Art After Hours, Michael Langley

There’s no guarantee that a creative life will boost your bank balance, but as Coffs Harbour artist Michael Langley discovered, it can lead to unexpected rewards.

“So, what do you do?” It’s the question that all creatives dread. Answer honestly – artist, musician, photographer – and the conversation inevitably turns to money “Do you really make a living from that?”. Choose to reveal your unrelated day job and you feel like you’re only telling half the story.

Michael at K'PaneMichael Langley at K’Pane by Rob Wright

If you’re a Coffs Harbour local, chances are Michael Langley has handed you a coffee or croissant over the counter at k’pane Artisan Bakery. What many customers may not realise is that once Michael clocks off, he heads straight to his home art studio on a hill in Korora. There, he spends the afternoon poring over large sheets of paper, meticulously creating intricate shapes and patterns before using Photoshop to add drop after drop of vivid colour.

“My work is about pattern and little bits of reality and the effect of colour on the eye,” Michael explains. “Is it digital art? It sort of sits in between.”

Art After Hours, Michael Langley

One of these works, ‘Dark Was the Night’, recently won him the Coffs Coast Art Prize. Another took him to the finals of the national still life award ‘STILL’ and in 2016 he was a finalist in the prestigious Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award (JADA).

For Michael, these accolades are so much more than new additions to his CV. “The standard for the JADA is just mind-blowing,” he says. “There were about 700 entries nationally and to be chosen is a real affirmation. All of your friends tell you how great you are but it’s something else when the professional people say ‘Wow, that’s good!’”

Neptune's Keepers by Michael Langley
Neptune’s Keepers by Michael Langley

Michael’s backstory doesn’t involve any earth-shattering artistic epiphanies and he can’t pinpoint the exact moment when he decided to go down this path. He’s simply compelled to make and appreciate art. “I’ve just got to do it,” he says firmly. “I get something inside my head and I have to put it somewhere. I need to get it down on paper.” Spend two minutes looking around Michael’s home and you’ll notice there isn’t a blank space to be found. “I’ve got no money, but I buy art and I’m still paying it off,” he laughs. “Every time I walk into the house it uplifts me. It enriches your life, it really does.”

Michael is upbeat about the future of Australian art but he’s keen for more people to see its value. He points to the impact of MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) in Hobart and the Glasshouse in Port Macquarie as positive examples of what can happen when art is elevated.

“It’s really sad that Coffs Harbour, a city of this size, can’t support a commercial gallery,” he says. “It’s necessary to raise the awareness of the importance of art in the community.”

Art After Hours, Michael Langley

But who says Michael can’t stir up a groundswell of support from behind the coffee machine? Next time you drop into k’pane, take note of the top of your latte. If Michael has prepared it, you may well be looking at true artistry.

Find Michael on Instagram @michaellangleyart and or call into k’pane Artisan Bakery at the Jetty Village & Coffs Central.