Michelle Richeson’s paintings offer a surprise to those who look closely at them. From a distance, they are almost photorealistic but, up close, they become so much more. The colors are applied in a way that has been described as “prismatic” or “fractured” giving the impression that the image is being viewed through a kaleidoscope. Up close, the colors and lines subtly shift so the image appears to be overlapping and duplicating itself. Yet, when you look at it from a distance, it merges together to create a complete image.
Richeson’s studio is based in Neenah where she works in a variety of media, including oil, watercolor, pastel, and sculpture. She is intrigued by both the natural landscape and the way humanity travels through it, works, and thrives. A native of northeast Wisconsin, it is her travels throughout the US and abroad that inspire her paintings.
When traveling, she takes numerous photographs and draws inspiration from them to create her prismatic paintings. Even though she has traveled through many beautiful and exotic landscapes, it was often people working with their hands that sparked her artistic mind and inspired her largest series of paintings. She explains, “When I started the paintings, I concentrated on people using their hands because it’s something I see lacking in our society. It seems like we work less with our hands to create, work, or build and have become reliant on technology and not the simple act of using our hands to do and make things. “She particularly enjoys capturing the intricacies of the anatomy and light of hands at work. Paintings in the series include a woman kneading bread dough at an Irish farmstead, a man cleaning a fish from the day’s catch off the bay in Seward, Alaska, and a woman gathering metal ferrules and polishing them to make paint brushes in a brush factory in China. This brush maker painting resulted in Michelle winning Best of Show at the Secura Fine Art Exhibition in 2011.
Enchanted by it, she created a colorful and whimsical 84”x68” painting titled “North Bay Carousel.” This initiated a commitment to share the painting with others; particularly children. “It has brought smiles and joy to children who see it,” says Richeson. “The piece screams to be put someplace for them.” There are now three carousel paintings in the series and for every canvas print or original purchased, Richeson donates a signed print to a site that serves youth and families. The original painting is on display at the Richeson School of Art & Gallery, where it remains a favorite of children and adults alike.
Richeson’s painting approach is very different than other artists. Instead of completely covering the canvas with paint and then making adjustments, she works on a small section until it is completed before moving on to the next . “Working on a small part of the canvas helps me to get the effect I’m going for. I’m thinking about how shadow and light affect the subject matter as I paint. Also, what the color is going to portray. With that in mind, I can usually keep the whole painting cohesive as it goes on for several months, even though it’s a section at a time. I also use a limited palette which keeps the color harmonious through the painting.” Depending on the colors in the actual subject matter, Richeson typically uses six to ten colors. “I make notes in a journal so if I ever have to go back to that painting, I know what colors were used and any particular thoughts I had about the painting.” Currently, her easel holds a large painting of a kayaker fighting his way through the foaming rapids. Water in colorful droplets splash in the prismatic technique Richeson employs.
Richeson’s paintings are at the Richeson School of Art & Gallery in Kimberly and Moondeer & Friends Gallery in Boulder Junction. She has an upcoming exhibit at Gallery 110 North which will be on view from August 14-October 2 in Plymouth WI. To see her art online, go to www.mricheson.com.