Michelle Merritt is a realist artist based in Houston, TX. She primarily uses charcoal and mixed media to create detailed drawings, focusing mostly on portraits, but over time has also included still life, animals, landscape, and dream-like worlds.
As a child growing up in the suburbs of Houston, Michelle drew and created craft projects in all her spare time. She began taking art classes in high school and discovered her true passion and innate talent for drawing. She began to enter and win numerous regional and state art competitions, including the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which led to several art auctions and art scholarships.
She earned a Bachelor of Science in Architecture and a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics from the University of Texas in Austin. While living in Austin for nine years, Michelle immersed herself in the vibrant emerging artists scene, participating in friends’ art shows and working on commissions regularly.
Now back in Houston, she has gained new perspectives and appreciation for the large, diverse city, which is reflected in her work. She now mostly focuses on portraits, capturing the subject and adding personal touches that add character to bring the person to life. With exceptional attention to detail, her distinctive style is created through a rich contrast of highlights and shadows that mimic the lightness and darkness that we experience as humans on a daily basis. Her artwork aims to explore the possibilities of working in black and white – how this limited palette can evoke the timelessness and soul of the subject.
Now that the city is beginning to open again, Michelle’s drawings have been included in several galleries, including shows at Hardy and Nance Studios and at Archway Gallery where she received an Honorable Mention Award.
My drawing series, Spread Radiant Light, is an exploration of vulnerability, strength, femininity, working through our shadows, and finding a glimmer of hope even in the darkest of times. After this year with a global pandemic, tragedy, and calls for social and racial justice, we have become more aware of the importance of mindfulness and mental health. Light and shadows appear all around us physically, but also embody the memories, personality traits, & struggles we declare as personal shadows in ourselves. As we work through these dark spaces and find our inner light, we find ourselves asking- How much light do you want to shed on your shadows for others to see? How can we as individuals and as a society learn to breathe again after experiencing so much uncertainty and fear? Spreading your radiant light (your good qualities) with others is wonderful; yet, sharing your struggles is equally admirable, as it helps us build connections and helps others that are going through similar experiences.
I use charcoal in my artwork to excavate the striking contrast of highlights and shadows. The heavy layer of charcoal creates the dark black backgrounds that serve as the dark voids in our life that we still need to explore. These shadows frame the highlights on each figure’s face, hair, and arms, which I have chosen to illuminate with great intention. The charcoal process is messy and somewhat painful, which symbolizes the often messy and painful process of dealing with our shadows and struggles. The more detailed areas require much more precision, patience, and care. The final phase of my process is the gold leaf, which represents both the light that guides us through our self-discovery and also the golden fragments of ourselves that we share with others to see.
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