BY.SESSIONS is a series that takes place in a 16 foot cube, giving free rein for friends and artists to explore their ideas and expand on their processes.

In 2014, on a warm spring day, I walked into the Factory OKC, one of Oklahoma Cities first progressive fashion spaces. The space was beautifully constructed and in the middle was a black couch where Michael Walters was drawing some of his early fashion sketches. I was freshly 16 and completely enamored by the coolness of the room. I had seen Michael in the skate scene from time to time growing up but our age gap denoted me as one of the runts at the skatepark. Furiously trying to get up to speed with them both on and off the board and always in a hurry to grow up. Now, with the freedom to drive myself around and a growth spurt that influenced most people to think I was “old enough”, I was invited to sit at the table. Michael and I modeled the shoots in an era primed by yeezy styling with skinny jeans, long-line tees and chelsea boots. The type of styling that we’ve grown to laugh about and tease that otherwise had a choke-hold on the zeitgeist at the time. We were mostly paid in swag coins and free entries to admittedly the best parties our city had to offer at the time. It was brilliant. We would party till all hours of the night and be back at The Factory the next day to do it all over again. At that time I was starting Silent Studios, my first clothing brand.. I would sneak clothes onto the racks of The Factory and try to sell them to customers. Every now and then Caleb or one of the other workers would catch me in a “c’mon man, for real” kind of way but I didn’t care and neither did Michael. Michael’s consistent nonchalant attitude is what drew me toward him. I would sit and try not to bother him, only asking one question at a time while he drew at that black couch until so much time went by that we became friends by default. Michael taught me that persistence as an artist is the only way to become a pure artist. I’ve sorted through hundreds, if not thousands, of his sketches and paintings, and the story unravels itself into a futuristic, medieval awakening. The world was wiped clean of 90% of all living creatures, including humans and is slowly rebuilding from scratch. The society that is built from the ashes in a war torn future is what Michaels work is about. It is a world seen through his own eyes and painted into a type of parietal art. Beauty and Pain, love and War, sex and mystery. This is BY.SESSIONs with Michael Walters.

Elyjah Monks: Who were some of your earliest influences?  

Michael Walters: My earliest influence, that I got into on my own, was Akira Toriyama (Illustrator of DBZ, Chrono Trigger, etc). Just watching Toonami after school and entering the Cartoon Network drawing contests. The first, like, “fine art” I got into was KAWS and Jean Michel Basquiat. 

Elyjah: I’ve thought about what a Michael Walters cartoon or Comic book series would look like so many times haha. What kind of stories or series would you want to do?  

Michael: Sci-Fi action mixed with some comedy! 

Elyjah: Sounds spot on with your work. What would be the next medium you want to tackle?  

Michael: Jewelry design. Custom jewelry. Belt buckles, bracelets, necklaces. That, and continuing to work on music. I’m also a “bedroom producer”. Been doing that since 2012. Moving forward, I’m focusing on shaping my artwork into a more product based format. Most people, especially younger people just don’t have the attention span to appreciate art in the traditional gallery style. You work on a painting for weeks, and then people come look at it for a maximum of one minute, max, throughout the event. People want more excitement and quickly. That’s just how it is. I embrace that. People ask me why I don’t have more art shows. Who do you think pays for it all?! It takes too much for me to put that effort into not being appreciated. I don’t take it personally, but that’s the facts. Product and music is virtually unquestioned. You either like it or you don’t. There’s no expectation of hidden meanings or anything. It’s more transparent, in a way and I like that about it. 

Elyjah: I think we’re all looking for new ways to experience art and I think part of the artist's job is finding out what that next world and universe is for the viewer to experience. What’s Michaels universe called?

Michael: It’s a dystopian daydream. It’s an Oklahoma sunset in December. It’s a single dandelion dancing in the wind. I wanna create a feeling of a beautiful synth solo on top of an 808 bass. That exact feeling is what I wish to create, visually. The melodic visual. 

Elyjah: Synths and 808’s was a huge part of how we first met back in 2014. How would you say your taste in music has changed and stayed the same sense then?  

Michael: My taste in music has stayed the same in the sense that I tend to resonate with songs that are in a certain key, feeling. And it has changed in the sense of being able to appreciate music more, as my ear has been more tuned from making my own “scores” and dj’ing. I now see the similarities of sampling records in music production and sampling visual inspirations, in visual art. It’s the same thing. Mixing and mastering. There’s a through line. 

Elyjah: I remember in the earlier days at The Factory when Travis was becoming the megalith he is now and Yeezy had just come out and the only thing that mattered was the party. What was the scene like through your eyes in those days?   

Michael: At that time, (rap)music and fashion were becoming even more synonymous, than perhaps in previous years. You can’t have a party without music! Those choruses were our mantras. There were a lot of conversations about art, music, and fashion at those Factory events. Me and Micah had conversed about what would eventually materialize as “Zeal”. We were all learning the language of clothing and what we wanted to say with ours. Whether it was just what we wanted to wear, or what we wanted to design. Met a lot of like minded individuals in those days. I was doing a lot of fanart of my favorite music artists. I was just so heavily inspired by that moment in culture. I wanted to live like that. I’m a child of the “rager culture”. Cudi was the big bro. He drank Jameson, so I did, too. Wanted to look super fresh and get sloppy-wasted lol. I had to live out those lyrics and that lifestyle.

Elyjah: Honestly the pandemic probably slowed and aged us so dramatically, leading up to it, the party never ended. Art is such a young person's game and although we’re still young, no doubt, what has aging been like for you in the art space?

Michael: You become more decisive. You know what resonates with you and what doesn’t. It’s easier to put influences together and do what’s true to you. As opposed to when you’re young, you’re searching for your voice. You don’t know yet. Now that I’ve experienced more in life, it translates into my art. The volume is louder on it. 

Elyjah: Do you have any goals or things planned in the coming future you’re excited to roll out? 

Michael: This year I want to focus on engaging with my supporters more by evolving past just an instagram presence. Having something available regularly for them to support. More events. I feel as though I’ve been very mysterious this whole time.