Celery And Shoelaces: An Interview With Mike Duggins

Mar 25th, 2014 | By | Category: Entertainment, Sights

Mike Duggins is one of those people that would be a good walk-on spot for anything starring Harry Dean Stanton, other than Pretty In Pink. He’s a local artist who is as funny and polite as he is talented, not some overconfidant windbag who does nothing but tell you how amazing he is. A friend of mine sent me some of his work recently and after seeing his amusing musings on everything from Bela Lugosi to the horrificness of shoelaces, I figured that he’d make a damn entertaining interview.


1. What old music are you listening to these days? Although it’s hardly comparable, when I write I listen to different music than I do when I’m doing something else for work, and before a chemistry test I’d always listen to Kraftwerk’s “Radioactivity” for good luck although it never seemed to work well. Do you find that you listen to something specific when you’re creating your art?

Mike: Much of the time the theme of the artwork I’m doing may influence what I listen to. For instance, if I’m drawing one of my ugly creatures, I’ll listen to sleazy late 1950s- early 60s instrumentals, with lots of wailing, raucous saxophones, guitars, and drums. For a show I had in October I did some pen-and-ink tableau old-time illustrations. While doing these I mostly listened to old 1920s hillbilly music steeped in poverty and misery.

One time Poverty and Misery got drunk, had really bad sex, and then begat me.

2. What do you think of artists who use shock value as their main schtick? I’m thinking of ones like Damien Hirst and Andres Serrano as two mainstream examples. I have always been a Hirst fan but the butterfly exhibit was kind of the end of that for me. I don’t mind shock value and I usually like it, but killing something for art isn’t something that I can appreciate.

Mike: If someone IS actually shocking and not just looking for attention it could have more validity. But I’m not very enthused about “conceptual” art in general. My preference is for those who have some obvious talent and put in the time with what they do. I don’t like killing in the name of “art” either. Back in the 1970s this guy shot and killed a dog and filmed it, and called it “art.”

I hope he dies of testicular cancer.

Just give me Sir John Tenniel over Tracey Emin any day.

3. What do you think is Tennessee Ernie Ford‘s greatest hit? I’m going with A Mighty Fortress Is Our God so you can’t pick that.

Mike: I’m kind of partial to “Shotgun Boogie.” Don’t know if it was a big hit, but it’s a great tune.

4. Do you think that there’s any better art form for capturing subversiveness or satire than cartoons?

Mike: I think the written word may be the most superior. Cartoons and novelty tunes run a close second.

5. What inspires your work?

Mike: Different things inspire me, sometimes it could be music, sometimes a person, other times seeing some artwork that particularly strikes me. Sometimes I do things that are not inspired, and it probably shows.

6. If you were laid up in bed with a broken leg and someone to bring you cake and club soda all day long, what would you binge watch, read, and/or listen to while you were so indisposed?

Mike: I’d watch my DVDs of 1930s Vitaphone Shorts comedy films, some 1930s Ub Iwerks Flip The Frog and/or Betty Boop cartoons, some Three Stooges, Tod Browning’s Freaks, maybe a Mel Brooks movie, and end up with some British comedy or Car 54, Where Are You episodes. I’d read roman noir, maybe some James Thurber and/or S.J. Perelman short comedy pieces, perhaps a bit of Bertie Russell or George Orwell, or some books on film that I have.

7. What more should public schools be doing to encourage kids to have more of an interest in art, whether it’s in creating it or simply appreciating it? Along with that question, when you were in school, was your type of art encouraged? Sadly, by the time we got an art class, I was graduating but my children have both had truly amazing art teachers so far, ones who really seem to try to expose them to tons of different forms of art, not just make them sit down and draw for a full semester. For example, the art teacher at Lindley Elementary held a recycled art show last year and showcased art from all of the kids she taught, not just the “best” ones, but all of them. It was set up in the media center and we could all wander around and look, and it was the best thing ever.

