Penny Lane 2013

Sometimes an artist must find out why they are making a piece artwork AFTER the fact it is made. Not knowing if all their efforts are in vain or appreciated till the project is complete. This particular mural is that very corundum for me. I had started my painting career so long ago by chance with just walking into a head shop to sling some caricatures for making some money to fix my broken car… and that random chance lead me to a life I did not plan or expect.

One of my first murals. A Steal Your Face with A Dead Bear. Notice the spelling of Springfield. An honest accident for a new kid in town.


Now to know the store “Penny Lane” in Springfield, Illinois is to know what it is like to learn the hard way to an audience. When I started my numerous projects and personal involvement with the family and crew that occupies the store, I had no idea how deeply the old store would change me. Those projects taught me about what it means to have an audience, and to never take that for granted.

Michael working on PennyLane’s newest mural.

For years I loved the place, then I hated it. Then I loved it again, only to be avoiding it’s door again for the emotional thickness of uninspired relationships acquired through getting to know the staff personally. A long story but lets just say they are a tight group governed by years of seeing the city around them treat them as sub human.


The shoppe was treated in such a way for their connections and business in the sub culture of music and art. Selling “water pipes” did not help much, but a very legitimate business in my viewpoint. Penny Lane is now the oldest and largest head shop in the U.S. to my knowledge, and did not get that title easily. Years of harassment and rumors designed to topple the scene they represent did not falter their climb to business success. I am honored and blessed to have had them in my life and client list. To be a part of this store is to know what the “Dead Family” is all about. And that is about loyalty and keeping your word. On both sides.

So after years of painting their walls, then leaving the same walls to be forgotten because of my pride being hurt or scratched by dramas that formed what I painted in this new wall.  I have made a true masterpiece for their new blank wall. It was a long time coming, but never wasn’t in my plan.

This page is dedicated to Penny Lane and the story of which I am a part of and so well known for in central Illinois. A curse and a blessing. This head shoppe is so loved that I have seen photos of my past Lane murals in several states on fridges or bathrooms of people who pilgrimage their once a year. The Dead Heads love Penny Lane, and my work is the face of such a legendary store. I am blessed.

The interior mural painted in commemoration of the Tornado that destroyed the T-Shirt room in 2006.


So to walk away from the “family” because I had hurt pride over some jealousy or misjudgments of my intentions, was a sign of youth. And that is OK. Sometimes you just have to walk away to rebuild the inner curiosity of what made the experience enjoyable to begin with. I want to enjoy painting again. I cannot say I could do that for long. I never could keep grudges, even concerning heartbreak. I always knew I had to return to my roots and make a beautiful painting that will carry my work into the next century of a younger and newer culture. My opportunities to share my art are many, and to them at Penny Lane  I give them my best mural yet.

The Sleeping Dragon South Facing Wall, 2008.



Granted, they have not seen me in some time, but I have never forgotten my challenge to my promises when I was brought in to the close nit (sometimes crabby) group of old hippies and newer blood coming up carrying the load of the modern music influenced scene.  I return with a painting worth our time and patience. In my opinion  This painting came at the exact right time. I have painted many murals for all kinds of people, businesses, and art lovers. most of my work is based on a need for a client. This mural tells my story becoming the stray cat artist of Springfield, Illinois. This next work is my idea. My story. My vision alone. Penny Lane has always been my canvas for that chance. The chance to paint what I feel, not what will match a couch.

I hope everybody finds something familiar in this mural. I spent a very hard year moving studios twice and deaths of many friends and family while painting this mural at every free chance I had secretly.


Below you will see the progression of this painting. From the very beginning pictures of painting the first mural in 1995, to my current piece to be mounted to the north facing wall in a matter of weeks. I started this final work last year for the Mac Art Fest. I am returning this year with the finished work on June 7th and 8th. I will also be performance painting both days, (that is my favorite thing to do). So please buy some tickets and come out to the festival.


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