Sam Michelle is a New Zealand born Melbourne based full-time artist specialising in figure (mainly women) and peonies (a type of flower). The award winning artist and mother of two shares with us her beginnings in art and the significance of the female form in her work.
Can you tell us where your interest in art first began?
In primary school my sister would win numerous colouring competitions by not being mainstream. She inspired my creativity, work ethic and to think of ways to stand out. I loved to sketch the cover models on my Dolly and Girlfriend magazines and would study the proportions of the female face and body. In college my passion for the female form continued where you will see these shapely figures splattered all over my art portfolios.
Growing up did you always want to be an artist?
Art and creating is something I have always pursued, for me I find it is natural and hereditary. Until recently, I worked in finance for 13 years which gave me the skills to treat my art as a creative business. My art is now my job and it is a dream come true!
What were your creative influences growing up?
My mother is very creative and all four grandparents were artistic. My mother’s mum was a china doll painter and her father was a jewellery designer. My father’s mum was a beautiful sketch artist and his late father was an exhibiting painter, sculpture, and my biggest influence. In the late 90’s his eyesight had faded and was unable to paint, he passed down his oil paint collection which started my infatuation with their versatility.
Can you describe a bit of your creative process?
I love the creative process, in particular the planning. I love sketching out my poses and compositions and creating interesting angles and placement. I will then take photos of my muse in these positions to paint from. I will plan my colour scheme. I find using paint sample cards a great way to play around with complimenting colours. I’ll check if my lights and darks are interesting enough to create a great painting and then begin.
Other than oil paints and brushes, what other media do you like to use?
Ample odourless turps. It helps with my layering, drips and drying time.
The female form plays a huge role in much of your artwork. Recently we’ve seen them on sandy beaches staring out towards the ocean or as ballerinas perhaps preparing for or reflecting on a performance. What is the story behind these women?
I find interesting angles and light make a great painting and the female form has natural curves and angles that catch light so beautifully. Personally I am very focused on a giving, calm and grateful lifestyle. I want my paintings to reflect a calming influence on people, I want my works to radiate a relaxed energy.
What does the woman’s body mean to you and how do you represent this in your art?
I am the biggest fan and have huge admiration of the woman’s body and I admire its versatility. It can be muscular, angelic, nurturing, and soft. I aim to represent women with a relaxed, healthy, body, mind and spirit. My favourite body part to paint are legs, I love to make them curvy and strong.
You also create some very detailed floral paintings. How long would one of these usually take?
The recent 50cm x 50cm works take me a solid 10-15 hours of painting over a week. Peonies are the only flower I have ever been inspired to paint.
You are a successful, award winning artist and a mother of two young boys. What advice would you give for any young aspiring artists out there?
It will take hard work and practice. I have been painting and practicing for over 17 years, galleries have said no, and only over the last two years people are starting to notice my work. Find an original style, let the viewer visually wonder about your process and techniques. Know what you need to work on, for me it was an original style, a process for speed, and great lights and darks. Be aware of when you are in your creative high, this might be on a long run, surfing or at a particular time of day. Find a way to creatively give, this could be charity or maybe teaching. Surround yourself with positive people who give you encouraging confidence. Ask for feedback, find a mentor, find and follow artists that inspire you. Most importantly, write down your goals, ask yourself what kind artist you want be and believe it is a reality.
1. Adjustments, 50 x 50cm, oil on canvas
2. Polka Dot Plum, 50 x 50cm, oil on canvas
3. The Ultimate Influence, 150 x 120cm, oil on canvas
Photo by Narelle Bailey