Today I’m excited to roll out a new feature of my blog: Artist Spotlights! As I’ve been exploring Etsy and connecting with other artists online, I have come across some really wonderful and talented individuals that I would love to spotlight. So without further ado, here’s introducing our first artist, crafter and writer, Michelle Ovalle!
BT: Please introduce yourself and your medium.
Michelle: Hi! My name is Inigo Montoya….woops, wrong interview! Let’s try that again. Hi there! I’m Michelle, a poet and visual artist with an affinity for mosh pits and red dresses. I work in quite a few mediums. My main forms are photography and poetry, but I also dabble in jewelry making, mixed media collage art, and sewing as well as soap and card making. I’m always looking for a new project!
BT: When did you first discover your creative talents?
Michelle: I think I found my love of the arts before I discovered talent. I grew up reading and it wasn’t long after I began school that I realized I really enjoyed making up my own stories. From that time, reading and writing became an enjoyable second nature to me. And Art was always my second favorite subject, coming in right under English. But, honestly, I never thought I was ever any good at art, even though I really liked it and was always asking my mom or grandmother to buy me supplies at the Rag Shop. It’s not until recent years that I’ve developed enough confidence to show my art work to others and try to sell some pieces as well.
BT: What themes do you pursue in your work?
Michelle: Quite a few! In poetry, the themes tend to stick to family and God. Lately, though, I’ve been writing more about animals. My visual art tends to center on projects that I give myself, like a photoshoot for a friend. I don’t usually think visually, which is why I have to focus on a project. I also tend to begin with a found object, like a magazine picture or a dictionary page. As silly or cliche as it may sound, these items usually make it less intimidating to create something out of nothing; it’s almost as if they give me courage. Themes always make themselves known once I start. I always begin with a rough idea, and the medium polishes it up. One project that I want to pursue is a series of mixed media collages based on cover illustrations of the New Yorker. I’m not quite sure what themes will pop up, but it should be an interesting experience.
BT: What “fills your well” and inspires you to create?
Michelle: Music and reading. I have a bi-polar taste in music. I love everything from hard rock, to rap/rock, to blues, to electronica and acoustic melodies. These various influences help me connect threads in some weird way. Reading the work of others, both poetry and fiction/non-fiction, also inspires me. When I read something I enjoy, it’s so exhilarating. It’s such a great privilege to see what other people are writing about, to share in that creative community. Very often that writing will speak to my own life and give me a way into writing or creating something I was previously blocked from.
BT: How do you handle creative block or writer’s block?
Michelle: One of the ways is to read the work of others as I mentioned in my previous answer. But I think what it really boils down to is: “do something else.” I’m fortunate enough to have so many creative pursuits that if poetry (for example) just isn’t flowing, I can go and play with oil pastels. This used to worry me because I thought I had abandoned an art form if I wasn’t currently working on a project with it. But now I know it’s just a cycle that works out it’s own blocks eventually. It’s also important to just do nothing sometimes. We can get so obsessed with productivity and being prolific that we run ourselves ragged. Art should be fun and rewarding. It can be frustrating and soul scouring, yes. But in the end, I think, a true artist will love what she does.
BT: If you had a superpower, what would it be, and why?
Michelle: Telepathy, for sure! But I don’t want to read people’s thoughts all the time. I want to be able to turn it off. I think I would want it to be off most times and only used on super secret missions. Ok fine, I only really want telepathy so I can be a super cool, super secret agent.
BT: What artists do you admire?
Michelle: I don’t know that I have a definitive list. Among the poets, I’d say Kim Addonizio, Matthew Dickman, Pat Rosal, and Jane Mead (my goodness, that is painfully abridged!). As far as visual artists, I tend to follow the blogs/Etsy shops of artists I like and I follow quite a few! That makes it difficult to pick the top ones. Though I’d have to say I really dig what Katie Daisy and JC Spock do. Katie Daisy because her art is so different from mine, and JC Spock because in her artwork I see pieces of the artist I would like to become.
BT: What is your dream project?
Michelle: I would love to work on a project that combines poetry with visual art. I think I’m just waiting for the right piece of verse to flow my way for the inspiration I need to put pictures to it.
BT: What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Michelle: Probably the best advice I’ve been given, for both art and life, came from reading “Letters to a Young Poet.” Poet Rainer Maria Rilke corresponded for years with a young man who was an aspiring writer. Ten of Rilke’s letters are published in the book. There is one quote I always go back to when I get frustrated or need inspiration. Rilke said:
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now.
One of the main reasons I create art is to work out questions, and I am always working something out. Art is my way of living and learning to love those questions.