By Derrick White
It’s a small world, and the art world is even smaller. Be kind to those you meet; you will meet them again. Although it can sometime feel like everyone everywhere is crafting, blogging, painting rocks, or creating some kind of art, the truth is most people do not. If you are a creative person, congratulations, but understand as you stand in line in a big box store or get stuck in traffic most of the humans surrounding you do not regularly participate in creative, artistic activities. If you do not consider yourself artistic, the best thing you can do to change is to begin. Give it a try. Create something for yourself and for the therapeutic benefits and enrichments it adds to dealing with life. There’s no competition with anyone but yourself. Just attempt, improve, and grow. Today is good day to start. Right now is even better. “A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms,” is a quote from the book “Zen Shin Talks” by Sensi Ogui.
While attending the University of North Texas, Denton in the 1990’s, I befriended a talented artist named Michelle Flanagan. The University of North Texas has an excellent visual arts program and makes a profound impact on the Texas contemporary art scene.Their graduates are often engaged in all aspects of the art world. Connections occur so often I am constantly reminded it is a small world, a smaller art world. In fact, half of the full-time faculty members in the art department at Tyler Junior College are UNT alums. So, when my art journey brought me to East Texas it was not surprising to come back in contact with Michelle Flanagan, a Tyler native.
Artist Michelle Flanagan was born in Tyler in 1971. Her primary discipline and field of research in art is drawing, but she also explores painting. She works predominantly in the media of graphite, charcoal, oil pastels, and acrylic paint. Michelle completed an Associate in Arts degree in Art at Tyler Junior College in 1991, a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Studio Art (magna cum laude) at The University of Texas at Tyler in 1994, and worked towards a Master of Fine Arts degree in Studio Art at the University of North Texas, August 1994–May 1997. She had a solo show for her MFA exhibit in Denton, Texas, at the Cora Stafford Gallery, UNT College of Visual Arts and Design. Flanagan lives and works in Whitehouse, Texas.
Michelle’s artwork is visually captivating, sensitive, and composed of multiple layers of almost ephemeral mark making. Her subjects are deeply personal, sometime autobiographical, but intensely universal providing powerful connections to the shared human experience.
“I typically use and combine graphite, charcoal, oil pastels, oil bars, and acrylic paint. I like the immediacy and control of working on paper. It’s easily accessible, which complements my spontaneous, expressive approach to art,” she said. “I have enjoyed working on stretched canvas as well but through my career as an artist, it’s been less available. Stretched canvas also has give to it, unlike paper, which has a flat surface and is more rigid,” states the artist.
She adds, “My work is figurative, typically portraits or torsos. Style is determined by the nature of the work. I’ve made graphite and charcoal portrait drawings using a realistic style. It is quite gratifying to see how far I can push techniques to have the end result represent the subject realistically. The work I do for myself is more expressive. One of the best descriptions of my autobiographical self-portraits came from my UNT professor in graduate school, cathartic. I look forward to the unexpected and spontaneous. I have such an enthusiasm for watching a work evolve. Through the interplay and control of variables surprise is inevitable.”
“I believe artists are just those who do not grow out of the childhood joy of creative exploration,” Michelle said. I have drawn for as long as I can remember. I was educated in the basics of art, and my skills and habits improved. I became very comfortable in the execution of representational, realistic images. I was given positive reinforcement throughout my childhood and teenage years. Positive feedback and encouragement from my mother, family, friends, and teachers enhanced my self-esteem and made me want to create more.”
Michelle has great respect and admiration for the ancestors of art. She will often visualize while creating Michelangelo or Titian (masters of the Italian Renaissance), Willem de Kooning (Abstract Expressionist), the group of Expressionists (artists concerned with manifesting feelings over observation).
“It is an amazing gift to reflect back on the legacy of art history and good company from which to draw motivation. I feel humbled, honored, and proud,” Michelle said. Her favorite artist is Pablo Picasso (Cubism and more).
The business of art comes with its own challenges beyond the trials of the creative process. “I created a website back in the early years of the internet,” Michelle explained. “A part of me believed collectors would immediately find me, flitter upon my doorstep, purchase everything I created, and offer to be my patrons for life. I still don’t know how people make it, whatever that means, especially in the digital age. And, marketing through social networking seems like a full time job. I never sought a business degree.” Michelle added, “Understanding through experience what “starving artist” means is rough.”
Being an artist does not mean one must make their living as an artist. You do not have to compete with anyone. Just bloom. Michelle stated, “Having to accept I had to get a real job was difficult. I entered the workforce around 2004 and had a full time job as an administrative assistant until 2015. My art productivity practically ceased through those years. The past few years have been some of my toughest in life, but things are changing for the better. I’ve created some new drawings and look forward to what awaits me in the future.”
I am looking forward to it too. Bloom.
