Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Interview with Artist Michelle Geromel

I first found out about the art of Michelle Geromel through a mutual friend on Facebook. She has a website, and writes a blog called Love & Passion. She also has an Etsy store, where you can purchase her work.

Hi Michelle. How long have you been painting?

Hi Paul. I’ve been painting for about 16 years. Before that I worked mostly in colored pencil and pastel.

Did you receive formal training for painting. If so, can you describe it for us?

No I did not. I have taken classes from instructors such as Diane Youngblood and Robert Burridge. But I never went to art school or took classes in college.

You seem to have a few distinct styles. What sort of thing is currently your favorite to paint?

Right now it’s a toss up between the abstract landscapes which I paint with my fingers and my figurative paintings.

Can you say a few words about the materials and brushes you like to use?

From a brush perspective I like to use filberts.

I have three favorite types of acrylic paint. I use a lot of Nova Paints (a small company out of LA). Nova paints are not as thick but keep their color well and are very inexpensive. Plus they have some fun colors to mix with or just experiment with like steel flecked or gold. I also love Golden and Holbein. Holbein has the best color pigments - but their colors are different than standard palette colors - so I mix it up.

Do you paint from life, or from photographic references?

Generally I paint from photos. That way I can setup the light the way I like and also from a practical perspective - I like to paint into the night. I don’t want to have to call a model at 10pm and ask them to sit for me for a few hours.

Do you derive more joy from the process of painting, or from the product?

That’s a really good question Paul. I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that.

Probably the process. If I could paint in my studio all day long, every day I’d be a very happy girl. BUT - painting lots of paintings means you need to put them somewhere. And I do get a great amount of bliss from someone’s happy smiles, or other indications of joy when they see my work/ purchase my work. So the product can derive a great deal of pleasure as well.

Can you tell us a story about someone you have met through an art connection?

I met one of my best friends. She was sitting across from me at Sawdust Winter Festival in Laguna Beach. And she came over and introduced herself. We became inseparable after that. Some of it was because of the art - having a friend who is an artist can be very comforting. All of a sudden all the odd ways you look at the world aren’t so odd, when someone else see them too. And some of the connection was because we were both coming out of relationships at the time and needed a friend who understood that pain. We are very supportive of each other’s art and I see her every week for one thing or another.

It’s funny - and I don’t think I ever told her this. Years earlier I walked by her booth at that festival and I remembered her after that. Out of all the artists - she was the only one who’s art and person I remembered that visit to the festival. And now we are good friends.

Do you find that you need the validation of others (buyers, galleries, critics)? Or do you already know in your heart that a painting is good?

Validation is a double edged sword. If you believe other people’s press about you - then when it’s bad, do you believe that as well? I really try to not need outside validation because that is giving my power away.

Am I hurt if someone criticizes my art? Sometimes yes. But when I step back I realize in most cases that person was threatened by something they felt from my art and/or they are a frustrated artist and seeing someone who is successfully putting paint to canvas bothers them.

I think there are people in my life in whom their opinion matters. A few of my best friends - I do ask their feedback, sometimes about a painting (ie. Is it done? - they always say yes way before I declare it done) and sometimes about a new series. But I have learned even here, a lot of times people I love don’t necessarily see the vision until it’s complete. How can they? It’s not their vision to begin with.

I have also discovered something about my art - and that is- it’s connecting. Some type of art may not be for everyone - but I know it’s good. And I can tell when it’s crap. And generally, even things I think are crap, other people think are good. So I’ve stopped looking outside for that validation and just paint.

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring painter, what would it be?

Just paint. People will try to mold you into what they think you should do - what subjects you should paint, what your style should be, what color palette you should use. Don’t listen to any of it. Just do what you do - and listen to your intuition and eventually you will find your own voice, your own style.
When you create a painting, do you consciously have the viewer in mind, trying to create a certain set of feelings for that person? Or do you paint for yourself (by which I mean, follow your own vision) and hope that it also resonates with others?

A little bit of both. I started doing my male torsos because people kept asking for them. But I couldn’t start them until I was ready to paint them - with powerful intention. Meaning on the back of every piece I place an emotion, an objective for that piece. And until I could comfortably do that I didn’t paint men. And now I think these are some of my best pieces. However, at the same time, I was told a while ago, by a great expert in art, that I knew nothing about nudes because mine were not lying down. That just doesn’t work for me. It’s not my vision - it’s not why I paint them. I’m inspired by the ancient roman and greek statutes. So while I do listen to what people want, and what resonates with them - it also needs to resonate with me first.

That's hilarious about the "not lying down" comment. Some people want to inhabit such tiny boxes.

What one aspect of your life in art has brought you the greatest joy?

Great question. Growing up and then working in corporate America, there always seemed to be a “what will people think” question running through my mind. I don’t mean about art - I mean about everything. The color of the rug in the living room, what I was wearing, what decorations I put outside my home etc. And I’ve noticed this internal dialogue in a lot of other people as well.

The awesome thing about being an artist is I’ve learned to turn that off. Because for me there is no way I could paint anything I now paint if I was worried about what people might say. No one got the torso paintings when I first started them. No one got why I would paint a giraffe - but now they love them. This worrying about what other people think is stifling.

And I don’t have that anymore. And occasionally if I forget, friends will remind me that I’m an artist, I can do whatever. So I do. I wear what I want. I decorate my house as I like. I even dyed my hair with pink highlights for a while, because I could. Embracing being an artist has been the best. Because it has been freeing.

Thanks, Michelle. Awesome interview!