Mike Dorner is an accomplished creative from Pretoria, South Africa. Multi-talented in art direction, photography, digital photo manipulation and more, Dorner was selected as one of the Creative Ad Open Call winners, a collaboration between Creative Circle and Artrepreneur. Mike is a self described “music nut, wannabe cocktail connoisseur and extremely compassionate person who is driven to create artistic magic with a diverse group of people.” The Creative Career Center’s content curator, Brian Young, talks to Dorner about combining his passions for both music and art, his love of collaboration, and his philosophy that creativity is a way of thinking, and not a talent.
Mike Dorner Interview Transcript:
Brian Young [00:00:01] Welcome to the Creative Career Center podcast series, I’m Brian Young content curator for Artrepreneur’s Creative Career Center. In this episode we’ll be interviewing Mike Dorner, one of the winners of our Creative Ad Open Call. Nice to meet you Mike and welcome to our podcast.
Mike Dorner [00:00:17] Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure.
Brian Young [00:00:19] It’s our pleasure as well. So, would you take a moment to tell us a little bit about yourself in terms of being a creator?
Mike Dorner [00:00:27] Yeah. I think I’ve always had a creative mindset. But, you know, as I’ve learned, being creative isn’t really a talent. It’s more of a thinking process and that’s part of one of the biggest things that I’ve learned over my entire career is just learning how to work with others and collaborating in the artistic field. It’s been a long journey ever since about high school that I got into the creative space and learning that art was really just a hobby for me. But the fact that I was doing it in my free time and the fact that it was something that I enjoyed so much is really a big reason why I decided to make it my career and focus on that. I think that’s what anyone should do, going into whatever it is they enjoy in their daily lives. You know, do what is actually going to keep you in a positive mindset throughout your whole life, honestly.
Brian Young [00:01:35] Totally, absolutely agree, positivity is super key, especially in being a creator and creating artwork which I happen to love. Yours is super fantastic and I want to dive in a little bit more about that in a few, but first I want to ask: how does your passion for music and art intersect and how does art and music relate together?
Mike Dorner [00:01:58] Well I think it’s pretty clear we all know that music is an art form, and one of the biggest things that I’ve realized between music and other forms of art, like design and analog art styles, is just that both music and art are ever-evolving, especially through our society and throughout history. I think they kind of go hand-in-hand with any creative field. So, whenever I’m doing artwork, I’m always listening to music and always trying to interpret that into what I’m doing. It’s a big influence for me and has been a big part of my career, especially earlier on because that’s kind of where I got my start. Doing album artwork and single artwork for up-and-coming artists who really didn’t have a huge budget but wanted to have someone that could support them. I was also looking for an avenue to create, so it was just a perfect mix for me, and I think it’s just kind of beautiful when artists can collaborate to create something amazing, even though that their talents are in different fields.
Brian Young [00:03:28] Would you say that music is the reason you got into arts and being a creator?
Mike Dorner [00:03:34] I think it’s definitely what kickstarted being a graphic designer. I’ve had a lot of time to engage in music creation as a hobby, but it’s essentially what kickstarted my passion for graphic design because I was constantly obsessing over album design and seeing how fluid that art style can be, and that there aren’t really any rules to that. So, being able to dive deeper into that is what really got me interested in the graphic design world and seeing how musicians curate their artwork is so fascinating to me. That’s definitely what kickstarted my passion for graphic work. Absolutely, music is a huge part of my life and I assume that it’s a big part of anybody’s that is doing creative work.
Brian Young [00:04:42] Absolutely I agree. I think that music is integral in being a creator and the creative process. I know that I get inspired by certain types of music or certain lyrics and I just kind of run with whatever it is that I’m feeling at the moment, which is truly passion you know?
Mike Dorner [00:05:00] Absolutely. I mean currently even at my job now, every day in the office we are constantly playing music, whatever is new every Friday on Spotify, wherever any music is coming out. We are constantly blasting it so that we can have our juices flowing.
Brian Young [00:05:20] What does it mean to you to be an Artrepreneur? I know we’re kind of bringing together the art world and the business world into being an Artrepreneur. What does that mean to you?
Mike Dorner [00:05:31] Well, I thought about that and I think it’s truly about being open minded and a lot of what people chase nowadays with their art is trying to make a living, as well. And I think being open minded and collaborating as much as possible has been one of the biggest rewards for me, in terms of finding out what is actually useful and working in the art world. There are a lot of artists that I think work alone and focus on whatever their craft is, but something that is so important has been has been to collaborate with others and to open your mind to whatever other opinions are out there so that you aren’t bogged down in one linear path. I think going about whatever you want to create should have some influence from other people. So that’s also important when it comes to networking too, so that you can find avenues to pursue maybe in a business that you didn’t even think existed before. So, that’s probably my biggest piece of advice: just being open and open minded and open to collaboration.
