Syntax Issue 10
Denver Syntax

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There are so many mediums and forms to paint on – why would you limit yourself to just one? For many reasons this is where Mike Graves is taking-off and earning some attention around the Queen City.

Founder of Roane Clothing, Graves uses fabric, mannequins, boxes and panels to share his work with the world. And he has managed to do just that. The Real World television program picked-up 6 canvasses and 3 panels of Graves work, for installation into the Real World’s Denver loft.

As his work is being worn and shown in so many different ways – it is hopeful that Mike Graves has found his style and is sticking with it. Having drawn since he was a child, Graves would often copy cartoons. Through the years, in finding his hand – a style has emerged. One that is playful like a cartoon, illustrative in the urban contemporary style but also somewhat heady in his compositions.

Graves purpose is to give his audience all they will need in a composition and find pleasure in their viewing of his big, bright idiosyncratic colors and his very Graves-like characters. For Mike Graves, he wants his audience’s assessment of his work to be simple – like the work itself. If it looks good and you like it, Graves feels that he has succeeded. His work is not embedded with political messages or anything else that is obtuse for his viewers. No, Graves’ work is not exclusionary.

Afterall, cartoons are supposed to be fun, aren’t they? They’re not supposed to have corners on them and go down with difficulty. And where there sometimes is not a transference between an artists’ work and their life – Mike Graves’ work and life seem to intersect neatly – both in design and character as much as disposition and fun.

While finding inspiration in things like his moods and emotions as well as people and places like Hawaii and the natural world around him – Mike Graves has also found inspiration in a seemingly tight-knit Denver community of artists. Artists like Markham Maes, Chris Huth, Jive, Emit, Ikon and Scott Lefavor to name a very select few, are part of this rising urban network that is helping to not only push Graves, but push themselves. And it has been collaborative. With places like Plastic Chapel (which Graves helped build), JoyEngine, The Fabric Lab, Newspeak, Indy Ink as well as other collectives – there’s no reason why these artists shouldn’t feel supported, by themselves.

The community is there, but the awareness around these Denver and Boulder artists is slim outside of their circles. This when their clothes are being worn around town, their concert posters hang at venues and their design and illustrative work is nearly ubiquitous around the Queen City.

Whichever way, like so many of his peers, Mike Graves’ stock is on the rise. And this is in no part on account of his commercial success or anything that was handed to him. Because nothing was given, all was earned. And if Mike Graves, as well as the other members of all the urban collectives, are to make any waves – they will do it on their hard work and ambition alone.