Mike McMath of Midland uses his artistic talents in a unique way to entertain audiences across the country. Empty Canvas, a performance art group based in Midland, creates unique works of art while its members provide live music.
Lead singer and painter McMath and his brother, Scott, conceived the concept for Empty Canvas 15 years ago. At the time, they played in a band Empty Pockets, with McMath simultaneously painting and singing. The original idea was to perform four or five weekends in a row at a restaurant as McMath steadily worked on a painting. However, acquaintances continued to send McMath videos of speed painters, similar to Midland native Joe Everson. The brothers decided to turn Empty Canvas into a single evening of entertainment.
Empty Canvas has performed largely in the Midland area and across the state, but they have also branched out for events in Dallas, New York, Chicago and Milwaukee. Past venues include corporate events, weddings, festivals and fundraisers. Depending on the event, the performance lasts between one to two hours and may consist of just the two brothers or could extend to incorporate a full band.
The one thing that constantly changes is the painting. McMath never creates the same artwork twice, tailoring the image based on the theme of the event.
“They’re all different,” McMath said. “I’m always excited about doing the painting. When they see it for the first time, I see it.”
Apart from initial discussions with a client about time parameters and the theme of the event as well as priming a canvas, there is very little preparation involved with the painting. This way, guests can watch as McMath goes through the entire process from sketching out the image to placing the final brushstroke.
McMath began offering individuals the chance to make their own mark on the painting about a year after Empty Canvas got its start. Oftentimes, McMath will marvel at the different types of brushstrokes participants will use and will work to further incorporate that style into the painting. McMath explained that typically 20-50 people will come up to him during a show to add a dab or two. During the pandemic, McMath has continued to offer the brush to onlookers, making sure to sanitize it between uses.
“We’re still trying to figure out a way to keep it going,” McMath said.
The client has the option to keep the painting or to sell it off through a raffle or auction towards the end of the event. McMath estimates that Empty Canvas’ paintings have raised over $250,000 over the past 15 years. The record …….