Catching up with Mike Blanchard
On moving, making and documenting
Interview: J. G. Wirt
Arts-y | Idle is a bad word for Mike Blanchard.
Keep moving, keep making, keep documenting, keep helping. Pause. Repeat.
Blanchard’s visual art reflects a deep appreciation for classic form and artful design. He shows reverence for elders who were craftsmen and makers. Always with a nod to those who can as well as those who know they could if they could be inspired, Blanchard’s familiarity with bygones and preservation is embedded in his work.
Blanchard is a photographer who is as comfortable profiling the vintage camera as he is the enigmatic photographer. He has a feel for the unusual shapes that encase machines that go vroom or putt-putt. He appreciates books of art that depict vintage daredevils going fast.
And Blanchard has featured his own home-made contraptions and adventures in daredevilry in his RUST magazine and its digital descendant.
Blanchard is a mechanic, a salesman, a musician, a suburban gardener, a husband, a father and a grandad. Eagle Scout. Studied photography in junior college. Returned to get a university journalism degree just recently (he paid as he went). He manages a scooter and vintage motorcycle shop by day.
He is hard to catch full-stop. And even then, he’s cataloging and documenting and detailing punch lists and bucket lists and to-do lists out loud.
“The fun thing about creation is when you have a really good idea that you can apply to something that you’re making, whether it’s a work of art or building something mechanical, you sometimes have several moments where you have realizations of, ‘Oh, I could fix it this way or I could make it that way or I could use this improvement’ or simplification or whatever,’” Blanchard says. “And that’s a super-energetic moment … that’s the thing that’s addictive, when you have that moment of creation in your head, and it’s going to work, and it comes out the way you want.”
What does curiosity mean to you?
Blanchard: I am intrigued by life. The thing is I am continually discovering that I have a whole lot more to learn. I wish I had the money or freedom to pursue more education. Would love to study at Oxford. I try to actively see the world, and that can pull you in.
What’s the most important thing you learned along the way that prepared you to be you right now?
Blanchard: To show up. Consistency can beat talent (or make it a whole lot better). Keep my mouth shut and listen.
If you’re out in the community, why can’t you mind your own business?
Blanchard: Dunno. Just drawn that way, I guess. Believe it or not, I am kind of reserved. A bit shy sometimes. It's not a very good quality for a reporter, but I think as a photographer it’s a good thing.
You have the benefit (or burden) of writing coherently. Why should anyone care what you think?
Blanchard: I don’t know that I have any more right to have people care about what I write than any other writer. I write because I do. I bring things to the reader that I am intrigued by and feel my readers will find interesting or entertaining. I am confident that I have a unique, recognizable voice. I guess they care because I have an interesting take on the world.
You get writer’s block?
Blanchard: Nah, I just dig in and write. Even if what I start off with sucks, I know that I can swing it around and work toward something I like. The key is to get the ball rolling. To me it’s like stage fright. I’m not having it.
Is anything just good enough?
Blanchard: The only way to know is to live life. There are works of creation that are good enough (or way past that). Good enough is kind of settling for whatever. Sometimes that works, but sometimes it is a betrayal of one’s talent and/or standards.
Life is a demanding business. Any advice on making every minute count?
Blanchard: As I get older, I feel like there is not enough time. Cliché, I know, but there you have it. Don’t watch too much TV; you will get more done. Your focus determines your reality. Live in the moment. Fully in the moment. It is hard to do, but when you can do it … oh, man!
(Editor’s note: You can check out Blanchard’s work at the Fresh Rust Photo Show from September 12 – November 2, 2019 at the, Russ Room Gallery, 730 K Street, Sacramento, CA.)