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Born and raised in the Niagara Region, I started drawing at the age of seven and continued to do so right through high school where I realized that Art was something that I wanted to pursue.

After high school, my journey into motherhood began and along the way, I became a proud and loving parent to four beautiful daughters.  In 2012 I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree From Brock University. I have been in a couple shows locally in the last couple of years. I also illustrated a children’s book called “A Sense of Love” available to purchase via Amazon.

 Life has always come at me sideways, With Various traumas and triumphs along the way. My Intentions while creating have always been to work out the mental constructs of my mind. During this process, I am able to see the beauty in the lessons I had to learn over my lifetime. My goal in my creative process has been to throw light on the subject of abuse and trauma.  As a child, I always had a bag of clothes packed ready to run away at any given moment. My Step-Father was abusive and we would often come home to find broken furniture, holes in the walls and bruises all over my mother. The scenes I paint are traditional landscapes or cities, both are my want to run away to a place where no one knows me or there isn’t anyone around. That working through these emotions has never been about the acts themself, but what was left behind. Through the balance of tension and beauty, my art pieces make the viewer engage their own emotions. 

Many of my pieces explore the uncertainty of life, the fear, and anxiety of not knowing what comes next, often enticing wonderment of what is not seen on the canvas, and trying to live in the present.

My process is based on the theory of the Cartesian Self. Never having a clear vision of what the finished piece will look like, I immerse myself into the process of feeling, eventually removing self from the image appearing on the canvas. It is a thought experiment.  An individual’s mind, separate from the body and the outside world, thinking about itself and its existence.

This is depicted in the lack of human figures or faces in the piece, allowing the viewer to enter the images unencumbered, and visualize themselves in the setting or journey portrayed. 

After experimenting with various mediums in university, I found that I prefer acrylic paint to other mediums. I use the wet on wet approach and often blend colour directly on the canvas. I allow the paint to drip down and often that becomes part of the landscape that I am creating. I combine the use of a pallet knife and brush, moving between realism and impressionism.  I use realistic colours with exaggerated colours to pop off of the darker and more muted tones.

Hello Michelle! When did you begin painting and how did you get started?

Michelle: I started drawing at a young age. We didn’t have a lot of money, but there was always paper around (scraps, discarded envelops, or newsprint paper). I would draw on anything really. My sister and I actually made our own paper dolls, which we covered in tape so we could switch out the outfits we created for our dolls. Eventually, we would build houses out of packaging material. These dolls have a good life, lol. Eventually, in high school, I began to paint. My Art teacher was a huge influence in my life, I was very shy at that point (sort of) she would let me hang out in the art room during the break, so I could hide from the other students. I could act in a play, but making friends was never something I did easily because of that my art became a huge component in
my teenage years. I applied to a couple of competitions, which I didn’t win. I needed more practice. I would buy my supplies from a dollar store and I would sit in my room using moldy house paint to create images while listening to classical music, this is how it’s done right? I then became a young mother and wife, my art was always still there but was more on the back burner. I would create for family and some close friends, but never thought I’d do anything with it until my kids were grown or I retired (even though I wasn’t working at the time). However, It came time that my youngest kid was almost ready to go to school, what should I do with myself now? I originally applied to university for an accounting degree, I was good, but, I knew I wasn’t following my deepest calling to be an artist. I managed to convince my (ex)husband to let me go to art school with the intention of becoming an art teacher. In my last year of university my husband and I split, I hadn’t gone through teachers college yet, and there weren’t any jobs locally in that field. So in order to tread-water my art was on the back burner again. Flash forward to now, where I am finally in the place to pursue my career full time.

How would you describe your artwork, medium, style, subject matter etc.

Michelle: I do chalk pastel drawings and would love to move into sculptures and installations. However, most of my art is Acrylic painting on canvas, I switch between using a palette knife and paintbrush, but have even used a trowel for tiles to put paint on the canvas. The majority of my pieces are landscape paintings from my mind but there is a handful that are from real places. My art is a combination of impressionism and realism. I love the freeing ability to work outside the realistic perception of what is right in front of you, however, I have come from a really religious background, where art was frowned upon if it didn’t glorify God. I am currently working on four pieces; two are hyper-realistic and two will be impressionism representations of the first two; throwing emotion and feeling into the scene and creating a contrast to what I was “allowed” to create in my previous life.

You say your process is based on the theory of the Cartesian Self. What are you trying to solve at each stage of it? And does this method help you get out of your comfort zone?

Michelle: The hilarious thing about this theory is that I was watching a Hallmark Christmas movie last year while having a couple of glasses of wine, and the Cartesian Self was mentioned. I made a note to look it up, and realized that this was my process without even knowing it! There has been one hiccup after another throughout my life and each time I’ve really pushed to get my art out there or really work towards it, something devastating would happen. Each time I started a new series, it was to solve a new dilemma. So I suppose you could say, I am trying to solve myself and the events in my life. This has absolutely pushed me out of my comfort zone! I come from a family where no one apologizes for their mistakes and I had to grow beyond that. I had to pick
out my flaws, but I wasn’t being self-deprecating. I would shine a light on these “flaws” and try and make them beautiful! That was my new goal. However, while doing so, I wanted to be able to remove myself from the image and let the viewer take their own journey.