Brian Young [00:07:01] You absolutely should be open minded to the networking, to creativity, to anybody’s input and collaboration. Being open is the key to collaboration because a good idea can come from anywhere and from any one.
Brian Young [00:07:29] Shifting back for a second to your art. The pieces that you submitted for open call were amazing, and one of the questions that I wanted to ask after taking a look at your pieces is: what do you want your art to say? When you strive to create, what is it that you want to say? Is it something that’s an underlying theme? Is it just what hits you in the moment? Tell us more about that.
Mike Dorner [00:07:50] Yeah, it’s an interesting question because I’ve never truly asked myself that until now. I think it kind of just goes back to that whole idea of music and art. Just making sure that people can see that I’m not just one voice, and that I work with other people, and that whatever I’m creating has a lot of different flavors to it. It’s not necessarily just saying one thing, but that it’s very diverse and includes a lot of different input from other people. So, that’s why I like to use a lot of photographers’ work in my pieces. So, I’ll work with local artists, people from across the country, people that send me messages over social media, and things like that, that want to work with me just because they see that there is a lot of opportunity to combine forces. And I would say that my work is a huge kind of collage. It’s not necessarily one signature style that I have. I do use a somewhat minimal and colorful palette for sure, but it’s always different and there’s never necessarily the same kind of elements used twice. So that’s just kind of what my work centers around: just being diverse and going back to that idea of open collaboration and being open minded.
Brian Young [00:09:45] And going off of that and open collaboration: Is the open collaboration truly inspiring for you, or what do you find that inspires you the most to actually be creative and to create something?
Mike Dorner [00:10:02] I think it’s just an excitement for being able to meet people. I think one of the biggest things that I find enjoyment from in life outside of work, is spending time with friends, family, and meeting new people. And anyone should be open to engaging in that kind of mindset where the daily activities that they engage in should be people-forward and human-forward and trying to create positive relationships. I think there’s a lot of divide in society currently and there has been you know throughout time so it’s important for people to always have that ambition to be kind to each other. That’s kind of been my driver as well as just trying to create a very cool looking art. I hope that you know it’s mainly about the process and creating itself. So, it’s actually the best part for me is that process where you actually working together and then if I’m lucky then the results are cool, too.
Brian Young [00:11:26] Absolutely, your results are totally cool. We definitely consider you to be an Artrepreneur and coming off of the Creative Ad Open Call campaign and our tagline “Artrepreneurs Start Here”, where would you suggest other creatives begin their careers?
Mike Dorner [00:11:44] Oh, as soon as possible. Absolutely. It’s kind of an interesting thing to think about, but I feel like my career started when I was in high school and I don’t consider myself to be an early starter, but I guess looking back, to be an Artrepreneur is having that ambition and drive and applying it to whatever you’re doing. I think people should think back about the first time that they found something that they loved and that they’re passionate about. For me that was in high school and I took to graphic design classes. Shout out to Mr. Schmidt at Lincoln High School, because that was one of the first moments that I found graphic design to be something I’m so passionate about and something that I do in my free time. I actually initially went to school for film in college. I went for film, but I was doing graphic work in my free time, so I asked myself: what is it that I want to actually be doing with my career? So, I stopped doing film and I wanted to do what I was doing as a hobby, which was graphic work. So, that’s what I would recommend: anyone that wants to pursue their creative field to start as early as you can. If that’s in school. Amazing. If that’s after school, there’s no real deadline, but the earlier the better.
Brian Young [00:13:26] I love it. I always say that if you find the passion go after it, and even if it’s later in life, it’s never too late to start and follow your passions and express yourself and just let your creativity flow and just become a true creator.
Mike Dorner [00:13:39] Absolutely. I mean I have friends and other people, like some army vets for example that have gone and served our country, and then come back and then started their graphic, or their creative career, or music career, or whatever it’s been. There’s no there’s no wrong time to start.
Brian Young [00:14:03] I agree 100 percent. What would you say is the most challenging aspect of being an entrepreneur and a creator?
