July 13, 2018 • #GirlBoss

Real Women, Real Clothes: Atlanta Artist, Michele James

The “Real Women, Real Clothes” feature is back in Atlanta, Georgia to introduce y’all to another one of our favorite artists.

For a quick refresher, the summer version of our fan-favorite series focuses on talented artists who are all part of a Southern artist collective that reaches from Washington D.C. to Georgia. Each of these women was commissioned to create an original work of art to be used in the Draper James Summer photo shoot.

Michele James is the next up in this series. A member of the Atlanta Artist Collective, she’s known for her large abstract pieces, and we were so thrilled to have her art photographed alongside our clothing. The colors and textures she used perfectly complemented the shapes and fabrics of Summer 2018.

Learn more about Michele and her background, and see her Draper James painting, below.

Tell us about yourself.

I am (among other things) a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and painter who was born and raised in the South. I grew up in Charlotte and now live in Atlanta with my husband and three kids.

When my youngest went to kindergarten four years ago, I started painting out of the basement studio my husband created for me. One of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten was a painter’s sink he added; I love it.

How would you describe your art style?

My work is primarily large, monochromatic abstracts with pops of color and texture. I tend to start my paintings with some abstraction from nature and add lots of paint and bold brush strokes as I go.

I think art should tie a room together but also be like an exclamation point and stand out.

Walk us through the process of creating your canvas for the Draper James Summer shoot. 

The greatest part of this whole experience was before any paint even went on the canvas. I was very excited when I was asked to do this painting for Draper James, but it was a quick turnaround, so I had to start as soon as possible.

I went out and bought probably the last 6 x 11 foot canvas in Atlanta and needed to gesso it that night so I could begin the next morning. It was so large, I had to tape it down on the floor of my garage to prime it. In the middle of the night, I woke up and realized I hadn’t lined underneath the canvas (which is embarrassing to admit having gessoed every canvas in college)…  Now we have a giant 6 x 11 white four-square court on the floor of the garage for my kids.

The rest of the painting was less permanent and big and fun to do.

How would you describe your everyday style? 

I am a painter every day, so my work clothes are dirty worn jeans and Birkenstocks. After painting, I change into (cleaner) jeans and Birkenstocks.

I do think my style keeps changing. The older I get, the further away I get from trends and I try to buy pieces that will last.

What drew you to these Draper James pieces? 

I like clothes that are simple but a little funky and flattering. For every day, I’m a jeans and t-shirt or easy dress kind of girl.

I have three busy kids who need to get here and there, and I want to be comfortable.

What piece of advice would you give someone hoping to make a living from their art? 

That is a great question that I am still trying to answering. The best advice I have received about how to cultivate a painting  “style” was from my mother-in-law who is a local Atlanta artist as well.

When I started painting again, I was doing a lot of commissions for friends and by word of mouth. It was very sporadic, and I could go a month without painting in my studio. Linda (my mother-in-law) told me that, to really get a rhythm, I needed to paint 20 to 30 canvases, working on them as much as I could, and my “style” would come. It was true advice and really pushed me.

You also need to promote yourself. It’s a very hard thing that I struggle with. In this day and age, with all the social media outlets and easy access, it’s not as hard to get your name and work out there—as long as you have the confidence to allow people to like it or not.

What’s your favorite thing about summer in the South?

Bare feet.