. I was more passionate about melting these two worlds, graffiti, and graphic design.
What was that project? I feel like that was the pinnacle moment of transition from commercial to your fine art career. Talk to us more about that transition.
I’m just realizing that actually right now… It’s like whoa! Somehow without even knowing it, I started combining my graphic design with my graffiti background. I think you know… it was just natural. I didn’t just sit down and say hmm, I want to invent a new style and combine my graffiti and graphic design. It just came from my heart and my brain. The style came from inside and that combined with my eagerness to travel the world inspired me to design my own world map. Like a really colorful one. An abstract one but still functional. The first one I did was called “Vibrant World”. I posted it on Facebook and it went viral, reaching over a million people overnight.
How do you start a project? Walk us through your creative process.
I always start with a pen. That’s how I get my thoughts out in the best possible way. I do a lot of sketches on how I want the composition first. I work only in black and white until I am totally satisfied with the composition. It focuses my eye on just the composition and the shapes. When I have the final sketch I go to my computer and redraw it and I try different color themes to get a digital mockup of what I want as a mural render. After that, I am ready to go to the wall or canvas and start painting.
Do you have any advice for aspiring graffiti artists and muralists when following their dreams and keeping a positive outlook on their career and goals?
Yes. Of course, it has to be your biggest passion in life and I think you have to be nearly obsessed about creating and experimenting. I also think you have to be good with people and LA did that to me. I have always been social and outgoing but not as much in Copenhagen, that’s why I settled in Los Angeles. It has changed me so much and it’s been a lot easier for me to network. Networking is everything to me. To meet the right people, talk with the right people gives you the right opportunities. I think that’s my best advice, never forget that to be an artist is also to be an entrepreneur. It’s a business and if you don’t know how to create a business out of your art then you need to surround yourself with people or work with people that believe in you and want to take care of that part.
So get yourself out there…? How do you get out of the studio?
I have a saying… “get out of the studio because nobody will know that your work exists if you just keep it in the studio.”
Sometimes I’m too much out. I have to tell myself to get into the studio haha. It’s a fine balance. Seriously I think the first six to eight months I was in Los Angeles all by myself and went exploring around the city. I went to museums and gallery show opening nights, three or four times a week. Of course, I wanted to get an idea of what the LA art scene was like because I had only been on vacation here. It’s just different when you live here, you have a different approach.