This week I had the immense pleasure of meeting with the magical Michelle Ellington, otherwise known as the artist behind Reawaken Fluid Art! Michelle first caught my eye back at the Raleigh Raw art showcase in January, and her perfectly blended rainbow hair told me everything I needed to know about her brand: rebellious, colorful, stunning. I could not be more thrilled to have stumbled upon another magnificent liquid artist after our beloved Natalie Koziarski decided to take her liquid art skills to Montana in pursuit of her career in social work. Seeing Michelle’s art gave me hope that I could fall in love with this classic art technique all over again.
Although Michelle’s art is masterfully done, she only recently began her journey as an artist. Toward the end of 2018, Michelle discovered fluid arts and decided to give it a go as a gift for her niece, but this stubborn artist wouldn’t settle for amateur art. Michelle says she messed up repeatedly, but she kept at it. She began watching videos of different artists’ techniques, tips and tricks, and effectively taught herself everything she knows through YouTube University. “I see it, I do it! It doesn't always look the way I want it to, but I keep getting better!”
Michelle uses acrylics from Micheal’s and a gallon of Elmer’s glue mixed with water to create her pieces, mixing the glue and paints carefully to ensure it isn’t too runny, or else the proper effect won’t be achieved. “My favorite technique is dipping, which is when you dip the canvas in the paint mix then pop the bubbles that come out. The hardest part is choosing the paint you want to use; I always want to add a lot of colors! Bright colors: blues, purples, greens... like my hair!”. Michelle particularly loves using gold in her more recent works: “Resin makes it so shimmery; I can’t stop using it!” The basic process Michelle typically sticks to when adding resin to her pieces is once her colors are set on the canvas and she’s pleased with it, she adds details with an oil based paint pen on top of the acrylic, lets it sit for a week, adds a coat of resin, lets it cure for about 10 hours, then sets it in her storage bin for another 3-7 days for additional curing. It’s quite a bit of effort on her end, but I can’t argue with the results. (Click here to see Michelle's process.)
On top of all that, at age 19 Michelle had broken her tail bone, but had to see two doctors over the course of two years before anyone realized that that was the issue. Her tailbone was finally removed in 2013, but she still has ongoing pain. “Fluid art helps me let go... with some control! It’s easy for me to get lost in it; I was actually painting all last night, with hours of redoing. Ever since I found fluid art my future doesn’t seem as bleak as before. It's definitely better.”
Michelle finds catharsis in her creations, as well as a sense of freedom, “with a little bit of euphoria added in. I feel amazing, it helps me more than I can describe. Less panic attacks, less anxiety; it gave me hope.” Michelle can’t work a regular job due to physical pain and disability, and was even fired because of it. When Michelle was in high school she suffered from what everyone assumed was severe migraines, and even missed most of her sophomore and junior years because of it. As it turned out, Michelle had been misdiagnosed for 10 years, and actually suffered from intracranial hypertension, which is essentially a brain tumor with a nasty side effect that was slowly taking Michelle’s vision away, and later received brain surgery in 2016. Michelle says it could have been a lot worse, and she rocked the shaved head look with pride.
Michelle says that her work is heavily influenced by her emotions, “depression, anxiety, they influence my color selection, or if I just want to make a mess.” Other sources of inspiration she derives from the sky, the sea, and other artists. Instagram artist Emma uses resin art to create beach scenes, and Michelle credits her with being the inspiration she needed to be brave enough to actually try. Michelle is also a fan of abstract artist Jessica Swan’s work, and was way too excited to see that Swan had followed her back on Instagram. Shelee Carruthers is another artist Michelle gives a shout out to for teaching the art class that inspired Michelle to begin her most recent project (the one that had her working all night). “I’m trying to replicate her work, it’s trial and error mostly.”
Michelle’s goal is to make art her full-time job, “I want to make other people feel, really. When they look at my work, I want them to feel something, and I want to inspire others the way artists have inspired me. To me it feels amazing, I get so much gratification knowing someone is inspired by what I do!” Michelle is indeed an inspiration, not only for what she’s had to overcome to get to this point, but for everything she does so selflessly for her family. “Outside of art I take care of my dogs and my mom. My mom is very supportive of everything in my life.” However, Michelle’s mom also suffers from a lot of health problems, from her back, to standing, and walking, everything has been more difficult for her lately. “She feels bad that she can’t do it, too. I love her, she’s my mom, she’s been there for me my whole life. She’s a strong woman and she’s been through a lot.”
While Michelle’s parents have been separated since she was 16, her father lives only three houses down from her and her mother. In fact, the whole family lives on one street, on the same side of the road! “My granddaddy gave land to the family, and I guess it just spread from there.” Michelle is living on an 83 acre farm where her dogs can run around and play. One dog in particular, Ramsey the red nose pit bull with an under-bite, sits on Michelle and puts his arms around her for the chest scratches he’s grown far too accustomed to. She says that they also used to raise cows, “but it got too expensive, and my granddaddy got too old for the cows. He still gets on that tractor though! Anytime there’s nice weather he’s on that tractor.”
Michelle believes that her partnership with Ghost Flowers will be a good opportunity for her, and it looks like I’ve already won over dear mom, “My mom is super excited for it, she’s so proud of me.” As she should be, Michelle!