About this post: “Women who Create” explores various artists, what and why they create, and where they find their inspiration. In this post, I introduce you to Michelle Saint Onge, an artist I’ve admired for years. Enjoy…and make sure to click on the link at that bottom of the post to win one of her beautiful paintings!
I first fell in love with Michelle Saint Onge’s work when visiting a friend who had a number of “City Scape” pieces throughout her home…each one of them fascinated me with how beautiful and detailed they were.
Once I graduated from graphic design and began working, Saint Onge’s screen-printed piece, Tower Road, from her CityScape series (click on the link to see her reproduction pieces), was the very first piece I purchased. To me, it depicted my love of Halifax and the people who live here…along with the beautiful architect of the historic homes in the South End.
Recently, Michelle and I had a chat to talk about her work and the inspiration behind it…here’s what I learned…
Michelle had always wanted to be an artist, in fact, one of her first memories was of drawing a stuffed animal and being surprised by the fact that what she saw in her head, was exactly what showed up on paper! As time went on, she thought she’d like to be a cartoonist, however, like many creative people, Michelle traveled a bit of a different path before finally living a creative life.
After earning a degree in Psychology from Dalhousie University with a focus on Animal Behaviour Psychology and studying animals in captivity, Michelle wasn’t sure what direction to take. While sorting it out, she’d read an article about Walt Disney building the brand new “Animal Kingdom”…and her love of animals and the possibility of working in animation got her wheels turning!
A few phone calls later and a visit with the recruiting crew when they came to town, and Michelle wasn’t hired at Animal Kingdom, however, she was offered a position into the Disney entrepreneurship program to attend “Disney University”, learn all about the ins and outs of the business, and job shadow various people as she learned about the organization.
Eventually, after a few stops along the way including a stint in Washington, Michelle made her way back to Nova Scotia and a creative life, where she attended art school for furniture design before switching to textiles, graduating, and leaving again to work as a textile designer with a studio in New York. Continuing with her education, Michelle went to Sheridan College in Oakville to further her studies with textiles, moved to Montreal, and continued working freelance remotely, for the studio in New York.
With so much travel, experience, and education behind her and a desire to come back home, Michelle returned to Nova Scotia in 2003 to open her own screen printing studio where she worked her magic, moving ink through huge pieces of canvas to create her beautiful pieces of art…starting with animals and moving onto architecture…many of the pieces depicting places around Halifax and others from Autin, Texas, where she spent the winter months.
Michelle was using all of the experience she learned about running a business, the movement and psychology of animals, and her love of art…to create something pretty fantastic.
A number of years running the screen printing studio with works in several galleries, it was time for another change. The thing was, not only was Michelle feeling like she’d run out of things she wanted to print, but her body was quite tired from the physicality of the work.
Michelle took an extended vacation break to Paris, to reconnect with herself, and returned to Nova Scotia relaxed, refreshed, and ready to start something new.
In January 2015, Michelle headed to “YouTube” school to discover a love of painting. Having never trained as a painter, she dug into learning everything she could and played with various mediums until finally settling on watercolors.
Michelle has been exploring ever since.
When chatting about what she’s currently working on Michelle commented:
“It’s a weird thing for artists. It takes us a long time to realize and be ok that we create the way we create. We spend a very long time trying to change the way we make art and how it looks. We think ‘this comes easy to me so it can’t be right’! It’s a process.”
For the last few years, Michelle’s watercolor pieces have been a study of animals. She spends her time in her beautiful studio in Dartmouth with her dog and cat… “we’re a little girl gang,” she said…filling her days with a brush in her hand as there’s always something new to explore.
Michelle’s work embodies who she is and what she stands for, with every little piece of her life and all of her travels coming together…to be where she is right now. Michelle’s love of animals along with her love of art has been a driving force in her life. She dreams of someday making change for the welfare of animals and hopes that her work inspires others to understand how precious they are.
Follow the instruction on this Instagram post to WIN a 9×12 original watercolour on paper, titled “It Takes a Village.” The piece is mounted on a birch board panel (ready to hang). Retail value is $700.
About the Broken Beautiful Collection:
Inspired by her Aunt Sharon, a breast cancer survivor, Michelle created the Broken Beautiful collection of art pieces.
While on vacation with family in Florida, Michelle was taken back that her aunt was flustered about not feeling comfortable in a dress she was wearing…feeling her breast no longer looked right in the garment. Michelle, having never really paid much attention to the scars and only ever viewing her aunt as wonderful and beautiful, started looking at things a little differently. On the beach, she’d collect shells…matching two shells together and how different they were…one completely intact and another cracked and broken. So, to honour her Aunt and other breast cancer survivors, the Broken Beautiful collection was created.