Excited to have Michelle Fleur on the column, A Creative Home, today! I found Michelle’s work on instagram (where else?) and let me tell you, she is an amazing artist. I really respect artists who take one subject and dissect it thoroughly, exploring every facet, every small detail. What’s Michelle enthusiastic about? Whales! 200 of them, in fact. She actually illustrated 200 whales! That’s an ambitious project, but what it means to us as viewers is that we see a LOT of blue hues, info about whales and pretty watercolours in her work- basically a lot of work and enthusiasm on her part. Gotta love that! So, again- exploring the question- how do creatives live and work? Especially an artist focused on whales and sea life and all things coastal. Let’s find out from Michelle herself…
My name is Michelle Fleur and I’m an artist and illustrator currently obsessed with whales and sea life! I live in a tiny studio apartment by the sea in Perth, Western Australia. Perth is one of the most isolated cities in the world, but it is very cosmopolitan and exceedingly beautiful, with its location on the remote and pristine west coast.
We moved here about seven months ago for my partner’s work, and we’re not certain as to how long we’ll be here so we’re renting an apartment in our favourite part of the city – Cottesloe Beach. Back on the east coast of Australia we have a large 5 bedroom home, but here we opted for a studio apartment as it was affordable and only a block from the sea!
The apartment is basically two rooms – the kitchen, living, office space and bedroom are all open, though the bedroom can be blocked off with big sliding doors. The bathroom is, of course, self contained. High ceilings and clever design makes the space appear bigger than it is, and lots of natural light floods the apartment, even on overcast days.
What makes your home a creative one?
Living in a studio apartment there is literally no delineation between my work and living space so my creative work spills out into the entire space. I wash my brushes in the kitchen sink, do digital work on the couch and paint at night at my desk whilst watching TV. Sometimes, when it’s raining and cold and the world is grey, I just grab my pens and draw in bed!
What aspect of your home leaves you inspired most (and least too)?
Its location and proximity to the beach. We have always chosen to live somewhere based on the location, not on the house. When we moved here, just over 7 months ago, we were looking for something with ocean views that was affordable. Also, I can see the splashes and spray from humpback whales breaching and tail slapping from my front balcony!
The only drawback is the size of the apartment. But really, it’s also been a blessing as it stops me from accumulating too much ‘stuff’ and there’s very little to clean! Tidying up takes about 15 minutes and we don’t have maintenance or gardens to worry about. Truth be told I’m happier in this small space than I was in our big house with the pool and the yard, and all those rooms! A small space forces one to live simply and think economically about storage and possessions. Even in regards to my art practice I have stripped right down to one basic medium – watercolour painting!
How would you describe your home style?
I am definitely an eclectic. I don’t prescribe to any style, really. I have clutter-bug tendencies but I’ve had to be quite strict with myself in this space as it becomes cluttered very quickly. More and more I’m embracing a sparser simplicity – nowhere near sparse enough to be called a minimalist though, but you know, I try. I love colour that pops and a bit of greenery, and beautiful handmade things.
The biggest challenge you’ve faced so far regarding your home?
The lack of space is challenging but I actually appreciate having to keep things minimal. Also, as it’s a rental apartment there is a lot I can’t do, like put hooks on the wall for pictures, or paint, or even just fix things like rattling windows. It’s a frustration at times, but a minor one.
Something your house is full of?
Whales! Haha. All of the artwork is whale related, as are many of the books I have lying around, not to mention the 200 whales that I’ve created for my latest project!
If your house had to be named, what would you call it?
What do you think is your favourite aspect in your house?
From the tiny front patio that looks out over the Indian Ocean! I go out there several times a day to check out the swell, spot for whales and to brush my hair (I hate my hair falling on the apartment floor!). Also, I can see the ocean from my bed, so I wake up every day and look to see if it’s good swimming weather. It’s a happy thing waking up to blue skies and turquoise seas!
Biggest DIY you’ve ever attempted in the house?
As we’re renting we haven’t DIY’ed in this space!
How many times do you thinking of changing up the decor and arrangements?
Not very often – there aren’t really many options in this tiny space.
Do you think your creativity is linked to the way you live?
Absolutely! I am more productive here than I ever have been – I would go so far as to say that I am a prolific producer of work. Being by the sea is so inspiring and because there’s little to look after in the space (no gardening, multiple rooms to clean, pool maintenance, etc., etc.) I have plenty of time to dedicate to my art.
Something that you love about your house and wouldn’t change for the world?
The location, the views and the beautiful light that spills into the apartment.
And let’s have a rapid fire round..
1/ What are your creative hobbies?
Watercolour painting. Drawing. Hand sewing. Dodgy knitting. Photography. Living room interpretive dance. And I just started ceramic classes. I’ll try almost anything creative really!
2/What’s your favourite color? Book? Movie? Flower?
Green and Blue. I can’t choose a favourite book! Into the Wild. Wildflowers!
3/If you were to write a book about yourself, what would you name it and why?
To steal a song title from Fleetwood Mac – Go Your Own Way. I’ve done some pretty groovy things in my 39 years and reinvented myself several times. I used to worry about my idiosyncrasies and insatiable desire to experience everything so intensely but I’ve always done what I wanted and rarely listened to ‘shoulds’. Life is too short to sit sulking in someone else’s box! Yeah! So, now I paint whales, which doesn’t seem radical at all, but in light of where I have come from and the path I’ve taken to get here (that’s a whole other story), it is. Haha! Yep, Go Your Own Way!
4/What does your name mean?
Michelle is from the Hebrew Michael, meaning ‘of God’.
5/Which is heavier- a ton of feathers or a ton of steel?
6/Three words to describe yourself.
Daydreamer. Doer. Contradictory.
7/When you were a child, what was your answer to the question: what do you want to be when you grow up?
A National Park Ranger.
Because they are AMAZING!!! These are the biggest creatures on earth and we know so very little about them – isn’t that incredible? It blows my human brain. Haha! There is more to it of course. A full explanation of my whale love is on my #200whales gallery on my website here.
Michelle has also been a part of the ‘teacher takeover’ series on @surelysimplechallenge:
Teacher Takeover▶️ Hi there! I’m Michelle Fleur, an artist and illustrator from Perth, Australia. I am a whale and sea creature enthusiast and I spend most of my time painting underwater critters. I love whales so much that I’m painting 200 of them in 2016 (currently I am up to whale number 135). This effort is called the 200 Whales Project 🐋( #200whales ) and it’s about shining light on the positive results that global conservation efforts can achieve. • So it will probably come as no surprise that I’ve chosen a whale as the subject of my video today. I’ve specifically chosen to paint a sperm whale, as they allow for lots of freedom and fluidity in the painting process. Did you know that a sperm whale’s head makes up approximately one third of its entire body length? It’s true! They need that super large head to hold their super large brain, which is the biggest of all animals. Wowsers! • Here’s a tip: The white paint in the video is actually white acrylic ink. I add it to the wet watercolour paint to get beautiful runs and star patterns. It’s really fun to experiment with this technique. Sometimes I wait for the paint and ink to dry and then paint and ink over it again in layers. It adds depth and richness to the piece. Happy creating! ….. 🖍🖊✏️🖌🖍🖊✏️✍🏻 📽: @michellefleurphoto ….. Join in the fun! 🎉 Upload a video or image of 🔸an ANIMAL🔸 and tag it with ▶️#SimpleAlphabets ▶️#SimpleAlphabets_Animal + @surelysimpleblog @surelysimplechallenge so I don't miss it! If Michelle has inspired you, be sure to leave a comment below 😊 ⬇️ ! 🖍🖌🖋🖊 #animalartists #watercolorillustration