San Diego Artist, Michelle D. Ferrera, fell in love with the vulnerability of the figure and the freedom to experiment with different styles while studying at Montclair State University in NJ. Though drawing and writing were early outlets, it was after earning her degree in Fine Art & Design, the Artist truly discovered her style.
Loss and anger fueled a need for canvas larger than her journals but one that she could afford. The first durable surface she found was a pile of scrap wood in her mother’s garage. Michelle saw the wood as a mirror. The raw emotional state was brought to bear in her work using just a standard #2 pencil and unfinished wood. As she was healing personally, she began to take pride in the wood, sanding and perfecting each new piece, finding the process therapeutic. “The simplicity of these mediums fosters the comfort necessary to create such intimate moments and poses.” More than half that series was sold during her first exhibition at the 2010 Contemporary Art Fair (Javits Center, NYC).
This positive feedback along with support and encouragement from family and friends, was the push she needed before driving West to take on Art as a full-time career. Before settling in San Diego with her now husband, journals became the silent friend absorbing the sketches, notes, song lyrics, and late night ramblings of the emotional rollercoaster of her unknown future and direction. Rather than spiral down, she focused on her art pouring her uncertainty into creating. She sat in on machine tutorials, experimented with color and mixed media, attended art workshops, building on her process and healing through creating. What started as a way out of depression turned into a celebration of life.
The flavors series embodies her arrival and acceptance in the San Diego scene which garnered local attention earning her multiple drawing awards and honors since 2012. These opened the doors to participate and exhibit locally, through Los Angeles and up to San Francisco. Now as a full time Artist/Mother, she continues to use Art as a tool, drawing snapshots of her life and those around her in hopes to grow as an Artist and storyteller, sparking inspiration and communication.
Wanting to share her experience in hopes to help others open up, she has been self-publishing her journals into creative non-fiction/ self-help books and has her third installment of The Art Of… series currently in the works.
Adelman Fine Art represents Michelle D. Ferrera in San Diego, California.
INTERVIEW WITH MICHELLE:
AFA: Your use of pencil on wood is so basic and raw, yet so sophisticated in its conveyance of the human form. Are you also experimenting with any other mediums?
Michelle: “I love experimenting and really get a rush challenging myself with a new tool or technique. While I like to keep the figure (the focus) in pencil, in some of my series, I use splashes of color to accentuate a certain subject matter. Sometimes I use watercolor, acrylic, chalk, pastel, crayon, etc. In one of my recently completed pieces I tried dripping watercolor. I’m pretty sure I held my breath during the whole process, especially because I was videoing it while doing something like that for the first time! I didn’t want to ruin the whole piece, especially since I got the drawing aspect to my liking. However, I’d been wanting to try it, so I got some music going, had my baby girl watching and with both those motivators, I just went for it. I’m definitely proud of that piece! (1 plus 1 makes three, from the chronicles series)”
AFA: What was your favorite TV show when you were a child?
Michelle: “My sisters and I (I’m the youngest of four girls) definitely played outside way more than we watched tv, but I was a Saturday morning cartoon kid for sure! Popeye, with my dad’s assistance got me to eat spinach. Wile E. Coyote & Roadrunner cracked me and my dad up, but my favorite was and still is Bugs Bunny. I remember me and my dad even recorded a few episodes off tv and would re-watch the ones where they impersonated Frankie Sinatra! Cartoons still fill my nights. I love cartoon network, Family Guy, is my go to!”
AFA: Who is on the guest list for your ideal dinner party and what artwork is in the room?
Michelle: “My dad, who passed when I was 15, was an incredible artist in every way….fine artist, musician (played the piano by ear, percussion), did the artwork for all our school plays, filled our basement with massive murals, and made the posters for all our parties. I have so many questions for him now and would love to pick his brain about art. My husband and baby girl, of course! I would love to introduce them to my dad! Frida Kahlo, who has inspired so much of my earlier art and my go-to when I feel lost. Chris Cornell and Amy Lee, to sing when they feel like it, but I wouldn’t want them to feel obligated. Rihanna for the after party. Viggo Mortensen for some deep conversations. Hugh Jackman just seems like he’d be so down to earth and hey bring the family! Christina Applegate and Kathryn Hahn for some laughs and more down to earthiness! Gotta have my mom sharing her stories! Wouldn’t be complete without some of my NJ cousins and friends. I guess this dinner party is turning into an event! The Italian in me! As for art, everyone that comes brings their own art to fill the walls/room!”
AFA: Most may not know that your drawings are actually self portraits. Tell us about how you settled on using self photography as the medium for your art reference vs. using nude models?
Michelle: “For me, creating has always been a therapy, and a release. Considering that fact, it seems natural to me that my art contains mostly self portraits. Fortunately or unfortunately when my emotions are so full, what comes out is what I’m going through. Though it makes me vulnerable, there is a sense of relief when I see a mirror of what I felt/am feeling. The body screams our emotions and that is what I’m trying to capture. My hope is for viewers to feel the energy, depending on the mood of each piece, and maybe see themselves or someone they know. I don’t usually include too much of a face so that you can see, feel, and find yourself. I am fortunate enough to have models occasionally and am always open to creating others!”
