The specific themes behind my work have varied over the past 5 years, but I think their common bond is that they all attempt to render an imagined environment in a semi-realistic manner. I have always been most drawn to artists who manage to use realism with a touch of abstraction, depicting a scene in a way so that it appears to be on the verge of collapse. For some of my painting references I’ve collaged false environments in Photoshop, and for some more recent paintings I’ve built miniature models in an attempt to make the environments more believable and avoid the spatial limitations of a digital collage. ~Mike RyczekI’ve had a lifelong fascination with small scale artificial environments and was genuinely in awe of the Lego sets I would play with as a kid – particularly when they were enclosed buildings with windows. I think it was really a fascination with interiors, and the Lego sets were condensed in a way that allowed me to almost “play god” by creating and manipulating them. In many of my pieces, I’ve tried to use these surreal scenes as settings for symbolic imagery that attempt to explore random observances or thoughts on on what it is to be human. I think most of my work veers visually and emotionally toward the darker side of our nature (I often start out a piece vowing that I won’t have large areas of black yet they always seem to find their way in), but in the last 2-3 years I’ve become increasingly interested in introducing more color and conveying more ambiguous emotional states. My approach to painting embraces mistakes and I see each piece as a collection of layered missteps guided by a single underlying intention (usually quite vague in the beginning) for the final piece. I aim for aesthetically pleasing and unconventionally beautiful, but with just the right amount of ugliness to avoid banality and make it interesting for me. Although I intend to experiment more with different media in the future, I currently paint mostly with oil and occasionally oil pencil, applying the paint with all kinds of brushes and a variety of squeegees for blending and mark making.