We had the good fortune of connecting with Michael Polakowksi and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michael, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
The concept of “work life balance” has evolved for me over the years. I think when you are just starting out as a creative, and especially as a painter, you can’t afford to have balance. Painting will probably not pay your bills at first, which is a reality that I experienced in so many different ways. At the start of my career I worked in retail, as an in-house designer, and eventually as a manager for a company that produced murals. After every work day I always had paintings to make and it was a lot like having two jobs. Luckily, I looked forward to being able to paint every night never had any difficulty motivating myself to work. That scarcity of time really makes you appreciate the time you have just for yourself, and my favorite moments were after work at the diner half way between my work and my studio. Later on I took part in an artist residency that allowed me to paint full-time for the first time in my life. I was able to live in the same building as my studio at the time, so the temptation to work was always there. At that point I just worked more and more each week and really fell into a rhythm with my studio practice. However, by the end of the residency I was just tired haha! I had to hit the reset on what my priorities were and what my life looked like. With the momentum that I received from that residency, I’ve been working full time as an artist for a little over a year now. My days involve waking up at 7 or 8 AM, painting for 6-8 hours every day, running, and making dinner. I still can’t afford to take most weekends off, but I’m much happier with where I’m at. Having to work other jobs in the past has clarified for me that I want to be a painter. Now, balance is dependent on my deadlines and shows. My girlfriend is also a really dedicated scientist and we have talked a lot about what balance means for us as individuals and as a team. It’s been great having someone who is in a very similar situation as a partner, and knowing that I always want to make time for her (and our dog). I can’t say that I’d ever want to eventually have weekends off (what would I even DO) but I’m moving towards being able to take breaks and make space for everything that matters.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a painter and a muralist from Detroit, MI. Growing up in Michigan, my parents were always supportive of me being an artist and my sister, Katie, is also an art director. She was two years ahead of me in school, and I can’t tell you how many times I had to call or her for help, especially in the early days when I had no clue how to draw or use Photoshop haha! On top of that, I became friends with some amazingly talented artists while in Detroit, most of which I have a working relationship with to some extent. Seeing how talented and dedicated my friends were definitely raised the bar for what I expected from myself. I think the biggest hurdle for artists is trying to find a community of people who feel as passionate as they are. I already mentioned this, but Goldtop studios has become my second home at times and I’m really grateful to be a part of it.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
KO Studio Gallery would be the first stop for sure! They are a studio space and gallery, and have produced some of the best shows I’ve been to in Detroit. Everyone there is welcoming, and it is the best way to get initiated into Detroit. After that we would walk down the street to Bumbo’s to grab a beer.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have to mention my amazing studio-mates! Always having someone who is at our co-working space, Goldtop, makes being there so much more enjoyable. Getting critique, playing a game of chess in between projects, or having a beer at the end of the day makes this place feel like home.
Brock Kalnasy Blake Yard