Mike Vanderhoof, also known as “King Mike V,” has created award-winning art for over 30 years. Throughout the years, his work has been featured in magazines, television, and commissioned projects. Drawing from the influences of his childhood, Mike Vanderhoof mixes modern-day culture with classic horror.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with this kick ass artist. For those not familiar with his work, he has a lot to offer. His talents range from tattoo work, drawings,comic books, music and my personal favorite, his paintings.
There are so many “artists” out there these days, it can be difficult to separate yourself from the rest. Mike does a great job of standing out. Although the term “Horror Pop” has been used to describe his work, it should not be interpreted as mainstream. Mike’s style is unique, and his use of rich color is eye-catching. He manages to create art with a morbid context, but with an oddly alluring feel. After speaking with Mike, I can see his personality translate to his artwork because he is truly passionate about his creativity. It is no surprise his original pieces get snatched up quickly. See some of his favorites below!!!
Read the full interview with artist Mike Vanderhoof below:
Interview with Mike Vanderhoof
MM: I’d like to say thank you for giving me the opportunity to get to know you. I am a huge fan of your artwork and I’m very excited to be here. I put together some questions that I hope you and our readers enjoy.
MV: “Thank you as well!”
MM: You are a man of many talents, but if you had to choose ONLY ONE artistic expression for the rest of your life, what would you choose and why?
MV: “Painting. Hands down. It’s my passion. The rest have all just been for fun.”
MM: An artist’s life isn’t one for the faint of heart, the struggle can be real. Was there ever a time when you thought about giving it up? If so, what drove you to keep going?
MV: “I’ve actually been doing art since I could hold a pencil, in some shape or form. I’ve been self-taught since day one. My parents still have drawings saved that I did when I was like 4 or 5 years old. It’s my drive in life, and I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I couldn’t do my art. I’d probably go insane. It’s my therapy that helps me forget the problems of day-to-day living for a while. Not to mention a positive outlet for all of life’s negativity. Once you’re putting all of your focus into a painting session for a few hours at a time, the rest of the world just fades away. So for me, there has never been a decision or question of giving up. It’s so deep embedded in me that I have to do it. The business side however, can become frustrating at times. Nowadays you have to become very savvy with your internet marketing. I have a nice loyal client base that often buys my originals. But the majority of my sales come from my duplicated art prints sold throughout my online stores and conventions. On another note, I do all my own web maintenance, promotion, bookings, and sales myself, so sometimes it gets discouraging when you see someone with ten times the hype and only ten percent of your skill level coasting through getting rich just because they met an established promoter or agent. The thing about art is that it’s subjective, meaning, what constitutes something that’s good and what is just inferior hyped up crap. I think we’ve all seen articles about some artist that made millions off of a painting of a giant blue square, or something ridiculously similar. Those types of stories can be very disheartening when you are out trying to perfect your craft constantly while making a living at it at the same time. But there is still never a reason I would quit. I didn’t choose art, art chose me.”
MM:If you could go back and give your teenage self any advice what would it be?
MV: “Probably finish college and major in something that’s gonna make tons of money. It’s great to go out and follow your dreams. I sure did. But lots of money can help make any dream that you dream come true a lot faster than without it. Anyone who would disagree with that and think there are shortcuts out there is just still young.”
MM: What is the best, worst, and weirdest thing a fan has ever said or given to you?
MV: “The best? A few times I’ve been sent some fan art through my Instagram account (@kingmikev) where young kids showed me how they drew their versions of some of my paintings. I thought those were super cool and flattering, and I told them so and to keep at it. That’s how I got my start as a kid, trying my best to copy my own renditions of other art that I enjoyed. So it really made me happy to see that trait come full circle, knowing that someday these talented young people might grow up to follow the same path. As far as the worst, one time I came across a random idiot re-posting one of my images online to their followers and she basically said, and I paraphrase: “I love this painting, I would totally buy it right now if the artist would have signed the back instead of the front. I don’t like when people sign their art on the front because it distracts from the painting.” I could rant right now on all the levels of absurdity within her ridiculously stupid statement, but I would only be reiterating what everyone out there who just read this is already thinking. What a dumbf***…The weirdest? I’m still trying to think on this one. I guess what immediately comes to mind is when people are looking at all the realistic and detailed work I have, then after asking me if I do commissioned and custom work, they ask for something basic and simple. Then they ask, “Can you do that?”. This happens a lot actually. People crack me up sometimes. It’s like someone standing in front of the Mona Lisa, then turning to Da Vinci and asking him if he can draw Donald Duck. Bad analogy, but you get it.”
