Michelle T., an incredible artist from the CPS community, has shared her piece with the Radar for this edition’s Artist of the Week! Her fine attention to detail and excellent technique in this watercolor realism painting create the in-depth scene we are greeted with. The intense darks and highlights bring the subjects out of the page, and the photorealistic aspect of the clothing caught my eye the first time I looked at it! This beautifully candid scene shows a family at an event, a mother holding one child and a father with the other, emotion conveyed in the facial expressions of the subjects. Michelle’s color choices contribute to the underlying messaging of her painting; the muted and neutral colors are overlaid by pops of red, white, and blue, giving the viewer a sense of the nationalism she intended to portray.
As far as a title goes, Michelle hasn’t settled on one quite yet. Michelle commented that to begin, she had to choose a reference image that really spoke to her. Among her decisions, a focus on symbolism and imagery (the subjects, American flags, and color choices of red, white, and blue) brought her to the beginning of her journey with this family. Her title would be based on the showcase of America and patriotism, since her piece represents the interaction of other cultures with American culture. The choice to paint this piece came from observations of her surroundings. She reflected that from watching her primarily Asian community, including friends and family, she sees the interaction of cultures as a source of inspiration. During creation, Michelle imagined that this family recently immigrated. In one of their first interactions with American culture, she shows their slight hesitation, but also interest and excitement in something new.
She started her creative process at the end of Freshman year, and then took a break over the summer. Before school started, she had more time to work on her art. For three to four days she would work almost six hours a day on finishing her painting, and then in about a week’s time she was able to finish it.
Along the way, though, it was not completely smooth sailing. It was a challenge to bring all of the feelings in the image to her work, because of the strong emotions the subjects convey. In particular, Michelle spent a lot of time on the little details. The faces stood out to her as one of the most difficult elements in complexity and importance. She enjoys putting time and effort into all of the elements of an image, such as the shoes and clothing shown in this piece, or the water bottle hidden under the girl’s leg. She believes that truly capturing an image isn’t just about what stands out the most, but also about giving the piece a solid base in what may stand out the least.
After the process, she decided one of her favorite aspects would be the detail in the clothing, such as the wrinkles and shading, and the shoes, especially the father’s shoes, which took a long time for her to complete. Among the things she might change, if she were to attempt a piece like this again, would be facial features. The details required to make a face show the correct emotions of a reference is incredibly important and difficult. She elaborated on how faces can make or break a piece, and said that she wishes she could have changed the faces' relationships to shadow; for example, changing how the father’s face looks under the hat, which partially masks his emotions. Another feature she wishes she spent more time on is the hair. Overall, although she is proud of the details she included, she wishes she could add more to make the whole painting even more intricate.
About the Artist
Michelle hasn’t taken a traditional art class at CPS yet, but is in Nexus working in the X-Lab this semester. Its focus being 3D printing, the class does require a lot more mechanical work, but she still brings her artistic eye and creativity into her work there. Visual art is mainly a hobby of hers, something that she enjoys in her spare time, as well as a decompression tool to calm her down and take her mind off of stressful things. Although the pastime can be a solitary activity, Michelle mentioned that she has a community of artists outside of school that have built a strong connection around art, and support each other in their pursuits. She also loves to admire other people’s art. She finds her own style rooted in the intense amount of detail she adds, as she likes to include little things that you might not notice at first, but can continue to find the more you look at her pieces. Thanks, Michelle!