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Featured Member Artist: Francine E Michel, Ph.D.

15 Jun 2020 1:50 PM | Anonymous

Francine Michel’s art combines the delicate Chinese approach to painting while using the encaustic wax technique. She says that encaustic painting enhances the Chinese approach with its luminous inherent quality.  She has been working with those two art forms for over a quarter of a century now.  

Born in New York, she moved to St. Petersburg for professional reasons.  She said the thriving art community here was an amazing surprise. With a Ph.D. in rehabilitation counseling, Francine spent her career helping individuals with injuries return to work. She set up departments within the insurance industry, as an assistant vice president with Swiss Re and and as an occupational consultant with MetLife.  She also taught college as an adjunct. Now, she splits her time between Florida and New Mexico, which offers her varied inspiration from the mountain and coastal scenes. 

Her journey to find her artistic style began with a friend bringing her rice paper from China.  Browsing and drinking tea for hours in a Brush Store while seeking just the right brushes followed. “Chinese painters describe floating in and around their landscapes and capturing what they see.  This magic carpet technique spoke to me,” Michel said. She added that touches of a hot wax pen layered on top recalls the brush movement on rice paper.  Rich colors and textures emphasize details in the work.  Inspired by combining both techniques, Francine began to explore the trees of Florida and their various roots, bark and branches, which you can see in the paintings shown here.

Francine has long been a member of the Warehouse Arts District Association and a cherished member of the association’s Education Committee, which puts together free professional development programming for artist members and has been working on community art programs for local youth. 

We asked her about her life and unique artistic style: 

How did you develop your artist style?  

Encaustic wax gives the work, texture and effects that I wanted. Encaustic wax is a responsive medium that welcomes touch when producing it and after it is finished.  Chinese painters describe flying into and through a landscape.  This approach suited my taking others along with me to see what I am seeing.  This included using rice paper and outlining forms to suggest movement and make the brilliant encaustic colors more vivid.  

How has your style evolved over time?  I worked in both encaustics and Chinese painting about a quarter of a century ago.  Afterwards, I explored everything from watercolor to ceramics.  Now I am back to both encaustics and Chinese painting and have found that combining the two is perfect for the present time.

How long have you been an artist? 

Art has always been  part of my life. Just saying and writing here that I am a full time artist makes me happy.  I am thankful that obtained a Ph.D. that allowed me to contribute and be rewarded for my career.  

Where do you draw inspiration?  

Residing in St. Petersburg and New Mexico, I am challenged to be able to create beach scenes as well as mountains that nature has made quite special.

What do you value about part of the WADA and the ArtsXchange community? 

Serving on the Education Committee has been a part of WADA that I cherish.  It has taught me how much can  be accomplished by a small group that works hard and well together.  

How are restrictions related to COVID affecting you? 

One artist said instead of "shelter in place," we should say "artist-in-residence."  I put that sign on my door.  Both the Education Committee and my Florida Wax group have been meeting by Zoom.  Since artists love to share their work and ideas, I have found this form of communication to satisfy that need.


Learn more about Francine’s work: 

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