Voices of Experience - Eric Michaels
Voices of Experience
Eric Michaels has embraced the fabulous journey of being an artist both figuratively and literally. He has traveled the world painting across four continents and is equally fluent in watercolor, oil and pastel. He has not limited his subjects to the landscapes he visits, but has also mastered the genre of historic painting. Michaels is a signature member of the Oil Painters of America, the National Watercolor Society, and the Pastel Society of America. Michaels grew up in Illinois and received a B.F.A. in art. He shared with us his personal journey.
"I guess I always had a penchant for art. My mom would tell me that, when I was a toddler, I would spend hours drawing in the shag rug with my fingers, then wiping it out and starting again—kind of an early version of Etch-A-Sketch. That eventually led to drawing Disney cartoon characters, animals, sports figures, etc. My best friend was Frank LaLumia (AWS), and, throughout grade school and high school, we spent hours at each others' houses drawing anything and everything. Of course, at that time, neither of us knew that those fun and creative hours, would be the genesis of our future vocations.
Well, after going through a lot of paper, I won some awards, became a signature member of the National Watercolor Society and began what would become a forty-year career.
I told Max on the first day that, if this ever became a job I’d quit. So, my subject matter has remained very eclectic over all these years. I’ve traveled and painted across the U.S. and a number of developed and third world countries on four continents. I have also painted dozens of Western and historical paintings that I don’t exhibit at galleries. Those pieces are commissions, or go to auctions and are in private, corporate or museum collections.
February Patterns (demonstration), Step One Watercolor
When I’m painting on-location, I try to ignore the detail and synthesize the scene down to its basic identifiable masses. If I can paint those larger shapes the right size, value and color, and render them in an interesting way, the painting will have strength and convey a sense of light and place. This is the foundation. If this is weak, all the detail and one-hair brushwork won’t salvage the painting.
My palette is pretty basic and composed of DaVinci watercolors: Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue, Viridian, Hansa Yellow Light, Gamboge Hue, Raw Sienna, Cadmium Red Medium, Alizarin Crimson, Venetian Red, Burnt Sienna, Titanium White. (I don’t often use white. I generally prefer my whites to be the paper, but I’m not a purist, and, when necessary, will use it.) For paper, I like Arches 156# rough. When in the studio, I use a John Pike palette, and on-location I use a Holbein folding palette.
For my oil work, I make my own oil painting panels using double-primed Belgian Linen. My oil brushes are both bristle and synthetic rounds and flats. I’m hard on my oil brushes, so I use good quality, but not the most expensive – often watching for sales.
"I have a number of friends who are successful artists. If you ask ten of them how they got there, you will hear ten different stories. But there is a common thread that they all share: they love what they do. They have all spent long, lonely hours, through triumphs and frustrations, honing their craft. Not one of them started out as an accomplished artist. Life as an artist is a calling, and those who don’t recognize that the process itself is the reward generally don’t last. For those who do stick with it, the struggle is an affirmation, and the universe will give its benediction on a life well spent. It’s been a fabulous journey."
Eric Michaels has exhibited at the Royal Watercolour Society in London and has been a regular exhibitor in the Artists of America, the Great American Artists and the “Quest for the West” exhibition at the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana. His paintings hang in private, corporate, museum and state collections, including the Albuquerque Museum of Fine Art, the Booth Museum of Western Art, the Americana Museum, the Haggin Museum, the Pearce Museum of Western Art, the Institute of American Indian Arts, Phillips Petroleum, IBM, Honeywell-Sperry Inc., Puma International and the State Collection of the Governor's Gallery, Santa Fe, NM.
To see more of Eric Michaels's work, go to
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