MM: Which piece of your art is your favorite; the one you are most proud of?
MV: “Usually the one I’m currently working on. That is, until I start the next one, then that one becomes my favorite, and so on and so on. I get really excited about whatever piece I’m working on at the moment, then the cycle repeats. I have a short attention span when it comes to things like that. I do, however, have soft spots for certain ones that mean a lot more to me than others, and become harder to part with when they get sold. But as long as I know for sure that they are going to a good home where the purchaser enjoys it as much as I do, it becomes easier to let some of them go. It’s a great feeling to know a certain painting you’ve done strikes a chord enough with someone that they must have it in their own home. That always makes me feel blessed and makes all the work worthwhile.”
MM: If you could collaborate with any artist, known or unknown, who would you choose and why. What type art piece would you like to create?
MV: “Oh wow. I’ve actually taken part in some of these art fusion art experiments at some tattoo conventions. My team even won a trophy for one once at a tattoo convention. If I could pick my top 5 for an art fusion dream team piece, I would have to go with some of my favorite artists and biggest influences. 1. Rembrandt, 2. Norman Rockwell, 3. Jack Davis, 4. Jason Edmiston, and 5. (my favorite) Basil Gogos…. They are all different styles and genres, yet they are all people who motivate me in different ways. I guess what type of art we would create would just be a gigantic canvas piece with everyone branching off of what the person next to them is doing. That would be epic, and I would hope I would be the one that got to take home the final product so i could enjoy staring at it everyday.”
MM: I can only imagine as an artist you get some odd requests. What is the oddest tattoo you have done (considering location and artwork). I’m talking about one that made you think or say “wtf”.
MV: “I get asked this one a lot and this is actually a two-way tie. One actually happened, and one never did come to fruition. The first one was a guy that wanted me to turn the entire top of his foot and shin bone into a tattoo of a vintage Hoover vacuum cleaner. This one I actually finished. His reason behind it was that when he walks around his apartment he picks stuff up off the floor with his toes. I know it’s odd but…hey, fair enough. At least there was a reason or thought process going on. The second was way more bizarre. One time I had a guy drop me a deposit to draw up a whole leg piece of all the Warner Bros. cartoon characters in a giant filthy sex orgy. He was very specific. He wanted certain characters behind and in front of other characters, and performing every twisted thing you can possibly think of. Because trust me, he thought way worse things than you are. When I say “specific”, i mean specific. When I asked him what the reasoning was behind this tattoo he would just kind of laugh and not answer. This one never actually happened. As I made a little progress on the drawing, I emailed him examples to make sure I was on the right track and he never got back to me after the first draft. So I just kept the deposit. Probably worked out for the best.”
MM: Some artist don’t like to recreate their artwork, rightfully so, but if someone wanted to get some of your artwork tattooed on their body, would you do it? (Say a rockabilly Frankie for instance, ahem, hint, hint)
MV: “Ha ha. Of course! Especially if I was the one who did it. I have a huge amount of repeat clients that let me pick what I want to tattoo on them. They just point me in a direction with whatever topic they’re thinking and let me run with it. I’m lucky enough after 25 years of tattooing, people seem to prefer my ideas to their own, which gives me the freedom to do my best with what I enjoy doing.”
MM: Speaking of tattoos. You recently opened up your own shop, Speakeasy Ink Lounge. Can you tell us more about it? How long is the wait for an appointment?
MV: “This is my 3rd tattoo shop and we just opened this last April 1st of 2017, So the wait isn’t too crazy at the moment. My last 2 shops were located in Fullerton, CA from 2000 to 2010, and being born and raised in that area of Southern California, the wait was quite extensive. I actually took a long break from tattooing the last 5 years, and just dabbled in it here and there for long-time clients and friends. I’ve been tattooing professionally since 1992, and a few years back I switched my attention on my paintings by doing gallery shows and the horrorcon and comicon circuit. But earlier this year my good friend Junior and I teamed up to open this new shop, Speakeasy Ink Lounge here in Bullhead City, AZ. This is a vacation town with casinos and boating located in the Tri-State area which is on 3 borders of the Colorado River (Laughlin, NV / Bullhead City, AZ / Needles, CA). We are approximately an hour north of Lake Havasu, and an hour south of Las Vegas.”
MM: Sometimes the people we look up to or admire aren’t all they are cracked up to be in person. You have met many celebrities, greeting them with your art. How were those experiences for you? Were they all positive interactions?