AFA: Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Michelle: “I love chocolate. As I’ve gotten older more dark chocolate, but my love for Nutella has gotten a bit out of control! I use it instead of sugar for my coffee, espresso; dip fruit, pretzels, and crackers in it, or just spoon it. Same for peanut butter. I can just spoon that in! Annoyingly, I can watch a certain tv show (ahem, Family Guy) episodes over and over along with a handful of movies no matter how many times I’ve seen them, if they’re on, I’m a-watchin’! (LOTR, Gladiator, The Punisher, The Fountain, Donnie Darko, Nightmare Before Christmas, Twilight (yes I’m admitting it!)”
AFA: Generally is there a difference in how your male and female collectors approach your work?
Michelle: “Despite the large percentage of female figures in my work, I’ve sold to a wide range of men, women, age groups and businesses. Of course, I’ve had some interesting and funny encounters at some of my earlier shows on the subject matter. However, I thrive on speaking about nudity and sexuality in a way that breaks down the taboo-ness of it. I don’t create the figure nude for shock value. It’s about celebrating our raw, naturally flawed figure at heightened emotional states in hopes of opening a dialogue of why they might be drawn to a certain piece.”
AFA: What is your most memorable Halloween costume of your youth?
Michelle: “I’m a Halloween freak and have always loved dressing up. My father, who also loved it, got right into the spirit with my sisters and I, painting our faces in these elaborate designs. Our mother, despite her lack of love for Halloween, somehow got persuaded to sew our costumes! One costume I remember was when I decided to be a bumble bee and my dad painted my face more detailed than was necessary, but of course I showed it off and loved walking around with a piece of art on my face! Just one standout of many memories in a sea of costumes!”
AFA: How do your journals (books) feed or influence your art or vice versa?
Michelle: “My art stems from my journals. Whether its a sketch, a late night rambling, song lyric, quote, line from a movie, letter to my dad, dear diary entry, travel log, photo jammed in…they all make their way to a piece of wood and into a series. And what I’m doing now is self-publishing books that combine these scanned handwritten journal entries with images of completed artworks so you can see the behind the scenes of my finished works. So, I guess they influence each other!”
AFA: Congratulations on being a new mom! How do you find a happy medium in balancing motherhood and a career?
Michelle: “It’s not easy, but again I thrive on challenges. Before I decided to take on art full-time, I worked in the corporate world and though I spent so much time with my artist/Mr. Mom/dad, I’m so influenced by my mom. She’s a hardworking, go get ’em, take no prisoners, 4’11″, off the boat Italian, role-reversing mother who busted her booty as an assistant at a law firm to become head Contract Negotiator for Lucent Technologies. With her padded shouldered business suit and sneakers, she hopped the bus from NJ into Manhattan for almost 20 years. That’s role model material right there. In my family, I’m surrounded by the hardest working women that have dealt with loss and constant hits. They give me something to strive toward. Being an Artist and Mother is challenging, but its all about time management and prepping, which I pride myself on. The creating will never stop. If anything, I have more ideas than I used to have. I just make sure I’m ready to go when she’s napping!”
AFA: What attracted you to seek representation by Adelman Fine Art? In your experience so far, what sets Adelman Fine Art apart from other galleries?
Michelle: “I’ve had my eye on Adelman for a while now. I first met Nicole at Little Italy Art Walk over a year ago and loved the variety of artwork they presented. Nicole and the artists working live were all so bubbly and friendly. Just an all around good vibe! Something I wanted to be a part of. I was beside myself to hear back from them. If you know me, you know I’m no good at holding in my excitement. I try not to have expectations especially in this field. You learn over time to grow thick skin. So far, it’s been easy to let your guard down and feel very welcome here. They have such an open vibe and real understanding in my goal as an Artist, which is important as I’m still learning the ropes. I absolutely love and think the best part of Adelman is that they embrace new artists whole-heartedly, showcasing a collection of work, as opposed to 1-2 pieces! I love that we can keep adding work to our profiles and have some available through web-consignment. Also, having new artists participate in a live demonstration is a great opportunity to mingle, while showing viewers how we create!”
AFA: Lastly, and I think we’d all like to know…Do you do commissions? 😉
Michelle: “This is a definite ‘yes’! I thrive on working on projects simultaneously. Also, it balances me to work on my own series, along with commissioned work. I get such enjoyment drawing others and being out of my own head for a bit. I usually ask to know more about who I’m creating. The more I know about that person (stories, anecdotes, memories), the better I can capture the likeness. I can work off photos or live, whichever people are comfortable with. I can create on wood or paper. Time to complete would depend on size. I’m happy to answer questions and discuss ideas! As long as my hands are busy, I’m a happy Michelle!”Visit Artist's Page
More From This Artist
HOME by artist Michelle D. Ferrera, is an original pencil drawing available at Adelman Fine Art Gallery in San Diego, California.