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Meet Mike Shisler of San Diego

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mike Shisler.

Hi Mike, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
Like many children, I had a love for drawing, art and creativity. Later in life, this passion led me to pursue architecture. However, after ten years into my career, I found that I was drifting farther and farther from the artistic aspects of the profession. To remedy this, and supplement my days of spreadsheets and schedules, I began to keep an observational sketchbook of the world around me and the things that I found inspiring. These scribbles and point of view drawings quickly became one of my favorite pastimes and the pages filled up quickly. My bookshelf of sketchbooks quietly grew until 2017 when I decided to make a change.

I quit my 9-5 job, rented out the house, moved into a van and began traveling the country to pursue my true passions; art, travel, and adventure. My weeks quickly filled with hikes and bike rides; always with a kit of pens and paintbrushes in my backpack. Everyday, I sat out in nature, soaking in the fresh mountain air, the ocean breeze, the hot desert sun and even the freezing cold. Through my online store I began selling my work, taking on commissions and even collaborating with companies to create custom logos, labels and illustrations. Today, I run a fully remote art business from my Sprinter van, creating plein air ink and watercolor paintings for customers all over the world.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Placing all of my belongings, my livelihood and my sense of purpose into a vehicle can be daunting. I drive slowly and cautiously, but when a herd of elk ran across the road in the winter of 2018 there was little I could do. On a snowy night in Idaho I was faced with a wrecked van and a few big decisions to make. I had spent 5 months building the inside of the van into a tiny house on wheels and that seemed like an insurmountable project to repeat. But ultimately, I knew there was more road to explore and I doubled down to rebuild and get back on the road.

Now, several years and a hundred thousand miles later, I know that an elk or anything else around the next bend won’t stop me from chasing what makes me happy.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
As a nomadic artist my work is directly inspired by the world around me. I create ink and watercolor paintings ‘en plein air’ which is a fancy French word meaning ‘outside’ or ‘in open air’. Being immersed into a place means that I connect with it physically and emotionally which translates directly onto the paper. Sometimes in small, immeasurable ways, and other times in big gestures, the environment that I’m painting embodies itself into my work. Also, painting live, on location means I must work fast before the light changes or the entire scene evolves. I have been rushed out by a rising tide, swarmed by mosquitos, watched my watercolors freeze on the page, been rained out, snowed out, blown out and sweated out. But with each element bearing down on me, it simply means that another layer of that place is transferred onto the page. I not only capture the light and shadow, scale and proportion, but also the sense of place and the spirit of what it’s like to stand in that moment.

How do you think about happiness?
Being able to make art a part of my life has made me enormously happy. Not only is it a career that I never dreamed of being able to manifest, but it’s what drives me to explore, to see new things, visit new places and live a more fulfilling life.

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