Making Space with Michelle Owenby Design

We are continuing our series, Meet the Artist, with video interviews in collaboration with Motion Filmworks.  Today, we celebrate the work of The Scouted Studio artist, Michelle Owenby Design.  Enjoy our short interview with her below paired with the video produced by Motion Filmworks!



TSS:  What is the inspiration behind the patterns that appear in your work?

Michelle: Most of my pattern designs are inspired by something from nature, architecture or my surroundings and experiences. Sometimes it is weather related or maybe a manhole cover or windows on a house or building. Sometimes it is just about shapes and balance or a statement about conformity or our culture.

TSS: Your work heavily uses shades of blues, why?

Michelle: I am often drawn to blue personally, I guess that is why it shows up in my work so often. I find it to be a very soothing color, it immediately puts me at ease and brings a sense of peace and contentment which are two things that I highly prize and strive for in my life. I also feel like blue is able to translate so many moods and feelings. I can use Pthalo Turquoise and make you sense the beautiful Caribbean sea and sunshine or pull out French Ultramarine and remind you of a cool, icy landscape or a summer field of flowers and then completely evoke a moody, mysterious vibe by using Indigo. Also, I happen to bleed Tarheel blue!!

TSS:  What supplies do you use?

Michelle: I use 100% Cotton rag, archival papers and Cotton & Habotai Silk textiles. I use varying sizes of sable watercolor brushes, Catalyst Wedges & Blades, old credit cards/hotel room keys, foam brushes, pipettes, foam, sponges, old rulers, even my hands as tools. I love Winsor & Newton Watercolors & Gouaches, Dr. Ph. Martin Hydrus Fine Art Watercolor and Jacquard Dye-Na-Flow.

TSS:  How long does the average piece take you to paint?

Michelle: From start to finish, most of my abstract pieces take anywhere from two to four hours to complete, depending on the size. Larger works with more layers can sometimes take a couple of days. This includes selecting/tearing/preparing the paper, preparing the colors/color study if needed, sketchbook work, initial pencil drawing if needed, painting/layering/drying time, cleaning up stray marks/pencil work/signing and finally, applying the UV protectant finish. What this doesn’t account for is the time I spend daydreaming about what to paint and how to execute it (wink, wink)!

TSS:  The Lunar Glyphs collection stands apart from your usual abstract style. What inspired that shift?

Michelle: I feel like most of my work tends to explore the hard and soft aspects of life. I am drawn to the definitives and the ethereal at the same time. I think that’s why I love watercolors so much; the sheer nature of them are airy and magical and, simultaneously, unruly and compulsive. Being a Virgo, I struggle internally with these differing sides of myself as well: sometimes outgoing, other times introverted, moments of ultimate efficiency and then hours of reflecting, consciously deliberate and suddenly instinctual. I think all of that comes out in my work and the Lunar Glyphs Collection is clearly a very considered work even though the notions are very philosophical. This counterbalance can often be seen in my Geometrics as well.

TSS:  How do you determine pricing on artwork?

Michelle: Generally speaking, I use a linear pricing structure. This just means that I charge based on the size of the painting, in most instances. Commissions are priced in the same way but on a higher scale since it is a totally custom piece. Once I paint anything larger than 22”x30”, the project becomes exponentially more difficult (for watercolors especially) and the pricing scale increases as well.

TSS:  How do you hand paint scarves?

Michelle: When I am painting textiles, I use a Jacquard product called Dye-Na-Flow. It is a highly saturated, transparent fluid paint that simulates dye. I love them because, unlike many other paints made for fabric, they do not change the hand (or feel) of the fabric and offer intense colors that are washable after being heat-set. Each of these works are all original, painted-by-hand objects that I consider “wearable art”. I use many of the same techniques and tools on textiles that I use on paper including stretching the fabric like I do with paper.

TSS: Do you get inspiration from your family?

Michelle: Absolutely! My family is my heart! They are the pillars that support me and give me the freedom to pursue this passion of mine and they are at the center of all the joy and happiness that I am trying to return back out into this world through my work. I see the world through my boy’s eyes as often as I can, my Mom is a constant source of encouragement and support and I’m humbled to have my husband, who is my best friend and forever partner, and his loving view of me reflected back on a daily basis!

TSS:  How does your Southern heritage inspire your art?

Michelle: Southern is written all over me. It’s undeniable. I spent, what I now consider to be a shameful amount of years trying NOT to be Southern. If I’m being really honest, I was a little ashamed of it: hated my accent, avoided traditions, wanted to live in an urban landscape, aspired to something more “polished”. I now realize that all of those Southern parts of me (every last one of them), is what forms the foundation of my art and who I am today. From learning to crochet & quilt with my Cherokee grandmother when I was 7 years old to the art of trout fishing in the NC mountains with my Dad, all of it informs my work. The Southern heritage that was instilled in me is all about kindness, manners and respect, helpfulness, hospitality, charm and charity and, of course, good music and food. All of those things, to me, are joyful, inspired, loving, peaceful pursuits and that is what I hope my art conveys.

TSS:  What do you envision as an ideal place for your work to be installed?

Michelle: I see my art being placed on the walls of lively, joyful homes. I also see it being placed in quiet, serene homes that crave a bit of color and in buildings and offices that need an inspirational or thoughtful piece. My smaller works are perfectly displayed in thick acrylic frames and placed on an entry console, bookshelf or end table for a pop of color and an instant vignette. And many of my works would be stunning as large scale statement-making commissions for a room that needs an impactful element.