Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle Volz.
Hi Michelle, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today.
I was not an artist. I was a musician. I was a classical pianist and vocalist in a jazz band. I put out a CD, and sang in church, for weddings and Christmas parties. I even taught piano lessons. Sure, I took an art class or two in college toward my Associate of Arts degree, mostly to avoid taking statistics, but it never felt natural and I never felt personal meaningfulness toward art as a medium of stress relief or enjoyment, nor did I feel enough depth as a person to really create art that could speak to a person.
When I graduated from the University of Utah in Public Relations, I moved into a marketing career with music on the side. I tolerated marketing. What I really wanted was to create. To put something in the world that was mine. I could sing, but writing music was its own mountain that I still had not summited. I got married and we started our little family. We were broke, living with parents, and I was teaching piano and learning how to be a new mom.
I woke up one morning having had a vivid dream that I was a painter. The work was thick and textured. I got up and immediately began to sketch one of the artworks from the dream on the pad next to my bed. The next night brought the dreams again. This time I was showing my work in a gallery opening.
Normally, I and anyone else would think “it’s just a dream”, but it was one of those dreams that felt so real that you’re not sure where sleep ended and reality began. I decided to just give it a shot . . . buy the canvas and some paint and try to re-create the work I saw in the dream.
And I did. It was the light of a lantern, illuminating the darkness. I called it Illumination. Little did I know, this painting would serve to be very meaningful to me as I began my road in painting.
I felt invigorated. I wanted to learn. I began painting every chance I could in the bathroom of our little space. Naptime and nighttime were my muses. I used popsicle sticks until I discovered palette knives. This new outlet gave me a mode of creation without having to use words. Words felt so limiting at times. Art, however, spoke with texture, color, context, content, and medium. I began to see vibrant color in the world around me. Where before a leaf was just a leaf, now I saw the yellow sunlight overlaying a bright green with an undertone of blues. My inspiration was thickest in the artwork of God . . . mother nature.
I felt brave one day and passively showed a piece I had painted on social media. I was surprised to find an immediate bidding war taking place for a prize I didn’t even know was for sale. I posted another . . . sold. Another . . . sold. “What is this madness!” I thought! “Is it possible I could sell art for real?”
Within a year, I sold over a dozen paintings, built a website, penned a contract with an art dealer, and staged two homes.
Fast forward eight years. I have grown, changed, and evolved in my work since then. I still find nature to currently be the heart of my work, however, one night, amidst the pandemic and social chaos of 2020, night unveiled a new project for me. I was awake with a toothache and thoughts of social unease as people battled their positions on race. I wanted to share my thoughts, but again, words seemed insufficient.
This is when the idea for the Handprint Project first entered my mind. I wanted to garner humanity, togetherness, awareness, and empathy. The hand has always been a symbol of help, service, life, and love. Within a few days, I had prepared and taken multiple canvases to the capital during a protest and found many willing to participate in this project with me. I painted their hands the color of their skin and as they pressed their hands to the canvas, they pledged to no longer stay silent on issues of race and to stand up for one another.
This year I was able to engage the community again during the 2022 Pride Festival in another Handprint Project. Painting the hands of the community all the colors of the rainbow, we pledged to stand for love, equality, and inclusion as allies of the LGBTQIA+ community.
This project has been a fun and engaging way to use art as a medium of expression for social issues. I hope there’s more to come in regard to the Handprint Project for the future. And whether it be painted hands or textured aspen trees or soft ocean scenes, my goal will always be to bring into my collector’s homes the feelings you cannot achieve with words. Inspiration. Peace. Quiet. Color. Humanity. Comfort. Love. Nature. God.
Because I am an artist.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It’s never a smooth road! If it’s worth it, it’s never smooth. There’s a learning curve when you’re learning something new, putting something out there, figuring out what works for you, your talent, your time, and your family. There’s a curve in learning about others and what they’re attracted to, what makes them feel, and what gets them to click on their social media. And sometimes there’s just a curve in life.
One of my greatest challenges has been, of all things, marketing. You would think I’d have it down more as it was my degree, but times have changed, and finding the best way to connect with people is much harder than expected.
I’ve also found pricing my artwork to be a challenge. How do you put on price on a piece that tells a story to one person and not another? How do you price something that takes part of you with it when the collector may not see you in it? This takes lots of trial and error, and realistically confidence. You price your work based on what you feel it’s worth.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I’m a landscape artist known for the thick textures I used in my paintings! I’m a texture junkie for sure! I love using my palette knives to get the rich textures I like. I love watching people reach for the art as the aspens trees or the mountains or the ocean waves pop right off the canvas! It makes each piece unique and lifelike.
What I feel most known for here in Utah, however, is my community art project the Handprint Project. It has definitely been the art piece to garner the most media. And I think I feel most proud of those two pieces. They hold so much love and community in them as expressions of hope.
It wasn’t just me… it was all of us, coming together and participating in something that made us feel a sense of togetherness.
Can you talk to us about how you think about risk?
Interesting question. I suppose as an entrepreneur there is an innate quality of risk-taking. I’ve never thought of myself as a risk taker. In fact, I feel I’m mostly a safe conservative when it comes to risk.
However, I found that I have been willing to take risks more because someone loves me. When I married my husband, I suddenly had someone who believed in me so much that he encouraged me to buy the canvas and the paint and try. We would take the financial hit together but it would be fine because I would learn something.
He tells me he loves my work. He encourages me to put it out there. He validates my abilities and works in the time to take the kids so I have time to paint. He makes me brave. He makes me feel like I’m worth the risk and the risk is worth the experience.
- Small pieces $200-500
- Medium pieces $500-3000
- Large pieces $3000-6000
- Prints $40-250
- Blank Note Cards $10-40
- Website: www.volzart.com
- Instagram: @volzart
- Facebook: Volz Art