In this series, the artists working at Creative Gateways give us behind-the-scenes insight into their current works in progress, inspiration, and creative challenges. Today, we look at a new series of paintings from Michael…
Learn By Doing
Although Michael Colpitts has had a long career as a mixed media painter, he never received formal training in the medium (unlike his work in ceramics). Instead, Michael has accumulated years of experience shaped by intuition, abstraction, and experimentation. “You know,” Michael tells us, “recently Meg [Munro] was talking to me about this, and she said ‘Michael, you may not have formal training, but you have an imagination that, through color choice, composition, and so on, provides unique and pleasing solutions that overcome that.’ Sometimes it’s nice to get that perspective on it.” The essence of Michael’s imagination and artistic approach is especially apparent in his newest series of abstract flowers.
Growing with the Flowers
Michael has done a previous series of abstract flowers, but was recently inspired to do a new series with a new direction. “I was looking through the past flowers, and particularly the photo references I had saved for them, and I happened to see these images of poppies that really struck me. They have such a bold color – and not only is color something that’s very attractive to me as an artist, but orange is my favorite color. Both that and their shapes spoke to me, and I knew pretty fast that I wanted to do something with that. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that poppies are also just generally a popular flower with people. But that actually added another layer of interest and challenge. Poppies are something people can directly relate to – at least compared to many of my other abstract paintings. So what I wanted to do was take subject matter that wasn’t abstract, and present it in a slightly abstract way.”
One of the most immediate decisions facing Michael at the start of this series was one of size. “I knew I was going to be accentuating these petals, and having large amounts of bold color… so I had to be careful with size. If I did it on too big of a canvass, it would have just been too much, too overwhelming. But once I decided to use a smaller canvass, I felt much more liberated to just go for it.” And indeed, more than anything it was the petals that ended up providing the biggest challenges. “I didn’t really want to labor away at trying to make these petals realistic – my skill is much more in abstraction. So I wanted to display them that way: embellished and abstract. But there were still elements of the petals of the poppies that I loved and wanted to capture, particularly in regards to the lighting and color as they overlap. I had to get that shading and translucence right, I had to bring depth the piece as a whole. How do I show those things, but still make the painting interesting? How do I keep interest in not just the flower petals, but the surrounding areas too?”
The answer, ultimately, was for Michael to allow himself the creative freedom to experiment and use intuition – something that can be both invigorating and quite scary for an artist. “There are times when I start a piece, and it’s really far from being where it needs to be, and I’ve had to learn how to not get too stressed about that. I’ve had to learn how to trust that I’ll find solutions to the problems I’m having and make way I want to make. It can be really hard, but when I get it right… well, then I’m happy.”
So far, Michael has made two pieces in this new series of abstract flowers (one of which has already sold), with a plan for three or four more. “I’ve been really happy with how the two have turned out so far, and in the end its a great, if sometimes frustrating, experience. I get to develop new techniques and ideas, and in doing so I get to say something new. I get to grow as an artist, which I love.”
Stop and Smell the Poppies
To see more of Michael’s uplifting and abstract work, as well as the work of all our resident artists, be sure to visit Creative Gateways Open Studios & Gallery, open 7 days a week, 10am-5pm!