Michelle Reid- artist
By Vic Schukov
For the past two years, local artist Michelle Reid has been displaying her paintings regularly at the Tett Centre in Kingston. When one asks a painter how long they have been a professional artist, the answer is somewhat subjective:
“It’s really a question of how long you have known you could do this for a living. I started to make a serious effort in selling about 2015, while still working. It’s only in the last four years that I realized it could be feasible to be a professional artist.”
Reid whose major influences include Van Gogh and Alphonse Mucha, paints in a contemporary approach to post-impressionism, oil on canvas. Her paintings are based on deconstructing a scene in very confident brush strokes with a play on light, shadow and very chromatic colour; quite stunning, actually. Like many devoted artists, she knew from childhood she wanted to be a painter. Her earliest memory is of drawing with crayons and garnering praise from her parents:
“I came from a very large family with many kids under one roof. I realized I could get a lot of positive attention from my parents with my drawings. It was a natural ability, so I leaned into it.
As a little girl, I romanticized about artists in books and movies, but it was something that never seemed feasible until much later. Everyone tries to talk you out of it because they buy into this rumour of the starving artist.”
Reid was born in Quebec City, a military brat, they call it. The family was relocated to the Kingston base when she was two years old, and have never left. Being the second to last born, she did not get moved about like some of her older siblings born in different countries. Prior to immersing herself totally onto the canvas, she worked for 23 years in the food service sector:
“I have to say, it was such a blessing in disguise because it gave me the confidence to speak with strangers and learn more about them and market the product I was selling them. For me, art is a retreat from the news and all the stuff happening. I can go into my studio, find a meditative state and just reach that part of myself that brings out self worth.”
She has created a lifestyle with the best of two worlds. Constantly needing new reference photos to paint from, forces her to take walks downtown or in the woods. So, in her own words, it gets her body moving as well. In fact, she has travelled extensively to places like Turkey, Guatemala and Cuba. This has also had a philosophical impact on her lifestyle:
“I saw people living with next to nothing and still had great spirit. I realized the most valuable part of life is passion, and that can’t be bought. You either sign up for it or not. I came back to Kingston with a new outlook and decided I am not going to let my ego or shyness or doubt stand in the way of my best life, and especially not money. My lifestyle is sustainable. All these marketing firms selling a better life are full of crap. I discovered the secret, and it’s just passion.”
Pre-COVID, Reid displayed her works in many shows and exhibitions. The pandemic, of course, destroyed her busy 2020 plans – like the big Cottage Life Show cancelled in Toronto last March. Her investment in scheduling – including giving art workshops - torpedoed, she shifted gears to selling online. Naturally, she is passionate about her creations:
“Impressionism and post impressionism is about emotion, not detail. If you can nail that emotion of a scene with as few brush strokes as possible, that is something with which people can identify. They will say it reminds them of a special moment in their life, just right.”
An inspiration to others following a similar life path to her own, she believes that art is important to those seeking self validation. She testifies if you can put yourself to a task and get through the hard parts and finish it, nothing compares to the satisfaction:
“For me and a lot of painters, art is like that something you pour your spirit onto, in whatever medium you use to wrestle with the demons. And there is nothing like succeeding.”
Catching the perfect light in familiar places, Reid’s paintings capture saturated colours that shine so bright you may want to reach for your sunglasses.