Tailor-Made Art

An architect brings his eye for detail to his new career as a painter

When Michael P. Thieme moved to Las Vegas in 2005, he did so as an architect. He joined SH Architecture and helped design, among other buildings, the cutting-edge Cashman Equipment building on St. Rose Parkway. A year and a half later he’d moved on to interior design firm Parker Scaggiari and was involved in an ambitious renovation of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Then the economy tanked, and the architect was out of work.

So the 34-year-old turned to a lifelong passion for painting and within months reinvented himself by launching a new design brand, Mikel Patrik. The name is, he says, a sexier version of his own first and middle names, and he plans to turn it into a visual brand. The first step is through his canvas.

Thieme’s work is precise and geometric—he is particularly interested in the order in which he applies paint onto his canvas—and the results are almost as if his paintings have been created digitally on a computer. He cites prolific designer Max Bill and Dutch painter Piet Mondrian as influences; the geometric-inspired canvasses of the latter, in particular, seem to figure in Thieme’s work.

“Being an architect, I have to have a concept,” he says. “I don’t paint pretty pictures.” These concepts are like design templates around which he can create a variety of similar paintings. His first series of paintings were based on a concept he called “Pixel,” which is a canvas of exact, small rectangular brush strokes. The work, in its careful attention to detail—Thieme uses grid lines to plan the dimensions of the strokes in advance—is like a larger version of pointillism.

But here, he’s making no underlying picture. The geometric patterns are the picture. His other concepts are more ambitious. “Strata” features simple vertical or horizontal lines of varying widths and colors. “Stitch” combines horizontal and vertical lines on one canvas to produce subtle and complex patterns, including a series of arresting squared-off spirals. This might be the aesthetic at its most audacious—the willful subjugation of curves to lines.

His latest concept, “Splot,” is a series of paintings where the brush strokes are far more random and, as the name sort of suggests, splotchy. “It’s not as structured as other pieces,” he says, but even here there is a sort of underlying pattern of scale. (You get the sense that Thieme is the kind of guy who doesn’t like his food to mix on the plate.)

Thieme’s paintings change size and color, but the underlying concept remains the same. It is, basically, bespoke design. Want a “Pixel” motif in a particular color scheme, with brush strokes at a particular size, on a canvas of particular dimensions? Thieme can deliver it for you.

If that sounds a bit more mechanical than what we think of as art, it’s helpful to understand Thieme’s larger ambition. “When people see one of my images and recognize it as Mikel Patrik, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do—I’m creating a brand.” Already he’s licensed his images to a carpet manufacturer in New Jersey to make luxury rugs. And he plans to extend the Patrik brand into purses and jewelry.

Now that he’s turned the corner, he says he’s willing to consider part-time work as an architect, but “I don’t really envision myself going to work for another firm.” Besides, he’s just at the ground floor of his new life as an artist. “I’ll probably never be done with this,” he says. “There are so many variations to explore.”

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