Exceptional art has a way of transporting you to another time, another place, even another world. Fictional or real, the possibilities are endless, and so it is with the work of Michelle Jardines. Textured brush strokes and ominous clouds fill her landscape paintings where a feeling of beauty, tranquility, and in some cases a touch of fear coincide. Hints of Grimm fairytale narratives are peppered within pieces, while other work can easily be set in mystical lands, where saturated blues and greens envelope, then pull you into the snapshot of these realms.
Jardines, a New Jersey native, currently works and resides in Greenville, S.C. She credits the city for nurturing her artistic hunger and keeping her balanced as she juggles her multiple roles in life. As an artist, she has struggled with self-doubt, anxiety, and at times, has even been overwhelmed with her calling. Yet, throughout her struggle, the undeniable need to create has persevered within her. She counts Frida Kahlo, abstract visual artist Gerhard Richter and landscape painter J.M.W Turner as influences. Just like these artists, she draws inspiration from the natural world, sharing the dual goal of understanding and representing the world around her. Her paintings force you to confront not only what is in front of you, but that which resides within you as well.
Michelle Jardines will debut her new collection of work, ‘Series II: Interval-El Camino Del Sur’, November 4-6th as part of MAC Open Studios at The Artistry in Greenville, S.C.
Nature plays a vital role in this series of compositions. It is essentially the subject in most pieces or a supporting character. How were you inspired by it, and what is the intent behind it, if any?
The paintings I paint tell my story. There is usually some kind of turmoil or an area in my life that I have not made peace with, so when I am in nature I feel peace overwhelms me. I feel a universal connection, which is exactly what I strive for through my paintings. When people experience one of my paintings I want them to feel some type of connection that brings us together. Everyone will have their own story and experience that connects them, but I want something to erupt inside of them and cause them to feel. I want them to feel something in their gut, in their heart, and I feel nature does that for all of us in different ways. It’s universally calming to get away when our lives are being deconstructed by the obstacles. I want you to see my paintings and feel like you can escape in them.
Your color choices in your compositions are both bold and complementary. What role does color play in your work and is it a conscious choice to use saturated color?
Color is a very conscious choice. Everything is done from the top of my head; I don’t have any references like books, photos or pictures. I might have inspiration pictures, but I don’t copy them. All of my color choices come from nature, so in a sense, you can say that’s my reference. I don’t pigeonhole myself to any set palette because my vision is continually evolving. I think it’s important for artists to create their own go to palette, but most times when I mix colors, they’re never the same. I mix until I get my perfect texture and fluidity; there isn’t a special formula that I use. I literally have to feel the paint as I mix it and I don’t mix large batches. Each mixture is always a little different and I feel it’s what makes my paintings interesting, I don’t get caught up in color concepts. If it brings me peace and they blend naturally, I continue, I don’t fight with colors. They have to harmonize onto the canvas. The deep colors I use usually represent a feeling that I have to come to peace with and it’s definitely a feeling I have to sit with and understand in order to move on. It sounds cheesy, but the darker the color, the greater the need for me to let go. The lighter colors usually represent a moment of clarity.
Your work reminds me of dreamscapes… are you ever at all influenced by your dreams?
They do feel kind of dreamy, don’t they? It’s not something that I dream of, but more of a daydream. I live in a constant daydream and I’m in my own world most times. There are so many people that have told me that they’ve talked to me or called my name and I didn’t hear them. They probably think I just ignored them, but honestly I live in my head and am translating my thoughts into art all the time. It’s a safe place for me. It’s almost impossible for me to stop thinking about art. My visions of paintings come through to me randomly throughout the day. As I’m driving and see beautiful trees, I take note in my mind what that would look like when I brush them onto a canvas. Or, how can I interpret what I saw and how can I relate that to a memory in order to feel a full connection? I’m constantly looking up at the sky or staring at the colors of a leaf or flowers. I memorize the shadows cast from the sun blazing against the side of the hill. You can say it’s my escape from reality, but it’s also a way of meditation for me. I’m a very anxious person, I feel too much. I get overwhelmed with people’s energy and my environment very easily and this is a way to let go of a lot of that energy. You can imagine how much time art takes away from my reality. It’s awesome.
Take me through your journey into fine art. What is your background and how did you find yourself at the place you currently inhabit artistically?
I remember the exact moment when it happened, I had the flu my junior year in high school and was up late with a fever. I was feeling so bad that I started to get slightly panicked, so I turned my light on and grabbed a piece of paper, pencil, and a picture of Jim Morrison and started drawing him. It took all night, but I felt better. Drawing took my mind away from how bad I was feeling and from that moment, I was addicted. I remember bringing the finished piece to one of my art teachers and she didn’t believe I drew it. It was like a punch in the gut. She thought my brother created it since he was attending Parsons in New York at the time. After my interaction with this teacher, another art teacher noticed how I was about to give up on art altogether, so he grabbed his oils and turpentine and sat me down with a book of Georgia O’Keeffe paintings. I remember him saying, “You want me to teach you how to paint like her?” I burst inside and said, “Yes!”
