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Q&A with Award Winner Michelle Simoneau

This untitled painting by Michelle Simoneau won the Jennie Lea Knight Award. Michelle was a student in Beverly Ryan's class, Abstract in Oil and Acrylic.
This untitled painting by Michelle Simoneau won the Jennie Lea Knight Award. Michelle was a student in Beverly Ryan’s class, Abstract in Oil and Acrylic. (click for full size)

Longtime Art League student Michelle Simoneau says Beverly Ryan’s class, “Abstract in Oil or Acrylic,” has helped her focus on being more experimental and less critical. It’s also where she created the painting above, which won the Jennie Lea Knight Award in the just-finished Student/Faculty Show.

The artist told us more about the class and her painting career in our final Q&A from this exhibit:

Why did you choose this piece to submit for the student show?
Michelle Simoneau: I chose that piece because the large figure is one of the most recurrent themes in my work, and as such, this particular piece was a good representation of what I do.

What techniques, lessons, principles, etc., from the Abstract in Oil or Acrylic class can we see in this painting?
In relation to the techniques employed, this is certainly a good example of a multi-layered piece that included several deconstruction and rebuilding phases. This class has been very useful in many different ways but what has been most valuable is that my focus shifted from the end product to the experimental act, which made me more audacious and less critical.

What was your inspiration or motive for this painting? What different media did you use?
It started with the drawing of a model. I then attempted to transform it into a sculpture using other means than the rules of perspective.

There are several layers of paper interspaced by drawings and paint. Each layer was altered or partly removed to create an impression of depth, somewhat akin to a relief. Of course color was also instrumental in creating the effect.

Why are you a painter? Have you worked in other media as well?
I like this medium for its flexibility, its range in terms of colors and possibilities. I also paint in oils, and particularly like the sensuality of that medium, its texture, its odor, and the fact that you can play with it for a long time before it dries. In the past, I worked with dry pastels a few years.

How long have you been taking art classes?
I have been taking classes intermittently for the past 30 years or so, and at The Art League for the past 10 years if I’m not mistaken.

What drew you to abstraction?
A desire to explore and create with as little boundaries as possible.

What are you working on now? Are you taking any classes or planning on taking more?
I am exploring the combination of various materials on pieces that are more abstract, but that paradoxically represent scenes. Yes, I am currently taking classes and I plan to continue as I believe it is important to communicate with other painters and get feedback.

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Did you know: The Art League's Art Camp is the longest running visual arts camp in the area! We've been here for more than 30 years! While sadly we can't find any photos from the '80s (please let us know if you have any lying around), let's take a look back at the last several years of burgeoning kid artists and eight years of fun at Art Camp!

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