Asbury Park artist Michael Woods talks about his art and the purpose of art in our lives
Born and raised in New Jersey, visual artist Michael Woods currently lives and works in Asbury Park for Shelter Home, one of the local businesses in town. Woods has been interested in art, visual art in particular, from an early age.
“My mother raised me and my brother to do nothing [else],” Woods says, speaking of art. “[When we were very young] she pretty much decided to let us loose in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. When I went up to see Andy Warhol, I was hooked on pop art. That’s kind of where I started.”
Woods has always “made stuff.” At the age of 16, he became very interested in and started studying photography. “That was my entrance into a very specific medium,” Woods explains, “but I’m pretty self-taught in most areas. I kind of do it my way. That’s how I taught myself to do silk-screening and painting. It’s a natural progression.”
Many of Woods’ images are self-portraits. “I like the self-portrait aspect,” the artist says, explaining that today we live in a world of selfies. Everybody has a camera in their hand, recording moments, one selfie at a time. “It’s recording a moment,” he reiterates, “but it’s also a Cindy Sherman kind of moment, too”
When creating his art, Woods follows three rules — line, balance, and correct positioning, or as he describes it, “the rule-of-thirds mentality.” He loves photographing architecture and nature. “As I’m walking, I look for these lines and balance in architecture (and nature) and [try to record it].”
Photography, painting and drawing are all his passions. Another passion is color. The artist became interested in color when he began his photography training. “I worked in photo labs,” Woods explains, “doing color corrections for photo projects and very high-end clients, printing large-size prints, having to understand color balance and light. That helped me with my painting. I believe that’s good to learn everything [in order to grow as an artist]. It gets you to the next place you want to go to.”
Art doesn’t have to be political or activist to have a purpose. Woods is not a political artist. “I haven’t found a way to do that yet,” he says. Creating art is more of an organic process for the artist. And when the work is finished, it’s often affected by what’s going on in politics at that particular time.
That said, Woods would rather focus on creating art that is healing and that helps viewers to find a moment of peace and to distract themselves from the stress of everyday life. “Unfortunately, in this day and age people distract themselves with ridiculous media that has nothing to offer,” the artist adds. He would want his art to help people find that moment of peace.
Art can also help people find that common denominator. It can help them accept that, while they might have different opinions, they can look at art together. That’s because art is humanizing and healing, and, in an artistic way, it unites us.
Michael Woods’ work process depends on the medium he uses to create his art. He paints on canvases, in acrylics. “I can start with a line and that line can get me to the next one, and so on. I kind of listen to it, and take it from there.”
He has a “very definitive process” when creating his art, and he tries to stay with that process, for consistency. “I’ve worked on art commercials,” he explains. “I like knowing the process, seeing every angle of it. That’s how you get your own look, [as an artist, and develop your artist voice].”
Woods had artwork featured in a show at Tides Hotel in Asbury Park. At the time of the interview, he’s working on a few drawing designs for the store where he works. “[Shelter Home] makes a lot of Asbury-inspired memorabilia for tourists and locals, and works with local artists,” he explains, “and they’re nice enough to let me have some of my own images, and sell them on t-shirts and mugs and other products, and it’s taking one aspect of my artwork and trying to commercialize it. I’m an Andy Warhol fan and I don’t see anything wrong with making money from my art. Part of my art is financing the other. So everything has a purpose behind it, and help me produce what I want to produce.”
Michael Woods’ advice to aspiring visual artists is simple — start by not being afraid to say that you are an artist, when people ask. It’s not an easy thing to do and it usually takes a long time to actually say the words out loud. Woods explains, “When people ask you what you do or who you are, you always say your job. A few years ago, I [decided to say] ‘I’m an artist’. I have a point a view and I can’t deny it, so why not accept it.”
Find out more about Michael Woods’ work on Instagram: