Author Michael Lipsey is a man of minimum words but maximum impact. Popularly known as Stoic Mike in the online world, his satirical and biting epigrams comment on life’s biggest conundrums — on morality, ethics, politics, religion, love, death, and life itself.
Building his body of work following the classic Stoic philosophy, Mr. Lipsey is an aphorist and an artist. With three published books of “distilled wisdom” and a collection of 2,300 Tumblr posts over the last five years, Lipsey’s mastered rhetorics drive his loyal readers to reflect and introspect.
“When I was in kindergarten my grandfather gave me a little tin of pan watercolours and a brush, and a lecture on how an artist must keep his materials neat, and I thought, ‘I am an artist!’ I never wanted to do anything else. I can remember every point in my childhood when I was given art supplies. I am 74 now and the fire has never gone out,” he tells us.
Writing and painting are part of his daily routine, and through epigram collages he manages to combine both these passions. And while his work may seem easily to put together, it requires so much more skill, talent and technique than one would have thought.
He explains that the collages are painted in liquid acrylics on medium-density fibre (MDF) boards or Baltic birch, and there is always a simple landscape as a background. He adds, “I then add a figure, either something I appropriate or something I draw with India ink and watercolours, and add that to the background.
I look through things I’ve written for something the figure seems to be speaking, and letter that in a cartoon balloon, using violet India ink.” While the version we see online is a scanned copy that may be photoshopped a bit, the original gets two coats of brushing lacquer, label, and a hanger to become something that can be hung on the wall.
At times Mr. Lipsey’s observations come as a revelation and others are concise, perfectly worded contemplations, dilemmas and reflections that have gone through all our minds at some point in our lives that you ponder over once again in a manner you previously may not have thought of.
“But of course it’s impossible to be completely original,” shares Mr. Lipsey. “As Emerson said, ‘All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients.’ But, there is always the possibility of a new angle on something...some of my images have been reblogged hundreds of thousands of times, and suppose they acquire new meanings from that curation,” he explains.
“My online audience, to the extent that I can sample it, is mostly about 50-60 years younger than I am, and far more open to new and challenging ideas than people of my generation. But knowing that, I try to convey my thoughts in clear, direct and simple language.
A test is anything in written form, but the text that is now the main form of written communication is only a few abbreviated words on a device,” says Mr. Lipsey commenting on the changing audience as the online web generation of social media grows bigger everyday and artists begin to morph their work to suit the new, younger and hungry audience.
“The days that Tumblr released their first mobile app my blog got 5,000 new followers. I suppose you could say that I am a miniaturist creating something to be viewed on an even smaller screen. On the object side, I am simply making something that someone might want to hang on their wall and live with.
But the online side is the world of social media, in which you don’t exist unless people are responding to your words and images. The only world is a million times larger, but is it more ephemeral than the object world? I don’t have a clue.”
We’ve posted below some of our favourite’s from Michael Lipsey’s extensive body of work, you can view the entire series on his Tumblr Page.
Check out the rest of Micheal Lipsey’s Tumblr posts.