MV: “Absolutely. I’ve always had positive interactions so far. Truth be told, it might be in my demeanor. I’m very confident in who I am, and I know that comes across when talking to people. I might be getting off subject, but if you’re not proud of who you are and self-assured with yourself, no matter what you’re doing in life, people will smell your weakness a mile away. If you’re legit, and you’re putting yourself out there constantly holding your head up high while having the statistics to back it up and you’re proud of what you do and who you are, people will feel it. “Real” always recognizes “Real”. Always. No matter what.”
MM: It’s clear that you are an amazing artist, but if your friends had to describe you using only one word, what do you think it would be and why?
MV: “LOYAL. People will come and go. Most are only loyal to you because they have something to gain from you. Once they’ve taken all they can from you they will turn on you like wolves. Loyalty is not opportunity. Whether it be friend or enemy, no one can ever say that I wasnt loyal.”
MM: Can you tell us a random/fun fact about yourself that most people may not know?
MV: “In the last 5 years or so I’ve slowly gotten into cooking. I found out late in life that I love to cook! it’s one of my favorite things to do at the moment. I never cared about it or had any interest in it before then, but a while back I used to fall asleep at night watching cooking shows on tv and just found myself wanting to try the things that I saw the following week. I started out always trying new recipes and gradually thinking of my own new dishes. Now I’m to the point where everyone who tries my cooking says I totally kick ass and that I’m a super bomb chef. Only thing is, is that me and the wifey love hot food, so I’m usually making really super spicy dishes more often than not. Sometimes I forget not everyone likes that.”
MM: Do you have any guilty pleasures?
MV: “Nothing I would really be embarrassed to admit. I’m down for In-N-out burger any meal of the day. I also have my DVR full of Married with Children re-run episodes daily. Al Bundy is my hero. Oh and I have a crush on Scarlett Johansson. It’s ok, the wife makes fun of me for it.”
MM: We live in the age of social media. Do you have any favorite YouTube channels, podcasts, etc. that you are into right now?
MV: “I’ve been listening to this playlist on YouTube a lot while I paint lately, just search: The Deadly Elegant Dark Cabaret/Folk Song Collection.”
“I also love the Bill Burr podcast. He’s my favorite comedian. Our outlook on things is almost identical.”
MM: Alright you have been dropped into a zombie apocalypse!
First, what is your weapon of choice? Second, how would you try to survive (Immediately take off and run or bunker down and venture out for supplies after the storm passes)? Third, how long do you think would survive? Do you think you have what it takes to be a Final Guy?
MV: “YESSSSS! Ok Let’s do this, I’m gonna break it down into “Walking Dead” terms. You definitely need a predominantly silent close and long-range weapon such as a machete or crossbow (although none of us can figure out how Daryl keeps finding brand new arrows). Then you also need some heavy automatic artillery to mow down the herds of walkers from a distance. You also need a giant wall or a fence no matter what structure you’re bunkering down with inside. You would ALWAYS need a crew of warriors to go scavenge for water and supplies. I don’t think I would make it as long as Rick. I would probably wind up like Shane. Although, I can also see myself being a Carol in later seasons. Rolling solo and causing damage.”
MM: You get one night of debauchery with your favorite horror icons, either fictional or non-fictional. Who would be in your crew and why? What shenanigans would you get in to?
MV: “The predictable answer would be to pick Jason, Freddy, Leatherface, and Michael Myers and go on some kind of Halloween murderous killing spree… But honestly, I’d probably rather just take Vincent Price to a medicinal collective. We’d pick up a half ounce of some strain called “The Tingler” or “The Fly” and we’d just cook up some appetizers and pass blunts watching Tim Burton movies. Vincent Price rules.”
MM: We are a horror website so I have to ask, what is your favorite scary movie?
MV: “I’d have to say my all time favorite is Evil Dead II. That’s seriously a movie I can watch anytime. I think I’ve probably seen it over a hundred times. Bruce Campbell is the shit.”
MV: “Thanks so much for the interview and letting me share my madness! Very much appreciated!”
I would like to thank Mike Vanderhoof again for this amazing opportunity! I had such a great time with this interview and I appreciate him being so down to earth. I cannot wait to see more of his work in the future!
Want to visit the Speakeasy Ink Lounge or schedule an appointment with the artist? Check out the video below!
-Speakeasy Ink Lounge-
King Mike V (artist & co-owner)
(562) 522- 1655
Bullhead City, AZ
If you would like to keep up with Mike Vanderhoof, check out the contact info below!!!
King Mike V / Mike Vanderhoof
Hope you enjoyed this interview, stay creepy my fiends!