Unveiling Artistic Joy and Community Impact: An Interview with Greg Mike

Greg Mike is not just an artist; he’s a visionary whose vibrant murals and playful characters have transformed urban landscapes worldwide. Inspired by retro cartoons and fueled by a passion for positive expression, Greg’s journey from graffiti artist to cultural icon has been marked by a commitment to spreading joy and empowerment through his art. His iconic character, Larry Loudmouf, serves as both a personal voice and a community symbol, engaging audiences through a collaborative initiative that amplifies diverse voices. In this exclusive interview, Greg shares insights into his artistic evolution, the intersection of personal expression and commercial collaborations, and the profound impact of public art on shaping vibrant communities.

Many of your pieces incorporate playful characters. What’s the story behind them?

My characters are inspired by the many different people I’ve crossed paths with along the way and their unique personalities. They represent all walks of life and display looks of energy and happiness all while being a little bit sinister. My main character Larry Loudmouf was created over 15 years ago and was inspired by years of watching retro cartoons. It’s now developed into a project that represents way more than my voice through the “LOUDMOUF SAYS” initiative where my community of supporters submit what’s on their minds. The phrases then get incorporated into everything from murals, billboards, stickers and more. It was something that initially started as my voice and my mind, but now it’s grown into something so much larger. I hope the legend of LARRY LOUDMOUF lives forever and continues to speak as a voice of our community even long after I am gone.

How do you balance your personal artistic expression with commercial projects and collaborations?

This is something I always try to make sure that there is a healthy balance between the two. When it comes to my commercial projects that incorporate my personal artwork, I’ll agree to work on the project if it’s currently a part of my everyday lifestyle. For example, the brands I’ve collaborated with are all brands I am actively engaging with. Whether it’s Coca Cola, Delta Airlines, or the Atlanta Braves, these are all part of my life so it’s a natural fit that we work together in a collaborative fashion.

What role do you believe public art plays in shaping communities and urban landscapes?

Public art has the ability to give a voice to both the artist and communities to positively enhance a city. I’ve seen it first hand in Atlanta. Over the past 15 years Atlanta has really blossomed into a city known for its arts and it’s been an honor to play a part in that with my personal artwork, our gallery, our mural project, and artists we represent. Turning blank walls into beautiful canvases adds color to typically boring concrete walls and brings the city to life visually. Everywhere you look there’s art in our city and it’s only continuing to grow. Developers and the city see the value of art and how our Atlantans and visitors love and support it.  At this point it’s woven into the fabric of our city and culture.

Your murals often convey messages of positivity and empowerment. Why is this important to you?

Growing up I was an angry child and would paint very dark imagery to channel my inner feelings. At the time, I was doing it as a means to release my thoughts, almost like writing in a daily journal as it was therapy for me. I remember I would hide my sketchbooks under my bed so my parents couldn’t see them. As time passed and I began putting graffiti on the streets my conscience kicked in and I realized the negative effect it could have on others and how that was making me feel. I started leaning into the happier side of things in life and painting those thoughts and feelings and channeling that energy. I felt way better creating work inspired by these feelings and the reaction from the community was positive as well. Once I began painting massive walls in other cities, I felt a heavy responsibility to paint work that was both positive and inspiring. I think it’s important with street art that it does good for those who interact since sometimes people are forced to look at it on the daily. I try to convey positive feelings through colors, words, and characters with my work when painting work in the public sphere these days.

Can you share any memorable reactions or interactions you’ve had with people encountering your art?

I love seeing how my work has influenced kids and how it’s being taught in schools. Art saved me growing up and has allowed me to travel the world doing what I truly love. If I am able to inspire any kids to follow their passion, then that’s a win in my book. A few years back a teacher made a downloadable lesson plan for schools where kids created their own LOUDMOUF character and added their sayings to the speech bubbles. They then installed them on the school walls creating huge murals. I’ve seen hundreds of schools do this and post it online and it’s a wonderful thing to see.

What challenges have you faced as an artist, and how have they shaped your practice?

The challenges are always appearing when you’re constantly trying to push your practice. It can be things like having delayed flights for a mural festival and getting hit with rain for 3 days straight when having a strict 4 day schedule to paint it. Then, being forced to work 24 hours straight to finish the piece to catch the flight on time for the next project. There’s always a solution to every problem and it’s something I’ve really learned over the years. Dwelling over challenges will do nothing, coming up with creative solutions will do everything.

Can you tell us about a particularly challenging or ambitious project you’ve undertaken?

4 years ago I purchased a 9000 sq ft church built in the 1950’s and have been renovating it into a dream creative project. The space will house my painting studio, my gallery ABV GALLERY and my agency ABV AGENCY. It will also include a retail shop, design studio, art vault, mural walls, and tons of room for producing exhibitions and installations. When I started the renovation process I knew nothing about it and over the past few years have tackled it hands on. Along the way there have been so many challenges and hurdles to jump over. Luckily I have some good friends I’ve met along the way who have stepped in and shared their knowledge and key learnings about the construction process.  We are right around the corner from the grand opening and can’t wait for everyone to experience it and for what we have planned for the future. Learn more about the project here.

What’s next for Greg Mike?

With the launch of the new building I will be opening the first exhibition in the space with a solo show of all my new work that I have been creating for the last year. It’s a really special moment for me as it’s the 15th anniversary of LARRY LOUDMOUF and the start of my professional art career. It’s also been 10 years since my last solo exhibition in Atlanta so it’s very serendipitous how all this timing has aligned with the building being completed. The show will feature all my mediums as well as introduce a few new styles of works as well. I’m 20 years into my art career, but feel like I am just getting started..