In the Studio with Michelle Robinson
In the Studio with Michelle Robinson
What is the hardest part of creating your art?
There is just never enough time! I have come up with strategies along the way to maximize the time that I do have, but I often feel I don’t have adequate time to develop my ideas fully.
What inspires you?
I read a lot… fiction, poetry, philosophy, theory, scientific papers, etc. It all becomes part of the soup. I really enjoy the research process, so once I am interested in something, I will pursue threads through readings that take me to all sorts of new places in my work. I would say almost half my practice is reading.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t wait so long to do what interests you! I took a 15 year hiatus from artmaking after college to focus on my day job in animation, and waited 26 years to go back for an MFA. In retrospect, that feels like a lot of lost time; I think it took a while to convince myself that I could pursue both interests in a meaningful way, even though it’s often hard.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
I’ve received so much amazing advice over the years it’s hard to pick one, but for this context I thought of this: A gallery owner told me and some other students during a crit that we shouldn’t expect to make a living selling our work. This seems harsh, or cynical perhaps, at first blush, but to me it makes sense, given the state of the art market and the way in which our culture (de)values art and artists. The situation is dire, competitive, biased, etc…but dwelling on that is counterproductive. I have found it freeing to simply follow the avenues of investigation that interest me, without considering too much what the end product will be, and whether it will have any monetary value to others. I think this was his point…making work that caters to commercial interest can limit or compromise what you do. Instead, make what is meaningful to you, and eventually the work seems to find an audience anyway, regardless of its marketability.
If you could change anything about the art world, what would it be?
Ha ha, see above! Perhaps even more than that, though, I wish it were a bit more introvert-friendly. Like many fields, success often hinges upon social interaction, which can be challenging and exhausting for some of us, myself included.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
I like to share my work with my peers for feedback and discussion, through studio visits or zoom sessions with my grad school cohort, or through a formal crit group. I find these interactions to be very challenging and inspiring, and essential for the work to develop.
What do you wish to accomplish with your art?
To make someone think; to pause, to reconsider.
How do you make the leap from an idea in your head to the action you produce?
Usually through a series of small experiments. I begin with stuff that is quick and feels low-risk. I’m strangely miserly when it comes to materials and intimidated by the blank page, so I’ve just come to accept that about myself and work small to start. I prefer photography and/or collage over sketching to play with ideas, so if I feel stuck I fall back to those practices, and then see what the work seems to demand as the project grows.
What are your words of wisdom for someone starting out in your field?
This applies to both animation and fine art: seek out mentors and collaborators, and continue to do so throughout your career. What you might need in terms of mentorship will change over time, but there is always something to be gained from those relationships, no matter how established you might be. Also… be kind, and support one another. More than anything… supporting fellow artists is where the real gold is.
You can see more of Michelle’s work on her website: https://www.michellerobinson.org/ or Instagram: @michellerobinsonstudio