Mike Ousley is a native of Southeastern Kentucky and grew up in Floyd County. The experience of a life in the mountains has shaped the attitudes that inform his painting practice.I grew up in the small and very isolated Mudlick Branch Hollow, in Hippo, Kentucky. I played in the woods, creeks, and up and down the roads in this holler and that one. I was alway's surrounded by unique stories and character's from a very young age and I credit those folks for a great deal of inspiration.
As a student I remember walking past the Kentucky Folk Art Center everyday. I became mesmerized by the paintings of Charley Kinney, Hugo Sperger and Tim Sizemore. I also became influenced by a very thriving Appalachian Art's community in Morehead. I found inspiration through storytellers, old-time Fiddler's, wood carver's and others. My approach to painting has remained rooted in my local folk culture and folklore. In staying rooted within the culture of Southern Appalachia, I consider myself to be a folk artist.
My work has also been greatly influenced by Appalachian folklore and tales of Boogers and Haints. The wildlife of Appalachia, being closely intertwined in the folk stories are also important in my work. The culture of mountain folk's is unique from any other place in America. It's not really like the culture of the Deep South but rather; parts of West Virginia and Southeastern Kentucky have their own unique cultural traits.