Michelle Blade is a visual artist specializing in painting and ceramics based in Los Angeles, California. Her style encompasses humanistic surrealism and highlights the mysterious essence of the natural world. Michelle invited us to step inside her studio and gives us a look at some of the tools it takes to create her magic.
Alexis: Where did you grow up and does that have an effect on your painting style or content?
Michelle: I grew up in Los Angeles and I think often about how lucky I am to be living here. Art and culture almost overwhelm daily life, it’s very inspiring. It's also very beautiful. Nature bumps up against, and climbs on all parts of the city. Giant, gorgeous mountains surround me, succulents and bougainvillea line freeways, citrus trees overwhelm our neighborhood. The best color combinations exist here. Dry dusty desert tones combined with radical vivid punches of color. All of this makes its way into my work.
Your work has a lot of narrative and surreal qualities, both ancient and modern, how did you find yourself developing this style and how might you explain the dynamics at play in your pieces?
Thank you. Right now I am trying to follow my impulses and paint what I know, my family, the landscape around me, collected moments from my community and friends. I think a lot about Mary Cassatt and Sally Mann, two artists who gleaned constant inspiration from their family and environment. I draw constantly in notebooks in an attempt to synthesizing ideas and capture personal moments. Many times the sketches are just fodder, but then a few will go onto become paintings, or a handful will get combined and morph into something new.
Do you collect anything?
Books, records, art, inks, shells, rocks. I love bringing things home that I find out on walks. I’m not sure if this counts as collecting but I love cleaning up a good street treasure. I’ve been told I’m not allowed to bring home any more baskets.
What do you enjoy most about being an artist by profession? What do you like least?
The creative process is the best and worst. On the hard days, when ideas don’t flow and everything feels difficult, it feels like torture. It’s crazy that painting can make me feel like a complete failure some days, and like I’m channeling pure magic on others. It’s a wise sage in that respect.
What kinds of things do you gather inspiration from?
Walking, running, neighborhood gardens, the San Gabriel Mountains, my partner, my children, friends, farmers markets.
You wear so many hats in your day to day life, what mantra or thought process gets you through the tough times?
I don’t know if I have a mantra per say, but I find myself looking toward nature a lot. I sit and watch the birds in our yard. We have a Black Phoebe that visits us constantly that I’m particularly fond of. I also love watching our trees cycle through their growth. Fresh leaves are being pushed out of our sycamore and it’s so reassuring to notice the small changes each day. Plants and animals have been existing so much longer than humans and they are incredible teachers.
Running also gets me through things. When I’m overwhelmed and I go on a run it sets me right. During this social isolation time both nature and running have been my saving graces.
What is something that you're intrigued with right now, it can be a color, a flower, a song, a place, anything really.
-A pale violet next to a muted olive green
-Modern Nature by Derek Jarman