This interview is part of the Creative Catalyst Artist Interview Series and was originally published in 2012.
Oil and Acrylic painter Michele Usibelli loved art from an early age. Her training as an architect student at the University of Washington gave her what she calls the "fundamental groundwork for drawing." Usibelli also clearly loves to travel, and she is inspired by the light and shapes she sees on these adventures and brings them to her canvas.
1. How do you think studying architecture helped you as an artist?
Architecture gave me the fundamental groundwork for drawing. An artist is only as strong as his or her ability to draw. The technical drawing that I had in architecture has built the groundwork for my cityscapes and street scenes. Without a clear understanding of vanishing points, perspective and other elements of design, executing a well planned scene is extremely difficult.
2. You have been strongly influenced by several artists. How important it is to have influences when you're learning?How did you incorporate their influential elements and make them your own?
I think being influenced and connecting with other artists who you admire is a necessity. When I first began painting I was enamored with the color palette of Sydney Laurence and the brushwork of Nicolai Fechin. I spent hours studying their artworks, paying attention to their use of color, composition, brushstrokes and paint application. This exercise helped me see my paintings in a different way. Its important to take those elements that inspire and and apply them to your own style, making it your own unique voice. You don't want to merely copy.
I am very competitive with myself and set my goals and standards very high for what I one day hope to accomplish with my art and the message I want to send to my collectors. One way to do this is through my galleries that represent my work. When looking at potential galleries I take the long term approach, knowing that a decision may not come right away and it may take a while. I also firmly believe that it is my job to make sure that I interview the gallery to see if I am a good and they meet my expectations; do they greet customers as they enter the gallery in a courteous and attentive manner, is the gallery staff approachable and friendly, do they love my work. If they love my work they will be excited to sell my work! It is important to do your homework, research the gallery before you approach them, make sure that your work compliments the other artists being represented by the gallery and follow closely their submission guidelines, don't show up unannounced and expect them to meet with you.
4. How long have you considered yourself an oil painter? Was it the moment you discovered the medium or did it take years of study before you felt ready to identify as such? I have had years of drawing classes but only began painting 12 years ago when I picked up a brush and tried oils for the first time. I immediately fell in love with the medium and identified myself as an oil painter almost immediately.
5. How do you decide what to paint? What is it you are looking for in a subject and how do you know when you've found it?
I love to paint all subject matter from figurative to still life, landscapes to portraits. The common theme that carries though my artwork is my attraction the the play of light through the scene. This play of light against dark and warm against cool is what inspires me to begin a painting.
6. How does your approach change or your goals change when painting different subject matters?
My approach really stays consistent regardless of subject matter because I view each painting as a compilation of shapes and values, not subjects. I really view each piece as a series of color spots and if you look closely at my work you will see that is how I apply the paint.
I don't have a very long attention span and tend to get distracted quite easily. My average is 2-3 days on a simple composition up to one week on a more complex composition. I will do preliminary sketches for a more intricate painting and I have usually spent a few days working the drawing out in my head before I begin to paint. To learn more about artist Michele Usibelli, visit her website, micheleusibelli.com