Featured Artist: Michelle Olin

Aug 10, 2018 5:27PM

For many years AD ART SHOW artist Michelle Olin worked in radio—seeking ratings, market share, and local advertisers—but she was always creating art. Ten years ago, she made the leap to full time graphic artist, completing her studies in applied graphics at the Art Institute of Seattle and reinventing herself as a fine artist, illustrator, and graphic designer.

Michelle’s dramatic artwork transforms reclaimed wood panels and multiple layers of calligraphy ink into intense jungles of figures and faces. There’s a dreamlike quality to her work, with suggestions of both symbolist and surrealist influences. Her originality and pure vision won her special acclaim at AD ART SHOW 2018 and she was chosen by MvVO ART’s renown selection committee of Art Professionals.

"Alien Inking" by Michelle Olin

What inspires you to create?

Music. As I put my earbuds in and wait for the first song to start, I look at the flat surface (reclaimed wood or Bristol board), spill different colors of ink, and bleed the ink with water and dishwashing liquid. I wait for the ink to dry and that is when I look for faces - humans, monsters, animals - and lines to connect all the creatures.

Was your unique vision/artistic point-of-view, influenced by any other artists?

I actually try to keep myself from being influenced. I love Gustav Klimt, but I don’t want my art to look like his. Another favorite artist of mine is Alphonse Mucha. Again, I am so in love with the style of his work, but I fight really hard to not go down that road. I needed to invent my own style and stylize it to the point that there was no question as to who’s work it is. One night I fell asleep after knocking over an ink well. I was so exhausted I didn’t even clean it up. I’m glad, too, because it became my first of the “inkers."

What did participating in AD ART SHOW 2018 mean to you and to your art career?

I have worked on doodling, creating and painting most of my life. When I heard about the MvVO AD ART SHOW, I knew I wanted to challenge my art with professional people in the art business. Now I feel like it’s the best thing I did for my self esteem and it confirmed that I needed to work every possible moment.

"Africa" by Michelle Olin. .

How do you feel about working in both commercial design/illustration and in fine art?

As competitive as art is, I am committed to being different with my work. It’s a life passion to be different and yet have my work speak for me. Fine art gives me a voice when I don’t feel like talking, gives me a focus when I am frustrated and hope when I am feeling hopeless. Art is my life. It always has been.

Do you feel any influence from well known historic art figures that worked in both commercial and fine art fields? (i.e. Magritte, Warhol…)

As silly as it may sound, I do find inspiration from Norman Rockwell. There was an honest moment, usually involving children and what our parents call "The Good Ole’ Days." Rockwell just captured you with the story on the canvas by illustrating authentic facial expressions and scenarios.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the AD ART SHOW audience?

About a month ago, I found out I have stage 4 cancer. While it was a hard diagnose, I wasn’t angry. A couple of years before I had been homeless until I thankfully got a small rental, working my odd jobs to supplement my “starving artist” career. It is the only thing that could stop me from creating. Death. I plan to keep working on my art.

"Anarchy from Within" by Michelle Olin. Available now on Artsy.