Saltwater Portrait

Michele Green: inspired by nature

Plein air artist paints what people fail to really see
Michele Green stands in Federal Street Gallery in Milton, which will show Green's paintings until June 4. BY NICK ROTH
May 22, 2012

Walking the dogs, helping to set muskrat traps or even driving to an interview, there's no telling when Michele Green will find a new location to paint.

“I saw like three on the way to the interview,” Green said as she sat surrounded by 62 pieces of her own work in Federal Street Gallery in Milton.

An exhibition was held at the gallery May 19, highlighting Green's paintings of the marshes and estuaries of Delmarva. Her work will be featured until June 4, gallery owner Gary Merz said.

A plein air artist, Green said she gravitated to the medium because of her son.

“I was a single mother, and I would take him places where he could play and I could paint,” she said. “It started with little parks and things like that.”

Nowadays, there isn't a place Green won't go to paint, from standing on the side of Route 1 to traversing the dense woods of Blackbird Forest in Townsend or canoeing through the marshes of Frenchtown, Md. She often chooses locations thousands of people drive past every day, but without ever realizing the beauty. Some projects are planned; others are not.

“I have a plan, and I always have these places that I would like to go to, but sometimes it doesn't always work out,” she said. “Sometimes I think when you go to look for one thing, you'll find another anyhow.”

Green said she's had to learn how to be patient with the weather and other things out of her control. Ten years ago she would have been irritated by weather changes, "but now it's different; I let it happen," she said. "I've learned to mature a little bit. Whatever happens, happens. I try not to control it as much because it's impossible anyhow.”

She said she's learned to adapt. In windy situations, she tries to anchor the easel in the ground. If it's a rainy or snowy day, she may opt to take a photograph and paint in her studio or even paint from her car.

“Sometimes I'm stuck in the car painting from the steering wheel,” she said. “One day, green heads hatched and I got chased into the car. It was so hot that day.”

Green can remember where she was when she painted each of her works, including the weather conditions and why she was at that particular spot.

“I'm personally attached to every single one of these,” she said, often pointing to a painting and explaining every detail of the day she spent painting it. “I remember where I was and the feeling I got from it, but I don't actually remember physically doing them. It's weird.”

Her paintings vary from dates with her boyfriend and walks with her dog to painting through her bathroom window.

Green was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer. To help cope with the news, she took a personal journey into nature. The end result was the “Lost in the Woods” series printed in the spring 2011 edition of Outdoor Delaware. The piece includes six works and Green's personal writing.

Her work has been displayed in a number of prominent places, including the offices of Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Tom Carper and Gov. Jack Markell. Her work has been featured in Outdoor Delaware magazine and a number of other publications.

Growing up, Green said, she can always remember art being a part of her life.

“I don't think I ever really had a choice,” she said. “I remember making cartoon strips before I went to school and before I was writing and spelling, and I would ask my mother to put it into words for me.”

She attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City to hone her skills, but she admits school can only teach an artist so much.

“An artist is always learning,” she said. “You learn something new every day.”

Green's work is for sale at Federal Street Gallery, 108 Federal St. in Milton.

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