Artist Michele Bourke a self-taught artist shares with us how a relaxing hobby turned into a successful business.
Be sure to visit Michele on Twitter. The link is located on the bottom of the interview.
Featured Artist Michele Bourke
Dave – Hello Michele, thank you for joining me today. I first met you on twitter and I was immediately attracted to your artistic style. Tell us about your artist journey. When did you start creating your art and how did it evolve over the years?
Michele – Hi Dave, firstly I’d like to thank you for inviting me to discuss my work.
Dave – You are most welcome and thank you for joining me today.
Michele – I guess I’ve had several influences in my life that have drawn me into art and painting, my mum was the first person, she would create paintings of mice and fairies in fantasy settings, I would lose myself in these little creations.
My mum would often read Beatrix Potter books, I can remember each picture as though it was yesterday.
I wanted to be able to make my own ‘make believe ‘ pictures, that would equally capture the imagination of my grandchildren.
As most people will realize from my profile photo, I am tube fed and have been for over two years now. I was told recently that I will need a liver and kidney transplant due to a genetic illness.
So I needed a form of escape for myself also. So I took up painting as a form of relaxation originally, but gradually people have asked me to do little commission paintings, sometimes of their pets, sometimes a place of importance to themselves.
I think I get great pleasure creating something personal, but the best bit is hearing how happy it has made them when they receive it.
Over the past 5 years, I’ve grown in confidence, I’m self-taught, and I’ve made plenty of mistakes that I’ve learned from.
Dave – I am so sorry to hear about your illness and I am sending prayers for a successful liver and kidney transplant. Your paintings tell a story. How do you come up with the themes for your creations?
Michele – Well as they say a painting paints a thousand words, and usually I leave it up to the audience to take their own meaning from a painting, but there are a few hidden meanings in my works, I like to create strong women with fighting spirit, I guess deep down that’s how I feel about myself at times.
Another thing I like to create is bonds, friendships, usually between children and animals.
Dave – Your paintings have a lot of depth and you use bold colors. Tell us more about your technique and your palette.
Michele – I tend not to restrict my palette to muted colours, life’s bright most of the time, and if it isn’t well why add some brightness to everyone’s day? I enjoy the cheerful colours.
Dave – Where do you get your inspiration from?
Michele – As I mentioned at the beginning, my mum was my first person to make me fall in love with creating my own paintings.
My second is Monet, I remember visiting a museum in London whilst at school, I remember being amazed by how many colours he could use for his bridge over the waterlilies, blues, and greens, but it wasn’t obvious until you really looked in depth.
Dave – What makes your artwork unique and separates you from other artists?
Michele – Personally I think every artist is unique, but if I had to say what would make my work noticeable, it would probably be the subjects I chose and how I define them, as you mentioned , I like quite bold colours, I rarely paint small pictures either , I usually work on canvas of around 41 x 51 cm. I’ll often see a photo and then give it my own little twist.
Dave – What message would you like your viewers to receive when they look at your artwork?
Michele –The reasons I paint are because I’m happiest with a brush in my hand, but I want to make people smile, and that’s the best medicine for me.
Dave – Your art makes me smile every time I see it. What supplies do you use for your artwork?
Michele – Oh I don’t use expensive paints, I don’t think there’s a need, luckily I have a great art shop near me, it’s a shop called ‘The Works’, I don’t know if you have them in the USA.
Dave – When did you start selling your artwork and how did you get started?
Michele – Well it got to the stage I was Painting every day, so I was getting a little collection at home, so I thought I’d try my local library to see if they’d be interested, they were, so I gave them around 6 pictures to sell, any proceeds to be split between them and another charity.
Dave – You just told me about some exciting news. You sold a painting to Billy Ocean. That is so exhilarating. I would love to hear more about this.
Michele – I nearly missed out on going to his concert due to a medical procedure the day previous, but I thought it’s no good sitting about feeling sorry for myself, so I went.
After the concert, my daughter and I decided to wait for the crowd to clear as I was in a wheelchair.
One of Billy’s Band asked if we’d like to meet him, I didn’t have to think twice.
So I pulled out my phone for some photos, when Billy noticed my screensaver, which was a landscape painting I’d given to the library, well he fell in love with it, the rest is history.
Must admit I felt elated when I explained to my little country library that Billy Ocean had bought it.
It was a wonderful feeling, let’s say Billy has a few more of my paintings now and has always
taken time to see me after his concerts. A perfect gent!
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Dave – That is a beautiful story and congratulations. What platforms do you use to showcase and sell your artwork?
Michele – I use mainly Twitter but also have an Instagram account.
Dave – How do you promote your art on Twitter?
Michele – I try to add a written tweet along with a new painting, recently I had to take a week off painting due to poor health, and my followers were genuinely concerned, I suppose that’s one of the reasons I like Twitter, you can build a kind of friendship before you sell anything, and if you don’t you’ve gained someone that you enjoy interacting with.
Dave – Would you recommend Twitter as an online marketing tool for artists just starting to sell their art online?
Michele – It’s hard for me to say, personally it works for me, but it might not suit another as well, there are other platforms such as Etsy, and Society 6. You could try various places until you find the right one for yourself.
Dave – That is so true, every artist has a different audience. What was the biggest lesson you learned about starting your art business?
Michele – Well the only bit of information I’d give to anyone starting out is, if you take commission work make sure you get half payment to cover any losses, as several times people will ask for something specific, you start work, only for them to change their mind just as you’re about to put finishing touches in.
Dave – That is a great tip and something I had to learn over the years. What tips could you give to new artists who are interested in selling their artwork?
Michele – The main thing is to enjoy whatever it is you’re creating and that there will be ups and downs, but you’ll find your feet eventually. And believe in yourself!
Dave – Would you mind sharing a few of your favorite creations and share the story behind them?
Fox And Badger. I painted this because I fell in love with the story of these two, they were
both orphaned from an early age, their friendship grew as they were reared together by people on a
farm, It just makes you realize there are friendships to be made under the most unexpected places.
Well who wouldn’t want to paint this moment, the painting is of a wild wolf that’s fallen
asleep in a bed of flowers, it just shows the gentle side to such a magnificent creature.
Michele – I don’t think this one needs much explaining, with my love for Monet, I had to give his
Water Lilies ago, I was quite pleased with the results.
Dave – Where can people purchase your art?
Michele – You can contact me through my Twitter account @Michelebourke1.
Dave – I would like to thank you one more time for sharing your artistic journey with us and I look
forward to seeing all of your new creations.
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