Featured Artist: Michelle Hartline
Article by Janelle Faignant
Sitting in the velvet chairs in the front room of the Chaffee mansion, Michelle Hartline pulls up a photo on her phone of a collage she created that put a twist on the Paris skyline.
“If you look at the horizon it’s actually modern buildings with the Eiffel Tower,” she said. A smaller, subtle skyline peeks out from the base of the tower, combining two worlds. “I used my printer and put through a piece of old newspaper from the 1800s, and then everything is super-imposed on that.”
Largely self-taught, Michelle said, “I tend to jump around between transparent watercolor, gouache (opaque watercolor) and acrylic, using pencils, charcoal, vintage papers, leaf imprints and/ or stencils- basically whatever seems to fit at the moment.”
A retired medical technologist, she’s been an artist and a volunteer all her life. She’s the Chaffee’s Featured Artist of the Month and said, “I feel more a student of art. I’ve always drawn and painted and for me it’s a continual process of learning.”
She grew up gardening with her mother and started volunteering with the Chaffee to work in the gardens, which she also did for many years prior with Rutland Regional Medical Center.
“Gardening is a way to express art as well, color and planning, and I’m inspired by nature so a lot of my pieces have a nature element to them,” she said.
“I remember learning to draw hands,” she recalled from an early memory. “That was really difficult to master, and then in 8th grade I remember a teacher saying to me – I never forgot it – ‘take more art somewhere, somehow,’ because he saw something that he thought should be developed.”
A board member and juried artist for about two years now at the Chaffee, she said, “This place is a great inspiration, there’s always something going on. You can take classes or see other people’s work and you get ideas. I’m always looking at other artists and getting inspired and trying to, through my own lens, put my own spin on things.”
“It’s a great way to meet people with similar interests,” she added. “At my age I feel like it makes a big difference in my life to be able to do something that’s community oriented. I had been in here a couple times but never really spent any time so it’s nice to be involved. Once I retired I wanted to put more emphasis on my art work, something that was more in line with my interests. I knew about the Chaffee and just went online and saw that they had volunteer opportunities.”
Looking through more photos of her work on her phone she stopped at one and said, “This one, you have to look at up close. That one was inspired on a British airways trip I took with my friend, we were going to France back in 2002 and the title is ‘Ladies Need Not Hesitate.’”
“With collages you start with something and then your mind takes over, it’s different than painting a scene,” she explained, “somehow there’s a psychological element to it.”
“The point about being still in student mode in my head,” she said, “maybe every artist feels that way, kind of always a student looking to express yourself.”