Michael’s fascination and ability in art have been apparent from an early age. While growing up in Nashville, TN, he actively pursued what artistic avenues he could, taking lessons in various media, studying art history, and visiting all the art collections that were available to him.
Michael was fortunate to travel a good deal when he was younger. He believes it fostered an appreciation for the profound effect place can have on a person. When he was fourteen, the Griffin family took a cruise up Alaska’s Inside Passage. The experience sparked Michael’s interest for the outdoors, and his imagination wandered from the boat and coastal towns to exploring the mountains. Two years later to satisfy his new fascination with the West, he took a seven week backpacking trip starting from Jackson Hole, Wyoming spanning the American Northwest of Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. He followed up the next summer with seven weeks of backpacking, canoeing, and kayaking in Alaska and the Yukon Territory. Although he was not yet painting the landscapes, their visual power left an indelible mark. This early exposure to the pristine wilderness of the West would eventually lead him back to Jackson Hole in pursuit of his art education.
In 2002, Michael graduated from Wake Forest University with a BA in English and a minor in Studio Art. After graduation, he moved to Atlanta and attended the Portfolio Center where he would study to become a commercial illustrator. It became apparent almost immediately that his heart was tuned to fine art and oil painting rather than illustration. One instructor with a great interest in traditional painting opened Michael’s eyes to the study of plein air landscape painting. Shortly thereafter, Michael left for the expansive scenery of Jackson Hole where he would live, paint outdoors, and take workshops under renowned landscape painters Scott Christensen , Matt Smith, and Ralph Oberg.
The time in the West of nearly two years has shaped his convictions of what is good art. His main contemporary role models include landscape painters Clyde Aspevig and Scott Christensen. Historical favorites are John Singer Sargent, Carl Rungius, the California Impressionists, Nicolai Fechin, Albert Bierstadt, and several French and Russian impressionists.
From the time I was little playing in the wooded hills around my Tennessee home to snow skiing in the Rocky Mountains to climbing massive South Carolina oaks draped in Spanish moss, my upbringing was one intimately connected with nature. It was a childhood steeped in adventure. I fell in love with discovering places and their varied moods, atmospheres, and lights. As a grown man, I have tried to retain this childlike sense of wonder in the face of nature while adding the maturity of an artist’s critical eye.
My creative process begins on location by making small plein air (“outdoor”) paintings in an effort to capture the immediacy and authenticity of being in a place. Although I spend a considerable amount of time painting outdoors, I am careful to distinguish myself from being solely a plein air artist. What I produce in the field is only a raw, honest response to my surroundings, and the majority of my creative work continues in the studio as I compose more balanced and developed works of art. I work exclusively with oil paint on linen panels and build my images through a process of layering the paint, often letting a layer rest for a month or more before reworking the painting.
The well renowned painter and teacher Audrey Flack once said, “Great art is in exquisite balance… It is restorative.” My mission is continually to strive for this “exquisite balance” in my artwork and to create windows to the natural world that are restorative to the human spirit.