Michelle Spragg is still finding her place as an artist. It’s always been her passion, but it was only six months ago that the 32-year-old put everything else aside to focus on her art full time.
“I don’t even know what I like to paint yet. I’m doing my own education right now, learning and observing as I go,” she told me during a conversation at ArtFirst, the downtown Revelstoke art gallery where her work is on display.
Despite that, her natural talent is evident in her richly detailed landscapes and paintings of wildlife.
Spragg was born in New Brunswick in a military family. They lived in Ontario and Quebec before settling back in New Brunswick. Art was always a her strong suit. She recounted an early report card that said she had a short attention span, but was capable of drawing three-dimensional objects.
Despite those obvious talents, she was convinced to pursue a more practical education and keep art as a hobby. She dropped her art classes in grade 10 and focused on science. She studied science in university, but dropped out before getting a degree, instead going to hair school — a field she considered both practical and creative.
“I went years without creating any art at all, just trying to make my way,” she says. “It was a big mistake. I feel like I lost 15 years there.”
Spragg had spurts where she pursued her passion. In 2008, when her father passed away, she went through a creative burst.
“I bottomed out, which made me do some art. There’s something about being in a miserable place,” she said. “I froze up once I started making progress.”
Again, a few years ago, she tried, only to get scared away by the prospect of not receiving a regular income. “I keep jumping in and jumping back out because the second you don’t have a regular pay cheque, you get terrified.”
Her latest foray started at the beginning of winter. Somewhat fortuitously, as she was having doubts, she broke her leg. Instead of looking for work, she made sacrifices and focused on art full time.
Like many Revelstoke artists, her art is focused on the natural world. Her paintings of the night sky stand out at ArtFirst. She works off photos or her memory, but enhances them with her own creative flourishes. “I try to capture realism, but I try to be more abstract,” she says.
Spragg’s natural instinct is toward realism, she says, but she tries to fight those urges to make her paintings more creative and unique. While she has no formal art education, she tries to find a middle ground between realism and impressionism.
“The job of art is you get to create your own realities when you’re painting an image,” she told me. “It can defy physics and all those limitations because it’s yours.”
Spragg works in acrylic paints and wants to explore oil and watercolours in the future. Right now she’s discovering herself as an artist, but she has great confidence in her abilities.
“I feel I’m under the radar,” she says. “By next year I plan to be in competitions and winning them because I know I have talent, I just haven’t found what I want to say quite yet.”
She aims to be known for more than just painting pretty pictures and wants her work to become more political and in depth as she develops. It’s just a matter of getting to that point.
“I want to use my art to make the world a better place,” she said. “If each piece of art is an antenna and I’m putting them out there with my intention to make the world a happier place, then I’m laying the groundwork for that.”
You can see more of Michelle Spragg’s work at ArtFirst at 113 First St. West, or on her website at michellecspragg.wix.com/michellecspragg.