That was the spark I needed at the time.
My parents didn’t think art would be a sustaining career, so I didn’t study it in college. Instead, I ignored my true path and delved into the corporate world. Many years later, when I got pregnant with my first child the feeling of painting burned again inside me and because I had to paint I started back up again. At the time, I lived in Tennessee and my work was received in a few local galleries, as well as, The Knoxville Museum of Art. But I struggled to create because I thought I was creating for others, not for myself and I really got stuck. I threw out all of my supplies and decided I would never paint again. I was so brainwashed that I thought if you didn’t have a title that was respectable by society you were not successful and you would become nothing. It was a real struggle and I still struggle with those thoughts sometimes.
Once I moved to Greenville, a good friend convinced me that I should create again. I thought about it and decided this was an opportunity to start over again. No one knew me here and I could become whomever I wanted. At that moment I decided to be an artist and that, I wouldn’t deny myself again. I certainly have moments of fear that I need a “real job” and I am still gaining the confidence that this is my job. That has been scary. When I paint, people are looking inside my soul, but I’ve put myself out there and I haven’t stopped. Almost three years later and it seems to be going pretty well. It’s moving fast, but that’s what I’ve prayed for.
How did Series II: Interval-El Camino Del Sur come about?
It came from this internal struggle and resentment I was feeling. Primarily these paintings are of the places I’ve lived and what they looked like when I tried to escape from them. I tried to interpret my journey across these states and the emotions behind each of them, the struggles of being a wife, a parent, of fallen dreams and many failures.
How long have you been working out of Greenville? How is the art scene received and supported there?
I’ve been working out of Greenville for about two years. I’ve lived all over the United States including major cities like New York, Los Angles and Tucson, but by far Greenville is one of my absolute favorite places to live. It has beautiful mountains and other great cities surrounding it, so it’s growing in popularity. Greenville’s cultural, culinary and art scenes are growing at lightning speed. There is a wonderful arts council (Metropolitan Arts Council) that supports and brings together hundreds of artists and they work hard at keeping the community informed about the Arts and local artists in Greenville. Artists here have a fun little culture and we stick together and support each other.
As an artist what have you learned about your craft that you use every day?
I’ve learned to let go a lot. I’ve come to learn to accept whatever is happening and try not to get hung up on what I thought my day was going to turn out like. I may envision painting something and it turns into something completely different than what I expected. I’ve also learned not to get down on myself and or shame myself into thinking I’m not a real artist. In the same way, I can’t shame myself by saying I’m a bad mom or wife. I show up, I’m human, and life is imperfect. I have to be okay with that.
What have you learned thus far about yourself and the world around you from the practice of painting?
I’ve learned imperfection. Life is forever evolving around us and it is so imperfect that I don’t have a place for perfection. I can paint what you call a “perfect” cloud or “flower”, but that’s not what I strive for. I paint imperfection, which I guess makes me an abstract artist. I’ve learned to let go of control about what is happening around me, what others are doing, what they’re thinking and how people react in their lives. I am not better or less than anyone else is and my purpose in this life is to love and feel loved with zero judgment. I accept everyone in my life no matter what their actions or thoughts are of me. I’ve learned to be my authentic self and loyal to those that deserve to want and know my story. I’ve learned to keep my mind open to constant change. That can mean people coming in and out of my life without fear and resentment. That can mean that I’m constantly growing, because I’m constantly failing and that’s okay. I’m going to be okay and I just have to lift myself from the shame that I lay in sometimes longer than I should. So I pick myself up from the dirt, wipe off my knees and show up. Same goes with art. So many people are not going to like or agree with what I create, but if it’s true and I feel peace with it, I just have to keep going.
Is there any advice you’d like to share, whether you’ve received it along the way or learned through your own journey, that you could impart on our readers and fellow artists?
Oh man, let’s see! Fall and let yourself fall hard. Be quiet, listen to what that means, and not be scared of the process. Sometimes it takes longer than you’d expect, but greatness doesn’t come over night. Keep your heart open to change, which means understanding that you will fail along the way. Don’t live in your own shame, meaning letting negative self-talk bring you down. Whether it’s saying to yourself “I’m not good enough.” “I can’t do it.”, “I will fail.”, “What will people think?” What will others say?” etc. Be vulnerable. It’s hard to do that and it scares people, but open yourself to others and be authentic. Let go of fear and in return, others will do the same, and you will suddenly see and feel a connection. It’s what we live for, that connection is like breathing. We need it to feel alive. People are constantly going to tell you, “You can’t!” and “You won’t!” Stop it, ignore it and instead listen to that burning voice inside of you. You can and you will!