Mike: I think kids that are involved with art anyway are going to find a way to do it in school no matter what, mostly in their notebooks in class while the teacher isn’t looking. I did that, and look how awesome and successful I turned out to be!! My high school art teacher, Mrs. Dameron, was very supportive of what I did. Her class was a joy to attend.

But you can’t force art on people that aren’t interested, I’ve learned that.

8. Do you buy into the idea that creative types can’t hold proper jobs, that they can’t function in a 9 to 5 society? Does a 9 to 5 society by its nature kind of beat the creativity out of you even if you have a job where you can be creative?

Mike: I’m fairly creative, and I can usually hold down a job when I’m lucky enough to land one. I commuted from my home in Davie county to Greensboro for years. As long as I’m at a job, I try to do my best, all jokes aside. And of course the atmosphere of a workplace has a lot to do with nurturing or stifling creativity. And the people that one works for and with.

People who I can joke with really make my day.

A lot of creatives, including myself, just do not have the ability to “sell” themselves. I couldn’t sell nuclear secrets to North Korea.

(I’m kind of the opposite of most people: I could always save some money, I’ve just never been able to make a lot of it.)

9. Name 5 things that you really, really hate.

Mike: I HATE:
1. Ted Nugent
2. That damned “Moonlight Feels Right” song from the late 70s or early 80s.
3. Double knit polyester
4. Shoelaces
5. Celery

10. Name 10 things that you love more than anything since you should love more than you hate.

Mike: Hate is more fun, but I do actually love some things:
1. 1920-30s culture, jazz and novelty songs, especially Harry Reser’s Six Jumping Jacks, Cliff Edwards, Paul Whiteman, etc.
2. Tiny Tim
3. Louis Wain
4. Basil Wolverton
5. Viv Stanshall
6. Two-tone spectator shoes, maybe worn with Hawaiian shirts or a nice suit
7. 78 rpm records, shellac and vinyl in general.
8. Old-school punk rock. I’m too old for it now, but I still think it can be fun.
9. Victorian illustrations, and that age in general.
10. People that loathe Ted Nugent as much as I do.

11. What would you save from a fire?

Mike: For people, I’d save my wife, if she didn’t have to save me first. As far as possessions, I’d save the cats, my 78s and vinyl from a fire, my ukes, maybe a few of my hard to replace two-tone shoes, and vintage stuff like that.

12. Some of your art that I’ve seen you posting on Facebook makes me think that Tom Waits would buy it. What type of person tends to buy your work? Has this person usually seen Freaks? (hopefully that’s a requirement)

Mike: What’s frustrating is that most of the people who really like what I do can’t afford it. When I do something really detailed I have to charge a certain amount for it. They are poor, cool folks that have great taste, what can I say.

But the people that have bought my art have been musicians, mostly.

13. Which artists do you most admire in other genres?

Mike: For music I like Tom Waits, Tiny Tim, The Bonzo Dog Band, Capt. Beefheart, some classical and schmaltz, old jazz, as I said above, and old hillbilly tunes, NOT this horrible Mickey Mouse shit they are calling “country” music now. It is just loud, crappy pop music with an occasional fiddle and steel guitar wedged in there to make simpletons think that it is “country.”

Yeah, right.

I could rant about that for eons.

14. Do you have formal art training? Did you scare your parents to death with creepy drawings as a child? Please say yes.

Mike: I drew monsters when i was a kid, but not so much the detailed, warty ones that I do now. I tried to do some comics, like underground comics, etc.
My folks didn’t pay real close attention to my art, except when I would draw political figures like Nixon, etc. my father would look at them.

I have a “BFA” from East Carolina University which means no more now than it did way back then. Probably less, since everything I learned then is obsolete in the present day.

The moral of the story: NEVER LEARN ANYTHING. Unless right before you’re going to die, then it will not have time to change over on you again.


One Comment to “Celery And Shoelaces: An Interview With Mike Duggins”

  1. Loved getting a peek behind the curtain with what inspires Mike’s work, especially the relationship he has with music. Just wish you could have showed off more of his awesome work!

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