From South Beach to South Africa: Where Artist Michael Turchin Finds Inspiration

"I’m a firm believer that inspiration can be found almost anywhere...."

Having only recently emerged on the pop art scene, artist Michael Turchin has certainly wasted no time establishing himself as a leading voice of the genre. His works—which often mix iconic figures and bold shapes with eye-popping colors and a dash of humor—have become coveted collector's pieces and hang in the homes of celebrities like Kris and Kylie Jenner, Chris Pratt, Sela Ward, and Lisa Vanderpump. Not surprisingly, his husband, Lance Bass, even owns a few.

Pop art, however, by its very nature, doesn't exist in a vacuum; so where (or what) does Turchin turn to for inspiration when creating his work?

Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images

BASEL, SWITZERLAND - JUNE 17: Visitors check their phone in front of the artwork "Blah, Blah, Blah" by Mel Bochner in the gallery section of Art Basel on June 17, 2014 in Basel, Switzerland. Art Basel one of the most prestigious art fair in the world, which runs until the 22nd of June 2014 will showcase the work of more than 4,000 artists selected by 300 leading galleries.

What single piece of art has inspired your own work in some way?

While my work through the years has been inspired by a plethora of artists, an obvious one being Andy Warhol and his celebrity driven pop-art works which inspired some of my pieces like Rebel, Diva, The Devil Wears Chanel, to name a few. Another artist that has inspired a number of my works is Mel Bochner, specifically with his piece entitled Blah Blah Blah. His use of of letters, colors, and everyday words as the forefront and background of this dynamic piece (and many of his others) has inspired so many of my most favorite paintings like my portrait of President Obama, Believe. (Fun fact: The original painting, Believe, was commissioned by Oscar winner Octavia Spencer).

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In what museum can you always find inspiration?

I’m a firm believer that inspiration can be found almost anywhere—whether on a street corner or an historical art museum—but I’ve found my greatest inspiration visiting the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art which has an incredible collection of ever-changing exhibitions by some of the world’s most prolific contemporary artists. Every time I visit I know I’ll be filled to the brim with inspiration for future works of my own, which makes me very thankful to live in a city where such art is so accessible.

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View of Chrysler Building in Manhattan skyline, New York, USA

Name a specific place that has influenced your work.

While so many different places have had an effect on my work, the Art Deco skyscrapers of New York City, like the Chrysler Building, for example, have directly inspired many of my more abstract and architecturally designed pieces like Shades of Grey, Sting, and Buggin. The clear use of lines, simplistic shapes, and subtle gradients that make the Art Deco style so unique can easily be noted in these works of mine.

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Three giraffes under acacia tree in the african savannah

Have you had an experience while traveling that sparked an idea for a work?

A few years ago I traveled to South Africa on a week-long safari which positively affected me on many different levels. Artistically speaking, it inspired my paintings Sting, Buggin, and Toys Were Us (below) which I can confidently say are still some of my favorite pieces to this day. The juxtaposition of wild animals painted with my personal brand of vivid fanciful colors and stark sculptural lines takes these classic earthly subjects and infuses them with a powerful punch of fun and modernity. The combination excites me to no end!

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The Art Deco style Colony, Boulevard and Starlite Hotels on Ocean Drive at dusk, South Beach, Miami, southern Florida

What cities most inspire you and why?

It’s seems impossible for me to single out a sole city that inspires me the most artistically so I’m going to settle on Miami Beach, New Orleans, and Tokyo. I was born and raised in South Beach where the arts were always abundant and present in my life. The city itself is infused with such amazing Art Deco architecture and lively colors making it an artist's haven for inspiration. The same can be said about New Orleans. My husband and I visit the French Quarter at least three times a year, and every time I discover so many amazing new art galleries, restaurants, jazz clubs, and cityscapes that are so unique to that amazing city. All these different facets go hand-in-hand when drawing inspiration for new works of art.

Lastly, while I haven’t personally traveled to Tokyo thus far in my life, I am still so inspired by the city’s architectural modernity (and often simplicity) with its over-the-top embrace of popular culture and technology. Hopefully I’ll be able to experience it all in person someday soon.

For those of us who aren't Hollywood stars, Turchin offers framed prints of his works through ArtSugar.