The Life of an Artist

Michelle Scrimpsher outlines her experiences in the world of art

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   Maybe you’ve seen her at design or artist conventions with what looks to be Halloween-inspired art? Or maybe you’ve seen those creepy cool Christmas ornaments. You’ve seen her dressed up, but can’t quite place what character she is. Just who is this artist?

 

Frontline: What do you remember as your first experience making art?

Michelle Scrimpsher: I don’t think I have a ‘first’ memory of making art. Both my parents are artists, so I was making art at a very young age and continued to make art all through my childhood. I think it was sometime in high school that I really settled on being an artist as a profession.

FL: You are quite the artist. What medium can or can’t you work with?

MS: I’m a sculptor primarily, so I work with various clays and other physical media. I’m not as strong with illustration or painting, and while I have tried 3D modeling software, I’ve found it’s a medium that just doesn’t work with me

FL: What is your favorite medium to work with and why?

MS: Polymer clays are my favorite medium. They are easy to manipulate and allow a long working time. The clay will stay soft until you bake it, and you don’t need a fancy kiln. You can just use your home oven or a heat gun.

FL: How would you describe your art style?

MS: I think it’s hard to nail down a single term for the style of art I do. I have heard the terms ‘Glam Goth,’ ‘Creepy Christmas,’ ‘Rococo Skulls,’ etc. I take things that people consider dark or creepy (like skulls) and present them in ways that I hope expresses the beauty in their form and what they represent.

FL: I’ve seen some pretty amazing designs. How do you come up with them?

MS: I do a lot of research into classical design aesthetics like Rococo and other highly ornamental styles. When sculpting, I’m always looking for good reference images of the subject. I’m very inspired by the organic shapes you find in skulls and other bones and how to merge and complement those shapes with other design elements.

FL: What motivates you to do art?

MS: Honestly, it’s a compulsion. I don’t know what else I’d do. I have always been an artist; it’s just life.

FL: You seem to enjoy dressing up, especially around Halloween. What are some of your experiences in cosplay? What’s your process?

MS: I see Halloween and cosplay as two different experiences. On Halloween, everyone is expected to dress up. It’s the one time of year we all get to make and wear costumes at any skill level and it’s socially accepted. Cosplay, on the other hand, is something you have to choose to be a part of. Personally, I have avoided trying to cosplay specific characters from pop culture. I have found the criticism from not getting a costume ‘perfect’ to be a constantly negative force in that community, so instead I created an alter-ego character I named ‘Madame Macabre.’ She’s a Victorian-era steampunk undertaker. I’ve designed several looks for her. While almost no one knows who the identity of my character is, I’ve found that it allows people to enjoy what I’ve made without comparing it to some pre-existing expectation.  I’ve also done some ‘Star Wars’ cosplay, but I intentionally stayed away from trying to be a specific character. I designed my costume to look like someone you’d expect to see in the background.

FL: Are there any skill sets you’d like to improve on?

MS: Sewing. I feel that over the years I have developed a competent level of skill. I really enjoy the process of making costumes, and I’d like to improve my ability to tailor pieces to fit the model better and increase the strength and life of the garments.

FL: What are some of your goals for the future?

MS: I’m currently working to grow my business, Macabre Shop. It’s my side job at the moment, and I’d really like to be able to go full-time so I can make my own art and be able to support myself financially on art alone.”

FL: What advice would you give to any other aspiring artist?

MS: The art industry is an industry of doing, not an industry of diplomas and certificates. If you want to make a living on your art, don’t be mistaken that going to art school will guarantee you a career doing what you love. Employers are much more interested in your level of skill and your previous work than they are what school you went to. That’s not to say that a four-year experience would not be beneficial to you as an artist, but it’s not a guaranteed ticket to your career of choice. Employers want to see you already doing the job they are going to hire you for. 

Ultimately, as an artist, if there’s something you want to do, just start doing it. If you want to be a comic book artist, start making comics. If you want to be a filmmaker, get your friends together and just make a movie on your phone. It doesn’t need to be on a big budget or make any money. If you truly want to be an artist, just go be one. Follow what makes you happy, follow your passion, but recognize that for most people, that passion may not end up paying your bills. You might just keep doing it because you love it. But if it truly is your passion, and you continue to build your skill set and connect with others who love the things you love, your likelihood of breaking into the industry of your choice and landing your dream job is far more likely.

 

   Michelle Scrimpsher is a versatile artist who’s confident in sculpting. She’s done art for as long as she can remember since, as she puts it, “a way of life.” Her style doesn’t completely embody one thing, but does have a trend of being on the darker side. Michelle suggests that those who want to be a part of the art industry start building their profile, for the art world looks at what you actively do, not what you’ve accomplished in school.

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