We had the good fortune of connecting with Michele Messenger and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michele, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
A few years ago I found myself making more and more art, getting better at it, receiving praise for it and then, ultimately, being asked if I’d like to participate — in a small way — in an art fair. That experience was very successful and it was clear that making and selling art was going to be a new thing for me. I’m a full-time freelance graphic artist, but finding the time to make art was an easy thing to fit into my days, weeks and months. Making, marketing, exploring, teaching…it all became a part of me and my story.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Encaustic painting is a centuries-old technique that many people have not heard of. It entails mixing beeswax and damar resin to make medium. Then taking that medium and adding pigments to make paint. Since wax is hard when cool, it needs to be molten in order to work with it. That means working on a heated palette. A pancake griddle! And that is just the tip of the how-to iceberg. Painting in wax is one of the first areas of difference. Even though the art form is enjoying a mini-discovery right now, there are far fewer encaustic painters compared to water, oil or acrylic. It’s a tiny bit intimidating — only at first — and a supply-heavy art form, but the results are so unlike other painting media. Additionally I bring my graphic design career into the studio every time I paint. The shape, form, color muscle of mine gets a daily workout, so when I transition to the studio, I find that how-do-I-start stumbling block non-existent. Going forward, what I’m most excited about is continuing my art/design life. The two fit together nicely and I see no reason or need to drop one to focus on the other. That’s pretty exciting!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My ideal itinerary will include lots of walking. Specific neighborhoods, parks and tea shops will be on the list. You just see more and experience more if you visit by foot and Denver is an easy city to show off. I’m sure if you asked ten people their top three highlights, you’d get 30 different, wonderful, exactly-right answers. But one of my highlights is unusual and off the well-known path. Children’s Hospital Colorado has this amazing kinetic sculpture that I take almost everyone to. It is the size of a small bathroom and completely enclosed in glass walls, so you can take it in from all sides. In the hospital’s old inner-city location, it was featured in their lobby and a bright-light beacon for a scary space. When they moved to a state-of-the-art location a few years ago, I never thought the kinetic sculpture would make the new-building cut (it’s a little dinged up). And the new building is a gem of architecture, way-finding, and health. It is a riot of color and art and excitement (I’m sure there are appropriate quiet visual areas!) and I was so pleased to see that I was wrong — the sculpture is once-again a draw in their open welcome area. And I would never even know this existed in the old or new hospital if the hospital foundation wasn’t one of my clients a long time ago. I’m sure, when I mention we’re going to stop in at a kid hospital to look at art, any friend will engage in some serious eye-rolling. But no one yet has ever said it was a waste of time.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Victoria Eubanks has been the most influential person in my art story. We met at an art show — she was showing, I was shopping. In chatting, we found we had many similarities and when she said she taught her medium (encaustic) and I should take a class, I jumped right in. A few years later, once I had taken all the classes I could, she said she needed an assistant in her classes at the Art Students League of Denver (ASLD), so for five years that, and wrangling encaustic open studios at the League, was my *place.* ASLD also holds a warm spot in my heart for being an amazing resource. Classes, people, education, fun — it is rich in all of those things. And then lastly, all the people who took ASLD encaustic workshops over the years, beginners and advanced, they have been invaluable in my art journey. It was thrilling to grow and learn right along with them. Many have become loved friends and all of us share a warm, waxy community.