An interview with artist Michelle Armas

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Michelle started painting a few years ago to battle the stress of her corporate branding job. She has a bachelor of International Relations, and a post graduate degree in Graphic Design and Branding from the prestigious Portfolio Center in Atlanta. She lasted about one year in the New York branding world before she threw in the towel and started trying to make a living by painting.

She paints in acrylic and oil, large and small, abstract and sometimes portraits too. 

She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two sweet doggies and works out of a studio in Decatur, Georgia. You can find her online here.

Here she is chatting to Eli about how she's made a living from her painting.

Eli Trier: Who are you and what do you do?

Michelle Armas: My name is Michelle Armas, I am a painter.

ET: Why do you do what you do?

MA: I have always been a creator, someone who is drawn to art and makes a lot of it. I somehow got people to buy it and now I make art for a living.

ET: Who is your dream client?

MA: Miles Redd

ET: Do you do your own marketing & PR? Tell us a little about how you do that.

MA: Yes. Basically I have a blog where I chat about my home, my art, my life - your basic internet overshare extravaganza. My strategy is to be myself, and keep a friendly, cheerful, irreverent tone because that is how I am in real life. I also do instagram where I share images of my studio, what is going on right now, and interact with people by asking them to name paintings etc.

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ET: What percentage of your time would you say spend on marketing?

MA: 10%, maybe.

ET: What’s your favourite part of running your own business?

MA: I get to be on my own schedule.

ET: What’s your least favourite part?

MA: Dealing with "people" which always means the ones who drag you down if you let them. I tend to not let them, but it's a pain in the ass to have to defend my energy and time from negativity for negativity's sake.

ET: What is the one thing you wish you had known before you began your business?

MA: I can say no and still be successful. I can actually, really, like totally for realzies trust my gut.

ET: What does creativity mean to you?

MA: Imagining new possibilities from the same materials. I loved school projects where the teacher would say "you have a tight budget, can only print in two color, and you have to use free fonts, and images....go" It was so much fun to find a way to be exciting within a limited scope. I like a challenge and I think that's real creativity: making something from nothing. Sometimes I test myself, like Ok Michelle, you have to make a birthday gift and card, using only what you have at home, right this second, and it has to be a show stopper. I dream up cool stuff...its fun.

ET: What does freedom mean to you?

MA: Feeling, no, knowing, in my heart that I am good enough and that I have the power to make myself happy.

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ET: Do you consider yourself a misfit? How do you feel about that, either way?

MA: Um, in the sense that I couldn't hold down a regular job, and that I like curse words and saying (thinking) really inappropriate things? But honestly, ever since I was a child I have had this very strong sense that everything grown ups do is not real, or at least that they get themselves involved with institutions, caught up with rules, or harness themselves in a way that feels suffocating to me.

I try to keep my childlike sense of detachment from the grown up world, so I didn't put much stock into having a real job, it was more annoying than satisfying because I felt chained up. I like being this way, but I am used to it. I have grown into it, I don't automatically dismiss people who see the world differently than I do now, whereas before I may have looked down on someone who wasn't able to be independent. That's stupid. Love people for who they are, that's another thing grown ups forget about; accepting people who are different from you.

ET: What’s more important: breaking all the rules, or quietly making up your own?

MA: I say who cares about the rules in the first place. Follow the rules that are meaningful, like don't spread evil, that's a basic good rule to follow. But mostly just let yourself go by your own compass. I have learned that your gut will out, so if you feel a certain way deep down inside, no matter how much you try to fit in with someone else's rules, one day you will eventually guide yourself by your own rules. So do yourself a favor and do it now.

ET: Where do you get your best ideas?

MA: Looking. I am always looking at everything: architecture, fashion, art, nature, reading...

ET: If you were an animal, what would you be & why?

MA: Well, elephants are my favorite animal, but they don't seem like they that much fun. I think I would choose some kind of whale, like a humpback.

ET: What was the last book you read?

MA: Ummm, some mystery novel that I can't think of the name of. I always like the same kinds of books: Strong female protagonist, set between 1780-1920, someone gets murdered, like in a really crazy way, and then there is crime solving, daring feats, lots of defying of social norms, maybe a cute guy in there. I like for my reading to take me far away from reality and I love love love love love anything set in England. I am a NERD.

ET: Complete this sentence. Perfect happiness is…

MA: A sunny day, on the water with my family, good wine, my puppies, laughter, music, good food and no responsibilities.

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ET: What are you most grateful for today?

MA: My health and my family.

ET: What has been your greatest adventure?

MA: Marrying my pretty cute husband Oshine. We have grown so much together, and navigating life inside of a marriage is really a fun adventure.

ET: What do you need to give yourself permission to do (or say, or be, or think etc)?

MA: Hmmm, it's ok to rest as much as I need to, even if it seems like a lot.

Thanks to Michelle for sharing her thoughts with us. You can find her online here.

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