"Rain in September" 2015 - Graphite, Pastel and Polychromos Pencils
We have had the privilege to scan and digitally reproduce Michaela’s pastel & oil paintings and are delighted to share her beautiful work with you.
Michaela has exhibited her paintings and drawings in galleries and juried shows throughout the United States since 1994. Her work has been featured and reviewed in various publications —including Vermont Arts and Living, Santa Fean Magazine and Pasatiempo— and is included in public, corporate and private collections here and abroad. In addition to her work as a visual artist, Michaela is also a landscape designer, published garden writer and photographer, as well as a licensed pilot. Inspired by nature and the complex relationship between human beings and their environment, Michaela Harlow’s contemporary oils, pastels and mixed media works incorporate both figurative and abstract elements. Her work is now represented in New England at West Branch Gallery in Stowe, Vermont.
"Song of the Solstice" 2015 - Oil, Graphite and Polychromos Pencil
- First off, we have to ask about you being a licensed pilot! It is such a fun fact about you that we did not know – when did you learn how to fly a plane? Does it influence your art in anyway?
MH: I began flying in the summer of 1999 and earned my private pilot certificate in January, 2000. I've always loved images taken from above earth and once I started flying, I quickly developed an interest in aerial photography. However, flying an aircraft requires undivided attention, so for more than a decade, I simply observed while airborne, and collected books by well-known aerial photographers such as Arthus-Bertrand, George Steinmetz and Bernhard Edmaier. Just recently ---over the past two years or so--- I've begun making photos when flying with another pilot. I absolutely love it. That process ---seeing and documenting abstract land shapes and patterns --- has definitely informed my painting as well as my work in landscape design.
"Fog of Memory" 2015 - Oil and Graphite
- You are a gardener, a photographer, and a painter – do you think all of your art forms relate to one another?
MH: That is an interesting question. To be honest, until recently, I hadn't given the connection between my interests much thought. I've simply pursued passions. I am only now beginning to see the complex ways that they interrelate. Like the study of languages, I think the more forms of art you practice, the richer and deeper your understanding of each becomes. My formal training as a painter has given me confidence when experimenting with a camera. It has also assisted me greatly with aspects of landscape design; especially when it comes to color, form, shape and texture. I see more and more connections each day.
"Black Birch Cross" 2015 - Oil, Graphite, Polychromos Pencil
- How long have you been working with pastels & what is your process in choosing colors for each piece?
MH: I first experimented with soft pastels as a kid when I was given a small box of them by a family friend. They move and flow like paint and blend easily with bare fingers or tools. Almost immediately they became my favorite medium for drawing. Later, I worked with a private instructor and learned how to use oil pastels. Over the years I've experimented with soft and hard pastels, pastel pencils and combinations of these with other materials. I still love their portability and ease-of-use.
Often, I choose colors based on the mood I'm trying to capture. Color is a great way to stir emotion. But I also draw my palette from nature and/or my surroundings.
"Sweet Water" 2014 - Pastel on Paper
- How has your career path as an artist changed over the years?
MH: Oh, my, my my. If I were to map it out on paper, my career path probably looks more like a complex labyrinth than a sensible road map! Economic necessity coupled with varied interests has resulted in many professional detours. However, I will say that all of my work and life experiences have lead to artistic growth. Switching focus from two dimensional work to the three dimensional practice of landscape design has proven very beneficial.
And just this past year, I gave myself a season-long sabbatical from landscape design, to focus on my painting career. I'm very pleased with what I was able to accomplish in 2015, and I plan to strictly limit landscape design projects ---adding one or two per year--- until I find the right balance.
"In The Still" 2014 - pastel on paper
- How has digital reproductions affected your work? -– do you print bigger sizes? Do you have open or closed editions?
MH: By having my work professionally documented and digitally archived, I've been able to offer signed, limited edition prints on demand, making my work available to a much wider audience. Archival prints are very popular with art consultants and interior designers; particularly when working with the hospitality industry. Original artwork isn't always the best choice for a hotel, restaurant or cruise ship. High quality, archival prints offer designers a beautiful, affordable solution when security concerns or budget constraints rule out original paintings.
"Amphibious" 2015 - Oil and Graphite
- I found on your blog your post about Thirty in Thirty. I absolutely love this project – thirty straight days of making art! Can you share with us your end experience with this challenge? Do you recommend other artists try this challenge?
MH: The Thirty-in-Thirty challenge began when I was working full time in landscape design. I had very limited hours for art making during the growing season, but months of free time in winter. The idea was to kick start my process during the quiet month of January with a daily work schedule and goal. I discovered that by aiming to complete one small work of art per day, that I inadvertently freed myself from the perfectionism and self criticism; enemies of experimentation and process. The end result for me is that I no longer wait for inspiration before going to work. I just get up, go to the studio and set to work. Usually, when I'm in my studio, surrounded by materials, inspiration finds me. If I feel stuck, I start with sketching to loosen up, or prime a few panels. I find it's a lot like running: lace up your shoes, stretch a little and just get moving.
I think Thirty-in-Thirty can be a very liberating exercise for artists. I believe Andy Warhol said "Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” If you want to critique and edit your work, fine. But make a separate time for that. The making is your practice.
"Between Showers" 2015 - Oil and Graphite