Mike Ballard

Mike Ballard

Future Map 2007 exhibitor
Central Saint Martins, MA Fine Art alumnus

UAL catches up with the MA Fine Art Central Saint Martins graduate Mike Ballard as he reflects on his experience of taking part in the show and what he’s up to now.

Submitting work to be part of an exhibition is a key skill for emerging artists – how did you go about making sure you stood out for Future Map in 2007?

When I graduated I wasn't aware of Future Map, until I was chosen to be in it, 2007, I was probably so focused on my degree show, I wasn't aware of a lot of things going on at that time.  

Which in itself probably helped me with my show, as it was all that mattered at that time, and in fact any time I show work, I am completely focused and dedicated to what I am making at the time. I don't really plan on standing out, I hope that the work that I make stands out for itself.  

For me it's always about the work. A lot of artists are great at networking and creeping around the right people and schmoozing, but make terrible art, or just pay others to make their work, which seems to be the norm these days.

I feel there is a whole load of artists who have chosen to be career artists after seeing the success of the YBA, and just want to be famous and rich, and have no integrity. I really think it's important to have integrity and be honest with what you make.

How do you think being part of Future Map helped you establish yourself in the early stages of your career?

Being part of Future Map was great, it gave me a boost after my degree show and also a feeling of recognition for the work I had put in. To be showing alongside the best of the other UAL degree shows was great, it gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of other artists and collectors, and curators.

Showing at Future Map gave me the boost I needed to leave my job and start making art full time, it was a major pivotal moment in my life.  

Do you have any tips for this year’s Future Map artists on preparing for the exhibition and making the most of it?

My tips for this years Future Map artists are:


  1. Have a business card with all your details on, or even better postcards. This seems an obvious one, but I meet loads of artists who still don't have cards made, or had really bad cards. It is imperative to have good cards that reflect your dedication and refinement of what you do.
  2. Website - again obvious, but also greatly overlooked, edit your website with your best work, contact details etc.
  3. Be at the exhibition space everyday the show is on if you possibly can, you never know who is going to visit the show, and it's always good to be on hand if someone is interested or wants to know more about your work.
  4. Don't be shy, speak to people who are at the exhibition, introduce yourself, ask people if they like the show, engage with the viewers. You don't know who is who until you meet and speak to people. Have a drink and relax but don't get so hammered you can't talk properly and make a fool of yourself.  People buy into you as much as they buy into your work, be nice, polite and interested.

How did UAL help you prepare for your career as an artist and is there anything else it could have done?

Being at UAL was an amazing experience for me, just to be accepted on the MA was a major achievement as I'd never studied art before and coming from a graffiti background into an institution was really inspiring. The emerging artists program run by Eamonn Maxwell and Medeia Cohen really helped me by giving me support and advice about my work and how to build my professional network.

I was surprised by the amount of support I received from UAL after graduating, I have nothing but praise for UAL. 

What advice would you give to students wanting to start out in fine art?

My advice to artists wanting to study fine art is go for it, it's not easy, it's probably one of the hardest professions. Doing and making exactly what you want and trying to make a living from it is not easy, and it's very competitive, but as long as you believe in yourself and what you do, that's all that matters. 

If you could go back in time what advice would you give yourself on the first day of your course? And which method of time travel would you use?

My advice to myself on my first day... Wow, I don't know. I was so buzzing and excited. I wanted to learn as much as possible, so was really focused, although slightly distracted by the amount of hot girls at college...

Time travel, I'd use a fax machine, and fax myself back to 2007. Although faxes were already outdated then, or maybe I'd use a galactic catapult cosmological swing wing manipulation device protocol method, but this hasn't been invented yet.

What’s been the greatest achievement of your career so far?

The greatest achievement of my career so far has been to be able to jack my old job in and to be able to make art all day everyday. I think about this every morning when I ride to my studio, and it raises a smile even on a bad day. I thank the universe that I am no longer in an office with a fat-mouthed boss, telling me what to do and having to pretend I'm doing work.

I think selling any piece of artwork that you've made is a massive achievement; it's so satisfying to know that someone has really connected with your work, with something that is so personal to yourself.

Having my first show in LA last year was great too, a real high point.

What’s next for you/what projects are you currently working on?

Next project for me is working on a book of my studio work, and also a book of my graffiti work. A lot to do at the moment, also some big commissions soon and another show planned in LA next year.