My spirit has been riding in this body for forty years now – I was born forty years ago next June but I would have had brain cells and such by this time, forty years ago, even though I hadn’t yet tried the outside air.
It hit me hard today. As I was reading an article about craft traditions that are now practiced by a bare few, I realized that it’s my turn to bring the things that I value into the future. I want a college student twenty years from now to fall in love with Sumi-e, or to feel the touch of washi paper, or see a real indigo dyed piece of cloth, or paint with oils, or know how nice it is to write a letter with a real pen.
It’s not a burden to bear alone, thank goodness, but I can do a great service to the future by adding my interest and support to the traditions I want to see continue. So can you, if you want to. Every one of us who loves something and shows it, helps it stay in the world and not be forgotten. Maybe for you it’s your grandmother’s sticky bread that nobody else knows how to make just right, or a breed of dog that’s rare and misunderstood. Maybe it’s something else.
So I’ll keep baking my own sourdough that never knew the touch of a stand mixer. I’ll practice my ink painting. I’ll keep shifting my own gears and cooking on a gas flame. I’ll keep learning about oil painting. Sometime, I’ll save up and buy an iron tea kettle made lovingly by hand. When I can, I’ll buy real washi paper from Japan, not an imitation, and make sure to get it from one of the places that still uses the old methods. The money used to buy those things will help crafters and tradesmen keep the lights on just a bit longer.
It doesn’t take a huge effort, it doesn’t have to become some kind of holy cause. I accept this burden, which isn’t so heavy after all, this torch, to keep and guard and carry so that someone can take it from me in the future.
The painting here is my first full size oil painting. I see a lot of issues with it, as with any first effort, however there were also some of the fabled happy accidents and I learned from it. The sumi-e up in the header is another thing I’ve picked up again, my first painting in that medium in quite some time. I promise I’ll get better!
This week I did quite a few drawings, and more of them will be here in a day or two. I also started oil painting and completed a couple of tiny test canvases. One was four inches by six, the other four by eight. I included a picture of the two of them together so you can get an idea of how small they are. Soon I’ll be moving up to a much larger canvas (probably 18 by 24 or so) but these were a fun way to get my feet wet and find out what it was like to work with the materials.
So far I love it, by the way. The way the paint smells and feels, the brushes, the long working time, it’s all great. I’m happy to have the opportunity to do this at long last. It was one very big item on my bucket list. If anyone has interest, I’ll write an article about the best way to find halfway decent painting supplies without paying a huge amount of money.
I learned a lot about what not to do with a palette knife here!
Here, to be random, is a picture of Nezumi sleeping with her paw over her eyes. “Moms, turn the light off, wouldja?”
Michelle Kowalczyk is an artist from Melbourne with a fascinating body of work. Her talents are wide ranging. She can make beautiful marine and botanical drawings, paint in oils, do lovely digital art, and she even works with fashion and furniture art. One of her recent commissioned works is an oil painting on a laptop!
I was fortunate enough to interview Michelle, and get her thoughts on a few subjects.
Welcome to Mindflight, Michelle! My first question for you us, what’s your favorite form of art?
My Favorite form of art is Oil Painting yet I am biased since this is also my favorite medium, however I believe that artists and art lovers should never let themselves be limited by one form of art, they need to allow the endless possibilities of all forms to influence their appreciation of art. Fashion, sculpture, photography and installations are interests of mine however, I tend to be drawn more to the artworks that possess a focus on using technical skill and hard work in their creation. To me that means the artist has put more of themselves into an artwork and to me that is what great art is. It’s time, effort, thought, self, intention and skill, it’s not the scrap work that should be filed in the studio as sample or trial work, it is the product of obsessive perfection that is cultivated into that final work of art.
I find myself completely agreeing with you. So, what’s your favorite artist?
My favorite artist is Titian, however I also have a soft spot for fantasy artists Julie Bell and Luis Royo. These three have technical skill that I can only aspire to and they have all mastered the human figure to a level that I can only dream of. Also, the fan girl inside of me revels in the fantasy side of the art that both Bell and Royo are truly masters of.
Do you have a piece of advice for people who are just beginning?
For those who are just beginning to venture into the art world, I know it sounds cliche, however practice the basics, start looking at the subject matter not as whole, but in smaller sections that you can break down to the simplest brush or pencil strokes. If you can master thinking like this even the most complicated and complex idea can be transformed into what you imagine it can be. For oil painting you break down the layers of paint then build them up on your canvas, for drawing its shape form that can be simplified into simplistic lines that can be used as the foundation of more complex details…
I could go on, but its really those basics that can travel over all disciplines. Also practice not because you shouldn’t listen to yourself when you think this is a shitty drawing I can’t draw but because by practicing you are improving your hand to eye control and inevitably you will improve even if that’s only because muscle memory begins to play a part in your development. Practice makes perfect isn’t a saying or old wives tale based on a lie like eating crusts will make your hair curly, it’s a mantra that really does work.
I’d also tell artists not to limit themselves by only focusing on art they know they love. Inspiration can be found even in the art we hate because we see what would not want to do ourselves and every little artwork helps us to evolve our opinions and our art.
What is a challenge to you as an artist?
I suffer from perfectionism. There are hundreds of artworks and drawings that never even get released onto the internet because really it’s just not good enough and I want to share only the artworks that make the cut. It also means I spend a lot of money on supplies and time on sample pieces so that the final artwork design is something I am not ashamed to share. last year my studio had 230 artworks they were left unfinished due to a flaw or they were scrapped into my black book. To this moment there less than 30 That I would even consider worth exhibiting. My current abstract works are my attempt to alleviate the negative toss away must be perfect outlook I struggle with by giving me some room for error in the abstract area. As a result I’m beginning to create artwork I feel might just be good enough to finally start exhibiting with. Hopefully end of this year or next I will work to have my first solo exhibition.
What’s your favorite thing about art?
My favorite thing about art is the intense control and meditative care it requires. I need the control it creates for me, not because I am erratic or insane but because its what keeps me happy. Without it, I wouldn’t be who I am and I definitely wouldn’t have the self control and focus I do in my everyday life. For me art is my tai chi and without it I wouldn’t recognize myself. My favorite thing about it is that its the part of me I love the most and it helps me to work out my issues and thoughts while sharing a glimmer of what my overactive imagination conjures in the guise of something beautiful.
Thank you very much for stopping by, and I wish you the best in your career! If anyone wants to see your work, I’ll place some links below.
Thank so much for featuring me!
If anyone wants to check out more of Michelle’s art, feel free to check out these links. There’s far more to find than I could show here!