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Creative Energy Through Community

An Interview with Mike Marino, Visual Artist

CAR: How do you describe your artwork?

Mike Marino: I work mostly in paint (watercolor and acrylic) and marker. The scale of my work varies. I have new ideas every day, but I try to focus and add more things to the piece I'm working on instead of starting something new. I spend about 10 days on each piece. I start with one idea and it changes over time, which is what makes my work interesting. I don't plan my paintings in advance. I do lots of layering to visually record my thoughts. The things in my paintings may seem unrelated, but they're all things I'm thinking about during the 10 days I work on each piece. There's usually a story or theme there somewhere. I use flat perspective, but my work can seem sort of 3-D because of the many layers and different sizes/placement of figures/elements. I put circles and lines in around the main elements to fill the space or create patterns.

What inspires your art?

I'm interested in superheroes from comic books and movies. I'm also interested in professional wrestling. With both superheroes and wrestlers, I know the violence is fake, but I still want to see it. Maybe because I know no one gets hurt. My grandma inspires me; she was an artist, too. I saw her work as a kid and thought about doing art because of her.

I'm part of a community of artists with and without disabilities called The Arts of Life. It's here in Chicago. Before I joined the community, I worked at McDonalds and the Hampton Inn. I did some artwork at home, mostly drawing. My work has become more complex since I started at Arts of Life a few years ago. Since I'm a full-time artist now, I can focus more on the colors and objects in each painting. I like working with other artists and sharing studio space. I get to chat with the guys and goof around. I also learn from the other artists at the studio. My subject matter is always mine, but sometimes I use techniques that I see others using.

As an artist, why have you chosen to work in Chicago?

Living in Chicago impacts me as an artist and also as a musician. The opportunities I've had to show my work and perform my music probably wouldn't be available to me (especially as a person with a disability) outside of an urban environment. My art community affects my work a lot and is also affected by me. I affect people the same way they affect me. We watch each other work and learn from that. It's hard to explain what it's like here at the Arts of Life studio—you'd have to come visit (which anyone is welcome to do). We find solutions for problems together. We laugh a lot. We work hard. We have lots of volunteers who come because they love the art and the program. A lot of people with and without disabilities say they are inspired by what we do. Our studio is full of energy and creativity with more than 20 artists who are all different and interesting. It is a great place to work.

What's next for you in terms of upcoming art projects or exhibitions?

I wanna do some work on reclaimed glass. I want to write and record more music. In the future I'd love to move to Hollywood and do set design.  


Mike Marino enjoys doing art with markers and effects, watercolors and painting. He loves to draw superheroes, wrestlers, and his family. Painting comes naturally to him; he doesn’t do lots of planning but instead paints whatever he is thinking at the moment. He's also an actor and musician and recently playing Fitz Fontaine in Grease. He sings and writes music with the Arts of Life band and wrote his first song, “Happy and Proud,” for his kidney donor. He's also written a song for his case manager. Mike has been a part of the Arts of Life community for a few years, where he has a studio space.

Published by CAR_Laura on Mon, 09/27/2010 - 9:01am
Updated on Wed, 02/24/2016 - 11:47am