- Find more info about artist Michelle Flanagan at:
- Fine Art America: fineartamerica.com/profiles/michelle-flanagan
- Facebook: facebook.com/mflaniam
- Instagram: instagram.com/mflaniam
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
“David Bates: Selected Works from Texas Collections” on Exhibit
This Month at Tyler Museum of Art:
The Tyler Museum of Art (TMA) is located at 1300 S. Mahon Ave. on the Tyler Junior College main campus. Regular TMA hours are 10am-5pm Tuesday-Saturday, and 1-5pm Sunday. The Museum is closed Mondays and most major holidays. The Museum is supported by its members, Tyler Junior College, and the City of Tyler. For more info call the museum at (903)595-1001, tylermuseum.org, or email email@example.com.
David Bates, one of the most acclaimed artists in Dallas, is the focus of Tyler Museum of Art’s summer exhibition, “David Bates: Selected Works from Texas Collections” on view through September 9th.
Curated by the museum’s Caleb Bell, the exhibition features close to 30 works surveying the prolific career of Bates, one of the most versatile and widely collected contemporary Texas artists. Spanning art from 1982 to 2016, works in the show highlight several of Bates’ most celebrated series and include a wide array of media: oil painting, lithographs, woodcuts, screenprints and bronze sculpture. The show was assembled from art in public and private collections throughout the state, including the museum’s own permanent collection. Bates’ work is widely exhibited and included in several museum and corporate art collections.
Admission is $6 for adults and $4 for seniors. Museum members, students, TJC faculty/staff and city of Tyler employees are admitted free. Support for exhibit is provided by The Byars Foundation.
Through August, close to 70 kids ages 7-13 and older dive into hands-on art experiences in a series of half-day and full-day camps. Each session is supervised by degreed artists and educators, and culminates with a small exhibition of campers’ work and a community reception.
Camps are held Monday-Friday (9am-4pm) for ages 6-12. Cost is $40 per day or $175 per week. To register online, fill out a form available at tylermuseum.org/creativity-camps-2018.
July 9th-13th: Upside-down and Backward – Everything looks different from a fresh perspective. Drawing underwater, painting with spaghetti, there’s no telling what will happen when you change the way you make art. This camp is all about real creativity, and young artists will help brainstorm up new, exciting projects all week long.
July 16th-20th: Beachcombers’ Paradise – Love the seashore but hate sunburns and foot-scorching sand? Come explore marine environments through art. Biology, art, and fun merge into one great experience as you learn about the weird, wonderful world of sea life and environments, and express new knowledge through art.
July 23rd-27th: 5 Days Away from Rose City – Some of the country’s greatest artists call the Lone Star State home. At this camp, you will explore the geographical regions of Texas and the artists who gain inspiration in them, ending up right here in East Texas.
Free admission, interactive art projects, light snacks and a festive atmosphere for all ages are on the menu from 2-4pm the second Saturday of each month with the Tyler Museum of Art’s Family Day. This popular program focuses on fostering a deeper understanding of the Museum’s spotlight exhibitions – and, above all, having fun! To RSVP for groups of 10 or more, please call (903)595-1001 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first Friday of each month, the TMA offers a full day of free admission plus guided tours of its spotlight exhibitions at 11am. From contemporary Texas art to Hudson River School to Andy Warhol, each tour is unique.
Art Events Warming Up For Summer
Events & Classes
Every Wednesday (6-8pm) and Sunday (1-3pm) – Acrylic Painting Classes will be held at Michael’s, 5839 S. Broadway, Tyler. Cost is $15. Topics include landscapes, life, and floral. To RSVP go to michaels.com and select the Tyler location. This class features master classic painting techniques while completing an image selected by the Instructor. Supplies are not included.
First Saturday of every Month (10am-2pm) – Eastside Fiber ARTist Meeting – The monthly meeting will be held at the Tyler Public Library, 301 S. College Ave, Downtown Tyler on July 7th. Please join the monthly meetings and participate in a variety of fiber arts from quilting, weaving, embroidery, knitting, crocheting, jewelry making, and mixed media and tons more. Guests and visitors are always welcomed. For more info go to facebook.com/Eastside.Fiber.ARTists. It is free to attend.
July 10th and 24th (both days 3-5pm and 6-8pm) – Painting on the Patio at Rotolo’s – Lauren O Neill has created a one of a kind painting and is hosting a painting session at Rotolo’s! Invite your friends, sip your favorite beverage, and enjoy step-by-step instruction with Lauren an experienced and enthusiastic local artist. You’ll leave with a one-of-a-kind creation and a new found talent you’ll want to explore. All painting supplies are included. Tickets are $35. Rotolo’s is located at 8970 S. Broadway, Tyler. For more info go to eventbrite.com.
July 12th (10am-1pm) – John Randall York Watercolor Workshop – Come out for this fun workshop! Bring your paper, brushes, paint and ambition to capture some downtown, iconic scenes in watercolor. To register, email Arojas@tylertexas.com or call (903)593-6905.
