Michelle Chrisman began her art career in New York City as a fashion art director for Macys. To this day, she loves to paint the figure in the environment. During many visits to Santa Fe visiting her father, a sculptor, Chrisman fell in love with the desert Southwestern landscape.
She has been a plein air painter for over 15 years. Her plein air landscape studies began in Taos, New Mexico with famed painters, Ray Vinella and Kevin MacPherson. Chrisman is a member of Plein Air Painters of New Mexico and a founding member of The Denver 10. She is a founder of Wildlands Painted which is an annual fundraiser exhibit for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. Painting for this exhibit has taken her into remote wilderness areas to create paintings which will help raise awareness and funds to save endangered wilderness areas.
Published as an “Artist to Watch” in Southwest Art Magazine’s 2005 Collector’s Issue, Chrisman has also been featured in Cowboys & Indians Magazine, Focus Santa Fe Magazine, and the Taos News. Michelle Chrisman is a faculty member of the Harwood Art Center in Albuquerque, NM, where she teaches 4 workshops a year in landscape and figure painting. She is also a plein air painting instructor in Taos, NM, for the Taos Historic Museum Foundation. In 2007, Chrisman was selected for the New Permanent Museum Exhibit at the Albuquerque Open Space Museum.
I spent years in New York City working in advertising and illustration, and moonlighting at the New York Art Students League, studying drawing and painting, hoping that the day would come when I would be a full time painter. During my 20’s in New York, I spent hours studying the great artists in the great museums of New York, and I was particularly inspired by the Fauves, such as Matisse and Piet Bonnard.
I have always been electrified by the look and smell of oil paint. In the early 90’s, I took a week long workshop with Ray Vinella in Taos, that changed the course of my life. Ray’s parting words to me on the last day of the workshop were, “Keep painting.” I promised myself that I would do just that, and I have. Some years ago I moved to Taos to paint the beauty of this place. I have not found any place in the world like Taos. I could literally set up my easel anywhere and paint. I am not a traditional representational plein air painter. I believe firmly in applying all of the underlying principals of the visual world when I paint (which is what I teach my students) but in my own work, I am most excited by the abstract in the natural world. I am a contemporary colorist and expressionist, hopefully even a Fauvist. I hope to bring a new vitality to the traditional approach to plein air painting- and a modern response, while honoring the “rules” so to speak. I am more interested in how a place makes me feel than academically reproducing how it looks. That is why I love carrying Impressionism into Expressionism. Paint quality is also important to me. My father was a passionate sculptor in Santa Fe who talked to me constantly about texture and the feel of art. Maybe that is why I cannot imagine doing a painting where the paint itself is not given a chance to express itself and say, “I am paint before I am an image of something. I am important in and of myself!” Paint is an amazingly exciting organic sensuous substance that for me is almost more important than the image it is striving to represent.
I am a Signature Member of Plein Air Painters of New Mexico. I have attended the Plein Air Invitational in Zion National Park, Utah. I teach plein air painting annually for Harwood Art Center in Albuquerque and Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, and summer workshops in Taos. There is absolutely nothing like being outdoors, painting the beauty of Nature! My goal is to push through every last area of fear, and paint with utter abandon…BEAUTY. If I could be a ‘Vivaldi of paint’ I would feel that I have reached my ultimate goal!