For someone with an artistic tempest inside his head, Mike “Skatchface” Long is a mellow dude. Art is not what he does — it’s how he lives.

Long grew up skating with the older kids in Poughkeepsie, developed his style and became low-key but well-known, especially among the tight-knit street art crowd. The latest issue of Newburgh-based hardcore punk ’zine Outsider devoted a spread to his work. A storefront he painted in Miami was included in Mana Public Arts: Murals by Leading Street Artists from Around the World, published in December. 

Last summer he moved to Beacon and calibrated his living circumstances well. He works at a modest home studio, his sons attend school nearby and one of his gigs is across the street. He just landed a job in New Windsor painting sets for Broadway shows, which he prefers to commuting to New York City.

“Here, artists are taken seriously,” he says of Beacon. “You can be creative and make a living; it’s not a pipe dream.”

Skatchface with his painting, "Uncle Scram"
Skatchface with his painting, “Uncle Scram” (Photo by M. Ferris)

At 43, he is at a turning point. He still bombs around on a skateboard but sometimes his back flares up. His oldest son is in high school and his youngest is 9.

So far, he has managed to pay the bills making art. He earned a degree in graphic design and got his nickname from an Austrian classmate who often asked to see his “skatchbook,” meaning sketchbook.

The face in Skatchface refers to his specialty. Some have grotesque, distorted expressions. Some scowl, others look frightened, and nearly all are painted in the wild.

“The art establishment has no awareness of what the graffiti artists do,” says Beacon pop artist Ron English, for whom Long has apprenticed over the last four years. “They’re anti-capitalist, for one thing. One part of their social life is creating art on freight trains that will travel around the country. Highbrow artists try to sell what they create. But it’s like jazz: When you do a deep dive, you understand and appreciate it more.”

With a family to support, Long took white-collar design jobs that he says slowly crushed his spirit. “It wasn’t helping the creative process when the sun would come up and go down while I sat at my desk,” he says. But he kept other outlets alive. “My passion is finding that cool spot at an abandoned place, being outdoors and creating.”

Around 100 of his intricate pieces stretch from Miami to Boston, and Long is starting to add his mark to the expansive brick and concrete canvases at the abandoned industrial sites that dot the Highlands.

Taggers gotta tag, so his scrawled signature is also seen on the back of street signs, in bar bathrooms and on traffic light-control boxes. He affixes stickers to accommodating surfaces.

Through Long’s work with English and English’s wife, Tarssa Yazdani, he has become part of the family. Part of his job is to complete practical tasks with computers and cameras to help conceptualize projects, but the trio also dreams up weird ideas and often films them.

One brainstorm evolved into a sardonic book-burning event during Beacon Bonfire. Participants chanted slogans, contorted their faces like maniacs and toasted marshmallows.

Long’s sons took part. He supports their creative expressions but is laissez-faire. Clearly, he is proud that his eldest plays guitar in an alt-punk band, his youngest doodles and they both skate to a degree.

To stretch his skill set, he plans to delve into sculpting and enjoys playing with an air compressor-powered spray paint gun for the first time. 

“They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” he says, wearing cutoff shorts splattered with blotches of paint. “So if you keep learning new tricks, you’re not an old dog.”

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Marc Ferris is a freelance journalist based in Croton-on-Hudson.

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