Inside the Artist’s Studio: I Think I’m Goin’ to Katmandu
The Therapeutic Creations of Stephanie Smith
By Derrick White
“Art as therapy demonstrates the profound healing potential of using the creative process. Art as therapy appears to be as old and continuous as human culture with decorated artifacts existing from prehistoric civilizations to now. It manifests in active form through the artist’s opportunity for self-expression and in receptive form through the response of the viewing audience. The artist’s experience of creating a meaningful work of art and the audience’s capacity for recognizing its meaning can lead to a multitude of healing responses including increased positive influence, relaxation, catharsis, social cohesion, and strengthened spirituality. The creative process can also act as an analgesic for artists who experience a lessening of physical pain while making art. Creating art can be a largely unconscious process providing a window into the mind of the creator. Through an analysis of visual elements such as the placement of an image on the page, the colors, type of lines created, the use of space, the number and integration of drawn items, and the apparent movement of the image, a psychologist, art therapist, or other trained professional can assess the emotional state of a person, provide counseling, and monitor the progress of the person through analyses of subsequent works produced.” – from an article by Tobi Zausner, PhD, on a web site dedicated to the Society for the Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts.
When I experience the artwork of local artist Stephanie Smith (aka Steph Renea), I physically feel a release of tension, and I am metaphysically transported into her rich and subtle, seemingly simplistic, yet intricately complex, abstract compositions of color, shape, and line with their geometric elements. They are powerful and understated. It is a mental remedy for the chaos of the world. I would encourage you to experience this sensation as well. You can find Stephanie and her art popping up here and there around town at different art and Downtown Tyler community events from True Vine Brewing Company, 903 Handmade, and The Foundry Coffee House.
Stephanie graduated from the University of North Texas with a Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Art Studies. “I took a wide range of studio classes such as fibers, screen printing, watercolor, figure drawing, and sculpture. I learned a lot of skills in those studio classes I still use today,” states the artist. Smith works with a variety of different materials from acrylic paints, pens, pencils, watercolors, and occasionally embroidery thread. Most pieces are on watercolor or mixed media paper but the artist enjoys painting on canvas as well. Stephanie says, “The media I use is not always the same for each piece. I typically start with the material I feel will best represent the idea I have in my mind and then I add to the piece from there.”
Some of Stephanie’s artistic inspirations include: Heather Day (California-based artist making abstract interpretations between what is known and how it is felt. This artist seems to have the strongest direct influence on Smith’s own work), Chuck Close (painter, famed as a photorealist through his massive-scale portraits), Ron Mueck (amazing, hyper-realistic, super detailed sculptor), Georgia O’Keeffe (painter of enlarged flowers, skyscrapers, and Southwest landscapes, recognized as the “Mother of American modernism”), and Ben Sasso (hip, photographer and educator who lives with his lady in a van down by the river).
“I have always enjoyed the arts. I grew up dancing and was always interested in photography. I would draw and paint occasionally as well. It was after spending time in Nepal I discovered my love for teaching. So I decided to combine these two loves, art and teaching. After starting at the University of North Texas I learned I really loved exploring in my studio classes and staying late into the night painting or screen printing. After college I took a short break from creating physical pieces and started work as a wedding photographer and started a family. I still painted whenever possible and was asked for a commissioned piece for an album my church was putting out. I had a small art show at a friend’s house. But still at this point, I never really considered myself an artist. I just really enjoyed making art and hoped people liked it. In 2016, my life changed drastically and I moved back to Tyler. It was then I rediscovered my love for making art and really pursued being a full time artist. Since then, I have been in art shows, and artist markets (or pop ups), and I have started selling my work on a professional level,” enlightens Smith.
She continues, “Art has been my therapy. It has easily been the best way for me to decompress and really process my emotions. Since most of my work is repetitive shapes and loose brush strokes it is easy for me to find a rhythm. It is in this rhythm I am able to find clarity and peace of mind. Many times I have broken down crying as I recall certain events in my life during this process. It is in these moments I find myself releasing the pain and replacing it with joy and healing. I am so thankful for art and how it has played a large role in my healing.”
Stephanie has some advice for those daunted by the impulse to pursue a creative, artistic life. “The most frustrating thing about being an artist I think would be with me. I have been working on moving past my own insecurities and doubts when it comes to my art. Working through those things is not always easy but most times it leads to my best work. So although it is frustrating at times it is well worth it,” avows Stephanie. I could not agree more. Find yourself a creative outlet. Use art as therapy and a remedy for all life throws at you. Let your imagination and creative processes allow you to overcome your own insecurities and self-doubt. Enjoy the ride and have some fun or just go spend a little time in Nepal and report back.
To find some original art work, art prints and cards, check out the following:
Stephanie will also take custom orders so if you see something you like and want to personalize it, shoot her a message and collaborate.
EGuide Magazine’s Gig Guide
September 22nd: Pineywoods Ultra 5K Race and more races!
Make a Splash This Summer at The Waterpark at The Villages Resort
Blue Moon Gardens: More Than a Family Nursery
Liberty Hall: July 20th (7pm) – “Sail On: The Beach Boys Tribute”
July 26th: Daddy Daughter Date Night returns to the Rose Garden Center
It’s Time for Ice Cream: Move Over Summer Heat
July 27th: SFO, A Journey Tribute Band at Bergfeld Park
Spend the Summer Reading
New Cocktails inline for “A Toast to CORE” at Razzoo’s this Summer!
Connect With Us!
Free Stuff To Do
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