Your art is very unique. What’s the most challenging part of your artistic process? And how do you overcome it?

Michelle: The hardest part of my art process is putting meaning behind my work, so others want to buy it.
LOL. But to be completely honest, it’s giving myself permission to create, and having the mental space to do so. I have four children, all of whom are still living at home. I am the taxi driver and problem solver, the maid, the landscaper, the cook, and the caregiver to the dog. I’ve recently stopped working and am having more time to designate to my art. If I am talking about the process separate from my children, my Intentions while creating are always to work out the mental constructs of my mind. During this process, I am able to see the beauty in the lessons I had to learn over my lifetime. My goal in my creative process is to throw light on the subject of abuse and trauma. As a child, I always had a bag of clothes packed ready to run away at any given moment. My Step-Father was abusive and we would often come home to find broken furniture, holes in the walls, and bruises all over my mother. The scenes I paint are traditional landscapes or cities, both are my want to run away to a place where no one knows me or there isn’t anyone around. That working through these emotions has never been about the actual acts, but what was left behind. Through the balance of tension and beauty, my art pieces make the viewer engage their own emotions.

Many of my pieces explore the uncertainty of life, the fear, and anxiety of not knowing what comes next, often enticing wonderment of what is not seen on the canvas, and trying to live in the present.

I know it’s a hard topic, but as someone who has been subjected to abuse and trauma when you were a kid, do you think that doing art has healing and/or freeing effect for you, or is it something else? And what advice would you give to those that experienced the same?

Michelle: My art is 1000% about my abuse and traumas, and not just as a kid. There are some that I don’t discuss on forums since I am protecting some people from laying it all out there. I will say that I do feel lighter after a new piece is created, those thoughts and feelings have to go somewhere, I almost blank out while painting, I can’t remember how I did that technique, or how I came up with such an enthralling scene! I want to tell those who experienced trauma that this is a great way to let go of that hurt and anger. As I said, I sometimes blank out and come to something that has allowed me to let go of one more broken piece within myself. Don’t worry what the image looks like, just paint, just let the emotions come out of the end of the brush! Art is so many things, it can be anything, so why limit yourself with these thoughts of whether its good or not, just create!

How has your art evolved over the years?

Michelle:  My arts technicality has grown over the years. I’ll include a picture just for reference of where I was as a young mother versus after university. I will say my content hasn’t really changed outside the fact that I have done some nudes, which definitely wasn’t allowed while in the church. My blending technique has changed and I have become more confident in my abilities. The biggest thing that has changed over the years was my understanding of where the urge was coming from and why I need to do this! It’s actually two-fold: I want my girls to know that following their passion should never be put on the back burner and that it isn’t selfish or worthless. But also, I have a story to tell. I need healing and if this is the way, then this is the way.

What artists influenced you the most and why?

Michelle: This is actually one of the hardest questions to answer. I don’t want to sound dumb or mention an artist that everyone knows or seems too pop-culturery. I will say that The Group of Seven was one of the first Artist groups that I learned about. The way that Lawren Harris creates line and color contrast has influenced my work for sure. There is another Canadian Artist that influenced me greatly during my series “Uncertain Path”, however, I am horrible with names, and the book I would reference was lost in a house fire in 2017. Other than that, I would say an art professor and an old classmate that never stops putting her work out there, and was a constant reminder to just create. We don’t speak anymore, but I see her on social media and she lives, breathes, and eats art. That to me is an inspiration.

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

Michelle: Every year I go to Peterborough, Ontario in September, for their Studio Tour every year where you get to walk around (or drive, to get to the further out studios), and I happened upon a female Artist whom I showed my art to, and she said, wow, you definitely have your own technique. As an Artist, this is huge! There isn’t an original thought out there anymore, everything’s already been done. But saying I have my own technique! Now that’s Something! I’ve also been alarmed by statements like, I can feel your sadness coming off this piece. I
consider myself a fairly happy person, and as I said earlier, I feel lighter after finishing a painting. The fact that someone could feel what I was feeling and left on the canvas is quite the statement, and I should be proud that that came across in my work.

What is the best way to reach people that are interested in your art?

Michelle: Oh please give me the answer to this one! I am still trying to figure that out! I have obsessively read every article and book out there. It feels like there is no one way to reach your audience but It sounds like consistency and patience are the key. If someone wants to come to teach me Instagram I’d greatly appreciate it! LOL

Are there any upcoming shows or workshops we should know about? And what is next for you?

Michelle: I have applied to numerous things and am still waiting to hear back on quite a few competitions and galleries. Right now, you can catch my work online on my website. I am currently working on a workshop I hope to roll out in the new year teaching my “unique” process.

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Thank you!

 

 

 

 

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