Lifestyle

The Art of Instagram: MiceOfMillions

Throughout the existence of my Art of Instagram series, I’ve had the opportunity to speak to many great artists¬†around the world. Meeting Jamie Johnson was particularly exciting because, whether or not he labels himself as a graffiti artist, the influence of street art is clearly there. Known widely as Mice of Millions, Johnson hails originally from Southern Connecticut, having moved around from city to city before settling in Los Angeles, CA, 8 years ago.

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“I grew up at my grandfather’s, and he was a professional artist.” He explains. “I sort of grew up in a pretty creative family. My father was in advertising, and my mom a sculptor. My aunts and my cousins were all artists. There’s a huge influence from my grandfather in my art. He worked in some really decor styles that I definitely picked up. I like to play a lot of angles and exaggerate many things.”

After working various jobs to make ends meet, Jamie decided to dedicate himself full time to his art a few years after making LA his home. Although the art of the many cities Mice Of Millions has found himself living in, including New York and Chicago, have had an impact on him, he claims that it was the West Coast graffiti scene that really caught his attention. Johnson elaborates “The illustration styles, the exaggerated lines, everything like that was the same style that my grandfather had. It almost seemed like they took that and exaggerated them even more.sort of blew it out of the water, put it on steroids. I saw a lot of cool things come out of New York, but I really think it was the West Coast stuff that really turned me on to stuff because they were doing illustrations in their graffiti.”

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The influence did not stop there. Johnson credits cartoons for much of his inspiration. “I was really into Garfield, 1980-anthropomorphics, you know, social satire animal cartoons. All the great cartoonists that were coming out around that time, they built a whole culture around that.” As farad the graffiti influence, Johnson explains “it’s always been there. Ever since I was a little sh*t I’ve been tagging. Marking up stuff was always a thing of mine.”

In regards to his signature “evil rodents” as he jokingly described them: “I’ve had the rabbit character since I was maybe about 5 years old. I had them all named and I used to do little comic strips with them. Over the years, it sort of evolved; once I got influenced by graffiti, I started having a more laid-back, West Coast style for my drawings, and they just sort of evolved from there.” When asked if he had grown attached to these characters: “My characters are with me forever. I feel like I know them better than most people. It kinda happens naturally, you grow a relationship with your character”

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Lately, however, Mice of Millions has been focusing a bit more on political statements and analogies through his work, particularly concerning the rights of Americans. He describes the nation as having made a complete 180 after the tragedies of 9/11, and the dramatic changes to society since them have been something of a source of thought. Flight and travel, censorship, meeting strangers, they have all changed after the tragedy. “Noone’s personal anymore. It’s very sheltered; you can’t shake people’s hands anymore. It’s really uncomfortable, and I think it’s really kind of my job to point out that our rights are disappearing. A lot of it’s not right for me, so I try to put a lot of that in there.”

Johnson keeps busy with various walls lined up for him to paint. From private businesses to horse-jumping competitions, Johnson does not miss out on the opportunities put in front of him. “I want people to recognize graffiti as a valid art form, and the more I can do that, the better.” Although the struggles of being in the art industry are always present in his own life, Mice of Millions expresses the importance he places on supporting independent artists doing their own thing, whether it be painting, music, etc. “I respect those guys a lot. Even when I find an artist on Pandora, I’ll try and find them on Facebook and send them a message. It usually turns out they’re struggling too. So I’ll shoot hem a message, tell them I like their work and that I’ll do their cover art for free. Just out of respect for what they do.”

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An extreme pleasure it was to speak to Mice of Millions of Millions, not only because he’s got undeniable talent, but one of the warmest personalities I’ve seen, making for enjoyable conversation. To wrap up the interview, our friend Jamie Johnson shared the following words: “To the aspiring artists, keep working. To the hip-hop artists, keep working. Anybody struggling that thinks that they can’t make it happen, they can. Whatever you do, just keep it authentic. Don’t jock anybody else’s stuff, just be you. When things are looking tough and sh*tty, chances are you’re doing the right thing.”

Check out @miceofmillions on Instagram and check out Johnson’s site at http://miceofmillions.com