It’s time for our monthly artist interview! This month we’ve been featuring a series of Halloween posts in partnership with the lovely Michelle Christensen. Have you seen them all? They’re sure to get you in the Halloween spirit! I’ve known Michelle for a while and she recently moved back to my neck of the woods and I couldn’t be more thrilled! She allowed us to feature her as our October Artist Interview! Michelle has such a distinct style that we love, we wanted to get a better idea of her creative process. We hope you enjoy the interview!
View the full artist interview and take a peek into Michelle’s life!
Artist Interview: Michelle Christensen
1. How did your illustrative style develop? How has it developed and changed over the course of your career?
I got my BFA in illustration about 7 years ago at BYU, and I did a lot of internships which helped me hone in on my style and process, especially with illustrator Robert Neubecker, who was a big influence in my process. He was an amazing mentor to me. I believe in being consistent with output when creating– I am always creating, and that has helped me become better with time.
2. What do you doodle when you aren’t making anything for a specific project or client?
I draw…faces. (surprise!) I love drawing people. I always have. When I was living in Hong Kong as a kid, I remember I saw a poster on the wall of a hairdressers shop, and it was of a bunch of face profiles with different hair cuts. I copied them over and over on a piece of paper for the whole time my mom was getting her hair done, and took them home and practiced. Since then, I draw profiles, hands, feet, quirky little characters with personalities. I think they also subconsciously represent parts of myself and people I’ve met or seen.
3. How do you stay original, and what tips on the subject do you have for other creatives?
I do a lot of research, I look at a lot of what is already out there. It can be a challenge to be original when there are so many wonderful artists with such lovely ideas and work. I think it’s VERY important not to copy and to look up things if you think your idea may have already been done (because let’s be honest, it probably has). Putting a twist on ideas that already exist, changing and expanding and pushing an idea you have is always a good way of keeping original and fresh. There was one time a few years ago I closely ( and naively) represented someone else’s idea, and they contacted me. I immediately removed the product, and it was a lesson I learned to be very careful about. I do my research very carefully before making a product or design.
4. Along those lines, how do you react when you sense that other people are copying your work?
It hasn’t happened too often thankfully, but the times that it has, I’ve been very upfront with the person or company and told them that legally this is my property and I could pursue legal action against them, which usually they respond to. I have had a couple people rip off my style of faces and put them on similar pottery pieces or products, which can be frustrating. (though I completely know that faces on things isn’t a new idea! let me be clear!) BUT if someone wants to put a face on something do it in your own style. Or look up “faces on mugs, faces on vases” and see what has already been done and do something new! There is always a new way to interpret an idea. Thankfully, I have a lot of confidence in being able to constantly re-invent myself and my work. For every 1 idea, I have about 10 more (but really, please don’t copy!!)
5. Where and how do you get inspiration?
Fashion! Children’s books! History! Traveling, exploring. I also am an avid Pinterester.
6. If you weren’t an illustrator, say, in an alternate universe, what would be your creative outlet?
I’d be a dancer or a musician. Those are two things I love very much in addition to art.
7. What does your studio or workspace mean to you?
Right now I’m in the process of re-doing my studio space, as I’ve just bought a house, but it’s incredibly important for it to be calm, have natural light, be aesthetically pleasing. I also am a collector of my travels, so I like to have those little momentos around too. I also love having music on while working, it takes me to another place.
8. Do you feel that attending art or design school is crucial for an artist to “make it” in 2017?
Because I went to school for art and saw the progress I made during those years, I really believe school is the way to go if you don’t think you can improve on your own. But I know many people who have worked with artists, been apprentices, interns, etc, and they can make progress in those ways too. I do believe having those credentials is very helpful. But ALSO if you make amazing work, who cares where you went to school. If it sells and does well, I’m not sure people will mind if you have a degree or not. I also think everyone learns differently and some people do very well learning on their own. I have worked very hard to constantly improve my work since graduating, and I have had opportunities open up that I originally had not studied at school. Doing art as a career, if you are open, can take a very organic pathway to places you may never expect to go. Which I love!
Many thanks to Michelle for being our October Artist Interview feature! Make sure you check out her Instagram for the latest on her creations!