Meet Michelle Murakami
Graphic Designer / Painter
“I come from a family of creatives. Having live music in our house from my dad and his friends, and murals painted by my mom on 3 of the walls in our house, it was natural that my siblings and I would gravitate to that. I have been a graphic designer for more than 33 years working for corporate in-house teams, an ad agency and now on an educational team at Vanderbilt. I have had many different responsibilities in the graphic designer role such as illustrator, composer, photographer, photo editor, quality control, among others. I have only recently begun to get back into fine art more consistently; something I haven’t done since school.“
How would you describe your current style?
I enjoy painting nature, especially when interesting textures give the natural objects an otherworldly feeling. I paint using acrylic, oil and watercolor. I’m still trying to find my style — I generally lean toward realism, but sometimes that feels rather confining, so I’m exploring techniques that force me to loosen up. We’ll see how that goes and where my style evolves. I also do a bit of surface pattern design (for fabric/wallpaper etc).
How long have you been painting?
Having had such a long hiatus from art after graduating with only a few jaunts back into art here and there, I would have to say that my current work has only been active for about 2 1/2 years.
What was the pivotal moment that made you decide to follow your path as an artist?
I think that finding Jill Turpin at Niche in 2018. She was actively trying to create the Fairview Arts Council at that time. Having found so many people in that group who just wanted to create art/music/beauty and help it to grow and make Fairview a more interesting and lovely place to live not only inspired me to continue making more art, but gave me more reason to feel that my move back to Fairview was meaningful.
What can you tell us about your process?
Because I’m still working to create what I feel is “my style”, my process is rather in flux right now. I’m taking things I’ve learned from all these amazing people in the arts council and seeing what feels right to me. So far, laying down a solid or graduated latex or acrylic color background on top of my gessoed board or canvas and letting my image take on that hue, building shadows and light off of that has been a favorite way for me to get past that blank canvas nervousness.
What are some of your favorite places where your work has been displayed?
I did an oil painting of a split gilled mushroom that was just filled with this amazing texture and I worked on it during one of my Zoom meetings with my work mates where everyone got 5 minutes to show their talents. To my surprise, one of my colleagues fell in love with it and offered to buy it! I have always admired her and her husband’s wonderful taste in art, so the fact that they chose my work to hang on their wall with so many other amazing artists, makes me humbled and honored.
Who are some of your inspirations?
I’d have to say that my earliest influences were my family, then in high school my English and art teachers Mrs. Gregg, Mrs. Colton and Mrs. Pendergrass. Oddly the most exposure I had to art in my teens was from album cover artwork from the likes of Roger Dean, Andy Warhol, Patrick Nagel. I mean…the hours I spent pouring over the lyrics and art on albums is mind–numbing. I’ve always loved Alphonse Maria Mucha and Maxfield Parrish — in fact I’ve done a mural of each of their art at two different places I’ve lived. Through my 30s, my influences were comic book artists Adam Hughes and Alex Ross. Alex Ross’ watercolor work is incredible! More recently, I’m in love with Robert Langford’s work.
What work that you’ve done are you most proud of?
Just having been a working graphic designer for so long is a great accomplishment for me. The work I do for my job will never be remembered or written about, but being able to make a living wage doing something I enjoy is simply gratifying.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Nature, texture and things–that-I-mistake-for-something-else inspire me.
What have you found to be your biggest challenge in making your art? Finding a style that suits me with my indecisive ADHD brain fighting my every choice.
What would you say your future goals include?
While my personal goals for finding my style and creating a cohesive body of work is something I really want to work toward, I would like to help to make a more prominent art presence in Fairview. We have always had music here — but visual art has previously seemed like a luxury here which being a working community wasn’t something easily afforded by most. But really, art is more of a necessity for the soul. Expression of art and those who appreciate those expressions have a human bond that is like no other. Art speaks when words can’t. Additionally, my Jill, my husband Kevin, and I have a concept for a mural in the common area of the Arts Council and Kevin’s Rock and Roll Emporium — a kind of iconic backdrop for some musical events that will begin to happen once the coronavirus is under control.
What would you like to see happen in Fairview to build a better art community?
It would be great to have more musical, visual arts, and performance arts available in Fairview. We are on a major highway that goes right into Nashville, and to be a stopping point rather than a pass-through would be so amazing. We have a lot of talent and beauty here in Fairview and supporting each other in those endeavors will naturally build that community.