Sometimes, Good Art Makes People Cry — the Paintings of Michele Davis

Playtime Noah's Ark oil painting by Michele Davis
Playtime Noah’s Ark by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Michele Davis.

For an artist, bringing a viewer to tears is a triumph indeed, and painter Michele Davis, of Spokane, WA, has experienced the exultation of this moment more than once:

“When someone sees my art and is touched to the point of tears, then I know it has hit the mark,” Davis, who focuses on figurative oil paintings of children and religious themes, says. “When that happens, there is something more at work than just some paint on canvas, and I find myself in awe — like I am standing on holy ground. That part has nothing to do with me.”

Her most memorable emotion-gendering moment, however, was a bit different from an exultant one:

“When my first child was born, we decided that I would stay at home with our children,” Davis remembers. “At first I set up a table in the dining room to paint watercolors.

A Future and a Hope original oil painting of Jesus and child by Michele Davis
A Future and a Hope by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Michele Davis.

“This worked for awhile, but after a year or two of this, it became evident that I needed to give more attention to our kids.

“After my little girl burst into tears one day as soon as she saw me heading to my art table, I decided I needed to give it a break.”

So, while the five kids were young, Davis packed away the boxes of art materials and focused on other matters, but she never abandoned art. A voracious reader, she absorbed instruction through books, DVDs, and interaction with others, so that by the time the children were older and less inclined to meltdown at the sight of brushes and canvas, Davis was ready — with a far different, and greatly matured concept of how, and what, she wanted to paint.

Landscapes and still lifes, the subjects upon which she had focused when her art studio was the dining room table, were still enjoyable, but Davis yearned to learn the human figure, a desire that went back many years to when she was in high school, filling stacks of sketchbooks with whatever she was into at the time.

“As a teenager, I wrote this plea in my diary: ‘I want to learn to draw faces, but no one will teach me!’

“So much for drama . . .”

But she did begin to learn. Through books and DVDs an adult Davis mentored under artists like Morgan Weistling, Mian Situ, and Richard Schmid, with the most dramatic learning curve manifesting itself as she participated in a live-model drawing group hosted by wildlife artist Terry Lee.

“There’s no substitute for something like this,” Davis says.

Hope, by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Michele Davis.
Hope, by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Michele Davis.

“Recently, my focus on subject matter has clarified, and I have devoted my hands and heart to painting Biblically-inspired images,” Davis says.

“I believe there is a great need for accomplished artists in this field.  The Harry Anderson images of Jesus that I grew up with made a huge impact on the way I viewed God.

“What a high calling for artists! What a responsibility!

“I do not take this calling lightly, and make every attempt to approach my easel with a humble and teachable spirit. Prayer before paintbrush.”

Davis’s figurative works, which celebrate simplicity, light, and the innocence of children, focus on the pleasurable work of being a child: playing with toys, climbing a tree, gathering flowers, One of them, “Playtime Noah’s Ark,” is soon to be released as a SunsOut jigsaw puzzle, through Davis’s licensing agency, The Ansada Group of Sarasota, FL.

Another project — a painting of Christ in a modern-day setting with several high school students — is literally the most sizable project she has ever embarked upon, and at 10 by 5 and a half feet, it’s a bit too big for her upstairs loft studio.

“The only wall it will fit on is in our bedroom. So my husband is patiently putting up with it for the weeks/months that I will be working on it.” Upon completion, the painting will be displayed in a private Christian high school.

“My artwork resides in homes around the country, hospitals, schools, and churches,” Davis says.

“Whether I paint Christ in a modern-day setting, or a child just being a kid, or a quiet still life, I hope it pulls the viewer up, helps them remember the good in life, and see that there is undoubtedly still much beauty to be found in the world.”

And if recognizing that beauty brings tears to a viewer’s eyes, so much the better.

Wenaha GalleryMichele Davis is the Art Event: Pacific Northwest Artist at Wenaha Gallery from October 20 through November 15, 2014. View Davis’s works at the gallery in historic downtown Dayton, WA, 219 East Main.

Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery,  located in historic downtown Dayton, Washington,  is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton; phone 509.382.2124; e-mail art@wenaha.com.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

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