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Meet the Artist
For the love of Animals, interview with Michelle Wilson
- Written by Vanessa Champion Vanessa Champion
Continuing our series of interviews with Artists we've connected with over this year, we catch up with Michelle Wilson, animal artist extraordinaire.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What got you into art, were you always an artist?
I am an artist from Northern Ireland. 39 years old married with 2 kids and 2 dogs! I have always loved art. I have been a full-time artist for 3 years now. It happened by accident! I used to be a fingerprint expert and during my lunch break, I would normally read. One day I wasn’t interested in reading and decided to draw. I took a page from the printer and a biro and drew a horse from a calendar on the wall. This was seen by my colleagues and they started to ask for commissions. I progressed to starting a Facebook page for my art and it has just blossomed from there. An opportunity arose to leave work and concentrate on my art. It was daunting, and still can be, but I thought I would regret not seizing the opportunity.
You use Strathmore Bristol Board smooth and vellum?
I adore Strathmore Bristol vellum. It can take so many layers of coloured pencil and watercolour. It allows me to build up my colour and get the fine details of the animals' eyes etc.
Do you use one finish for different subjects or finishes? What determines which one you use?
Bristol smooth allows me to work faster with sharp details. Colours go on strong and bright!
Your style is very light, and has great natural energy to it. You can almost feel the animals breathing on the page. Do you use a mix of pencil and watercolour? Can you describe how you work?
I never really know what medium I will use until I begin. I start with a basic pencil outline, which I erase as I go. I use a lightbox to ensure positioning is correct. Especially for the eyes and mouth! The finer details are put down using colour. Sometimes I use watercolour pencils or watercolours to lay down the base colours. I will then use professional-grade coloured pencils to capture the fine details, reflections in the eye etc. I sometimes use an indentation tool to capture fine wispy hairs. I then add colour over the top. I also use a scalpel to scrape away layers of colour and give texture. I will work on a piece then start something new, before going back to the first piece with fresh eyes! I also photograph my work at different stages. I share the stages on my social media. I find taking photographs also allows me to view the piece differently. It shows me which areas I maybe need to amend or adjust.
I love drawing animals. The colours and textures! Capturing their personality on paper. It feels amazing when you see the reaction of the person who commissioned the piece or the person it was gifted to. Sometimes there are tears, but happy tears.
Are you working on any projects at the moment? What’s on the horizon?
I have been kindly granted permission from David Yarrow to use his amazing photographs as references. I am currently working on some emperor penguins! I exhibited at The Love your Home show in Dublin so I was working on original art to display there. I am now also looking at the prospect of running some workshops in the local area.
A fun question, if you were a Strathmore paper which one would you be?
I would choose to be a Bristol vellum paper! Soft with lots of layers!!!
To find out more about Michelle, check out her links online: