An Artist’s Perspective: Realist Artist Mike Mayone on Being Self-Taught

“Many people who excel are self-taught.” – Herb Ritts

It takes passion and dedication to educate yourself to a master level in anything, but when it comes to exceptionally detailed, realistic paintings, one might be inclined to think that receiving a formal education in the medium would be the only way to get there. Painter Mike Mayone proves that wrong. A self-taught artist, he took the road less traveled — and it’s a good thing for the art world that he did.


All in the Family

When he reflects back on his career, Mayone sees being self-taught as an advantage. “The fact that when I discover something interesting or revealing about painting technique, I am living that experience and I will never forget that lesson. And there have been MANY,” he explains.

Those lessons started when he was just a young child, growing up in Connecticut. It was family that fostered Mayone’s passion for art. He credits his mother with giving him her “art genes.” She was a professional artist before raising five children. At any given time, any one of his four siblings could be found engaging in art. “It wasn’t uncommon for two or three of us to be sitting around the kitchen table sketching, doodling, and creating comics…including those animated ones we would draw in the margins of my mother’s paperback novels and flip through the pages for laughs!” he recounted. He suspects that his preference for painting on a flat surface rather than upright on an easel comes from his time drawing with his siblings at the table.

Mayone’s start as a professional wasn’t quite what you might expect. As a teenager he earned extra money by designing and painting signs and “occasionally, portraits of friend’s pets on their mailboxes or tire covers for their vans or 4x4s. Now and then, I’d make a gift of a painting for a relative or close friend.” One of his memorable early pieces was of a friend’s GTO, a painting which outlived the featured car.

When Mayone moved to Vermont with his wife in 1991, an art gallery opened in Rochester the very same day. He had continued his painting hobby and decided to join the Rochester Artists’ Guild. His early success with that organization got him hooked, and he has professionally produced art to this day.autumn-dairy-farm

A Diversity of Styles, But a Focus on Realism

While Mayone is known for the high-detail realism of his wildlife and landscape paintings, it’s not the only style you’ll see from him in the Brandon Artists Guild gallery.

My artwork can be pretty diverse. I like to work in a wide range of styles – from folk art to photo-realism. And I enjoy working in a variety of mediums as well, although acrylic is probably my favorite. But now and then, a particular painting may be better executed in oil, due to oil’s slower drying time and the ability to more leisurely blend colors and soften the look. Then again, I frequently work in watercolor and a bit less less often in graphite (pencil), pastel, and pen and ink. Much of the time, it depends on the subject and which medium seems best-suited for it.” Mayone also creates commissioned pieces for clients in the style or medium that they request.

Originally, Mayone had a short-lived fascination with abstract art, before finally settling on realism. “When I was a kid and first started painting in acrylics, I did a few outlandish abstracts… but was never really impressed with them. It was fun working with the bold colors, but the first time I decided to accurately duplicate an attractive photograph in paint by hand, I kind-of knocked my socks off. Because I’ve refined my techniques for achieving that level of realism over the decades, why not? Lots of artists capture a loose representation of realism with minimal brushstrokes. I tend to enjoy being in the minority of those who take the time to capture realism in a far more detailed way.”

A Commitment to Community

Art isn’t Mayone’s only passion. His generous spirit has long given him the desire to help other people. In 1980, he decided to help people in their greatest time of need by becoming a firefighter. “It was a natural progression to become trained in how to do it effectively during some of the worst disasters people face. People who choose this path in life are all exceptional folks and it’s an honor to work with them, shoulder to shoulder, serving our communities. The best part is helping my neighbors in their time of need.” After earning “Firefighter of the Year” honors, we think he’s probably pretty good at it, too!

Mayone on Mayone

Let’s look at a few pieces that are memorable for Mayone and how he describes them in his own words.

Springtime at the Homestead. “This is a 25×36″ acrylic I spent the entire summer painting, back in 1995. I even brought it on vacation with me to work on – that’s how time-consuming that piece was. But the end-result is an amazing, photo-realistic portrait of a porch with rocking chairs on an old stone house at the Basin Harbor Club on Lake Champlain. And that’s where the original is today, in the lobby of the lodge at Basin Harbor.”springtime-at-the-homestead

Holsteins. “This is  a Vermont parody of ‘Pintos’ and ‘Le Port de Petit Rocher,’ an acrylic of a fishing port in New Brunswick, Canada (one of the few paintings I’ve done that isn’t of Vermont).”holsteins-a-vermont-parody-of-pintos

Granville Grandeur. “It must be the natural beauty of the region that draws us here because the Green Mountain State has one of the highest percentages of artists out there. Lots of subject matter, for sure!”


All images copyright Mike Mayone, used with permission