Meet Mike Oncley, creativeLIVE’s Resident Artist and Prankster

Photo courtesy Mike Folden.
Photo courtesy Mike Folden.

Curious who’s hanging out behind the scenes at creativeLIVE? Every week, in addition to profiling our incredible students, we also feature one of our brilliant co-workers in our staff profile series. From producers to editors to product engineers we are going to introduce you to the hardworking team that makes creativeLIVE’s clock tick.

creativeLIVE’s Mike Oncley wears his fun-loving, creative personality on his sleeve, and most definitely stunts in those trademark glasses. A true artist at heart, this former drummer and graphic designer is not only responsible for making creativeLIVE’s broadcasts run smoothly, but also for keeping the office cackling with jokes and endless shenanigans.

What do you do at creativeLIVE?

Mike Oncley in action on a location shoot. Photo courtesy Mike Folden.
Mike Oncley in action on a location shoot. Photo courtesy Mike Folden.

I am a broadcast technician. The gist of what I do at creativeLIVE is that I make sure any digital visuals the instructor may have are visible to the audience. This includes keynotes, camera tethering and any and all applications they may work on live. I am also in charge of pulling office pranks involving balls of tape, Sharpies, and jars of jelly beans.

What inspired you to go into production?
I can’t say I found this job — it really did find me. I am definitely inspired by my family daily. My sister is in casting, and I think we both have our mother to thank for inspiring our fields. My line producer of a mom was the one driving to Burbank and back through two pregnancies — morning sickness in bumper-to-bumper traffic and all!

Why is your job hard/fun/rewarding?
This job is hard because it is live! There is much less room for error than a pre-recorded program, and if anything does go wrong, you have to be on your feet immediately. High stress doesn’t always mean bad, though — this job is the most fun job I have ever had and I am working with people who I know will be longtime friends and contacts, which is the biggest reward of all. It is hardly work when you are just hanging out with your close friends from 7am to 4pm every day.

Photo courtesy Kate Hailey.
Photo courtesy Kate Hailey.

What did you study in school?
I studied graphic art in school. I went to CSU Long Beach for a very brief period and then furthered my art education at Long Beach City College, mostly focusing on fine art under the graphic arts undergrad program. I left before graduation and now am educated daily about art, business, and photography for free.

What was your first job — and where else did you work before cL?
My first job was at a Long Beach coffee shop called It’s A Grind, and I loved it! It definitely sparked my coffee addiction. I then moved on to a Long Beach cafe/specialty coffee roaster(keeping the addiction going). Finally, my job immediately before creativeLIVE was a position as a Jr. Graphic Artist at Howe Clothing. The rest is history. Regardless of the job, I am constantly creating custom paintings in my free time, both for fun and so I can afford extra cheese on my burger.

1234Do you have any creative hobbies?
Outside of creativeLIVE, my hobbies include music and art. Before moving to Seattle, I was a drummer for 10+ years and toured the country multiple times with my band Run Doris Run. Now that I no longer live in Long Beach I stick mainly to my art as my creative outlet. I range from digital art to paintings, from mosaics to sketches and more. I like to switch my medium every couple months to keep things interesting for myself.

Who or what inspires you in your creative endeavors?
Music, movies, news, other art, cartoons, videos games, the list goes on. I am heavily inspired by pop culture, and if I can somehow fit a pun in there somewhere I am one happy camper. I like the challenge of taking multiple guidelines or elements already in existence and making one brand new thing out of it.

Who is your favorite cL teacher and why?
Answering this would sign me up for a karate chop from Sue Bryce, a broken phone courtesy of Ben Willmore, and a severed finger mailed to me via Lindsay Adler. If I had to give one name that has benefitted me greatly it would have to be Jack Davis. I love painting in the real world, and his brushes and techniques for creating these images digitally are so helpful to me and what I do.

If you were a creativeLIVE instructor, what would you teach?

Photo courtesy Kenna Klosterman on Instagram.
Photo courtesy Kenna Klosterman on Instagram.

If I were to teach a course it would have to be something to do with Illustrator or Photoshop. Perhaps turning your artwork into a vector image, separating color layers.

What’s the strangest/most awesome thing you’ve ever done in a job?
The first thing that comes to mind is back at my job in the Long Beach coffee shop. We were having a coffee stand at a local college’s orientation. The interesting part being that I got to work it in a 7 foot tall iced mocha costume. I was having so much fun in the costume that one of the study body members asked if I wanted to get a college ID in the costume. Needless to say, I did.

Where do you see education going in the future?
Education is in a great place right now because everyone is fighting for your attention. People are starting to realize how easy it is to access knowledge and it doesn’t take 30 years of debt to obtain it. The major piece missing is the social acceptance of this style of learning as a creditable source. You could have read and retained every book ever created and some places just want to see that expensive piece of paper saying that you know your stuff, and that is just plain ignorant.

1072450_10200929375170323_1923914401_oWhat’s your favorite family tradition?
My favorite Oncley family tradition is Sunday dinner. Granted we are now separated by a whole state, Sunday was always reserved for a family meal together. There were exceptions but it was always nice getting everyone together even after they moved out of the nest. Now the tradition is kept alive with my friends in Seattle. Sundays(and other work schedule-friendly days) are the days we all meet for a hot bowl of pho or a good burger on a weekly basis.

Most life-changing (non-creativeLIVE) class you’ve ever taken?
It is hard to say “life-changing” since I wasn’t enjoying the quality of learning prior to creativeLIVE. That being said, there were a couple of art classes I took in my college years that were the exception. The sculptor Adam Teraoka and the fine artist Cathy Stone both taught their own classes in Long Beach and I took a lot from both of them. Not only did I learn from the subjects they were teaching(which I did, a lot), but their methods of teaching in a relaxed, low-pressure atmosphere was definitely an eye opener on how education could be. They trusted us, not as students, but as artists that they were simply talking art with.

What do you do with cLers outside the office?
PAR-TY. If you’d like a real answer, just think about what you do with your close friends, because we also do that.

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Topher Kelly is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and editor at CreativeLive. Follow Topher on Twitter@Topher_LIVE.