Mike Dorner [00:14:11] Well, I think the fact that there are a lot of conflicting opinions out there. I think anytime that I’ve worked on a really interesting creative campaign, or even just small projects with people that I anticipated would be really seamless and easy, there’s always going to be some conflict of interest, or differing opinions. And I think that is probably one of the biggest challenges to try and overcome through open mindedness, going back to that whole idea of keeping your mind open to other opinions and not having that tunnel vision. Keeping that mindset is really important so that you don’t run into the same kind of challenges over and over again. I think that’s going to make your creative process so much easier and it’s also just going to foster much better relationships with those who you work with so that they will work with you again.
Brian Young [00:15:26] Would you say that those challenges have taught you one of the greatest lessons as an Artrepreneur is being open minded and remembering to be open minded and being mindful of other people?
Mike Dorner [00:15:38] Absolutely. I think more than ever it’s important to have our ambitions be human-focused and to appreciate people, even though you may think that their initial opinions are outlandish, or just outright wrong. You have to put yourself in other people’s shoes and come from their perspective for a little bit. There’s definitely been times where, even after doing that that I’ve still said, “OK there’s still no way. I’ve tried to be collaborative, I’ve tried to be open minded but it’s still just not working” and that’s OK. What’s most important is to at least try to show them that you can be very willing to work and put your best foot forward in all that you guys are trying to do together.
Brian Young [00:16:46] Completely, completely 100 percent agree with you. I always say as long as you try you’re not failing. I mean there’s going to be road bumps, and there’s going to be speed bumps, there’s going to be there’s going to be things that get in the way and you’re going to slip up every now and then. But that’s OK. It’s just about making a conscious effort to be better and better yourself in whatever way you’re looking to do it.
Mike Dorner [00:17:10] Absolutely.
Brian Young [00:17:12] Speaking on the individual level for a minute, I think I have a gauge on your answer here, but how important do you feel creativity is in the life of an individual, be it you, be it a friend, be it another Artrepreneur, or somebody who’s coming up in the world right now?
Mike Dorner [00:17:30] There’s a there’s a great speech that John Cleese gave, and I recommend anybody to go and watch this speech. But people should really not be discouraged by thinking that they are not creatively talented because, as I said before and as John Cleese says, creativity is not a talent, it’s a way of thinking. To keep that in the back of your head is crucial, because if you’re ever running into roadblocks or creatively frustrated, it’s just so valuable to remind yourself that the process you’re going through is very human and very normal. Anybody who’s trying to develop their creativity is going to go through the exact same struggles. Some people might have it come to them a little bit easier, just because of the fact that they’ve spent more time in that creative process. But it’s not a talent that you should be discouraged by. So, I think that’s one of the biggest things to keep in mind.
Brian Young [00:18:51] I love that tip. I think I’ve actually heard that speech by John Cleese before. That actually leads me to another question for you. Coming up as a creator, as an artist, and moving forward: do you believe that there are enough resources to help creatives in their careers out there in the world?
Mike Dorner [00:19:16] Yeah, I think what’s incredible, and something that I’ve been fortunate to experience is just how much technology is evolving. And there’s certainly a beauty in the old techniques and resources that we’ve gotten to experience over time, but I would say that since we are constantly evolving and constantly elaborating what our limitations are, we’re expanding what our limitations are in what we can create. There’s honestly so many unfathomable different technologies that I’m learning about every day. And it’s so inspiring to think that there are just people out there developing and working hard to make these tools even easier to use. I think back to you know the early days of graphic work and the analog cell of cut paste, and paste up, and Photoshop, right? It’s just it’s kind of crazy to see how much more accessible creation has become.
Brian Young [00:20:42] I totally agree, it’s amazing to see how far graphic design in the arts has come. It’s just an amazing transformation or evolution to see and be a part of.
Mike Dorner [00:20:56] Right. Yeah totally. I mean tools that used to take years of learning now are accessible to children on iPads. It’s encouraging, but it’s also daunting because it just goes to show you like how much potential there is for things to completely radically change, too. So, I’m curious to see what happens.
Brian Young [00:21:23] I’m curious as well to see what the future holds. I know I know it’s going to be intriguing, and I know I’m going to be wide eyed and eager to learn all of it. And that’s kind of what we’re embracing here at Artrepreneur. It’s really creating a creative career center so creators can have a space to learn, to collaborate, to grow together, and use the resources within the industry that we’re striving to put together in one place. This was this was an amazing conversation, Mike. Thank you so much for joining us on the Creative Career Center podcast and for sharing your art with us. We are extremely excited to see you continue creating and hope to collaborate and connect again soon in the future.
Mike Dorner [00:22:08] Absolutely, is my pleasure. Thanks so much for talking to me.
Brian Young [00:22:11] Thank you. Have a great day.
Mike Dorner [00:22:13] You too. Take care.