Michelle Keighley Interview: Creating Is In My Blood
Gold Coast artist Michelle Keighley is not content if she’s not using her hands. Since she was a young child, Michelle has always dug her hands into a project – whether that be painting, sculpting or getting them dirty outside. At the ripe age of 8, she recalls begging her mother to satisfy her need to create with art classes. And she hasn’t looked back since.
Michelle was raised by creatives, and so it’s no surprise she has followed in her family’s footsteps. “I come from a long line of creatives and artists,” she explains, “so I guess you could say it’s in my blood. Even since childhood I have always painted in a very free and impressionistic style and tended not to labor too long on any one piece.” She counts her grandfather, who was a talented landscape painter, as her biggest inspiration. But it doesn’t stop there.
She continues: “Many of my childhood memories involve my grandfather painting in his studio and to this day I draw inspiration from him. My grandmother was also an artist, I clearly remember her paintings hanging around her home; paintings of the Glass House Mountains and other stunning Australian scenes. My mother was a floral artist and I still have many of her works in my home and my sister is also a professional full-time artist.”
“My journey has taken some interesting turns,” explains Michelle, “when I was younger I painted a lot of portraits and in my early 20s I stopped painting altogether after the loss of my mother to breast cancer. It took a number of years to start feeding my creativity again. When I started painting again my style evolved to something quite different from what it was and something that I feel has a lot of emotion. Every painting is an honest representation of how I feel and landscape painting allows me to express myself in the way that I’d like.”
While Michelle has always considered herself an artist, it’s only in recent years that it’s become her profession. Joining Bluethumb was integral to this process: “Bluethumb has made it easy for me to transition from hobby artist to professional artist. The support and advice (and the odd pep talk from Sarah) has been invaluable and has given me the confidence that I needed to move forward with my art career and transition to full time artist.”
Over the last year, Michelle has become one of Bluethumb’s most popular up and coming artists. Her work resonates with emotion, showcasing her love of landscapes and her passion for her local area. She confides, “I have always had a strong connection to nature and the countryside especially the northern rivers of NSW and the gold coast hinterland where I grew up and I hope to express this love through my artwork. The diversity between the lush rolling hills of the northern rivers and the dry rural parts of NSW and QLD continue to inspire me. I love a simple landscape that is uncomplicated but can draw you into the scene.”
Simple is something Michelle does well. Her impasto paintings, usually completed with oil paints, capture the beauty of vast skies and rolling mountains in a pastel colour palette. The simplicity of her colour choices and her minimal compositions imbue her work with a peacefulness and tranquility that matches perfectly with the quiet atmosphere of the Australian countryside. Using a combination of brushes, palette knife and her fingers, Michelle uses texture to show the journey each painting has been though, before finishing them off with sgraffito scratchings.
On her choice of colour palette, Michelle explains, “I love colour but am particularly drawn to softer tones as I find them very soothing and inviting to look at, they draw you in and comfort you. I take my inspiration from the colours I see in the Australian landscape, there are so many soft beautiful tones to inspire me, but I don’t shy away from a more vivid colour palette but always strive to keep it true to nature.”
While Michelle has painted every kind of landscape, from the sea to the mountains, her heart will always find its way back to the country. She explains, “I love fences and roads and long country driveways, and the odd cow never goes astray.” A seaside sunset is a close second though!
Each painting is born from a moment of inspiration. Upon feeling that moment of connection to a scene, Michelle then decides how best to capture it. The decisions involved include whether the subject is best suited to a small or large canvas, and what exactly the colour palette will be. Once these choices are made, it doesn’t take her long to complete the painting. Working fast is a conscious choice in her practice – “I deliberately try not to labor over a piece for too long as I never want it to look over-worked.”
Over the next 12 months, Michelle is hoping to take her practice even further with exhibitions and through networking with fellow artists. Stay tuned for updates on when and where you can see her expressive work in person!
Photos courtesy of the artist.