Toronto-based abstract artist Mishel Schwartz's primary medium is alcohol ink — a medium she discovered by exploring the art scene on social media. Intrigued, she began experimenting with the inks and slowly developed a technique wherein layers of colour are added and intricate details are then carved out of the layers, giving her work great depth and mystery. We interviewed Mishel to learn more about her practice, inspirations, and what she’s working on today.
1. How does your creative day look like and what inspires you to make art? Has your creative day changed due to COVID-19?
When I am inspired it’s like a feeling that stirs within me, a desire to immerse myself in the creative process. These days I am inspired by the light mostly, its reflection on objects as it streams through the windows of my home studio. We have all had to amend our practice to suit the changing circumstances, I definitely find some days more challenging than others, but I try to stay connected to the things that bring me happiness.
2. Tell us more about your art studio.
My home studio is my happy place, It is a place that I can escape, refuel, and recharge. I am surrounded by large windows, which allow for incredible natural light to flood in, casting gorgeous shadows and highlights. When you work from home it does require a certain kind of diligence, but I treat my studio time like I do any job. ( just MUCH MUCH better)!!
3. How did you first get interested in your medium/s?
I happened across a video of an artist using alcohol ink a few years ago and I was immediately struck by its fluidity, its organic quality. The pigments are so deep and rich, yet have such a light, translucent quality to them as well. There is a mysterious nature to this medium, and I love how you can't really control what happens when the ink meets the surface. During the three-year period I have been using them, I have developed my own unique style, experimenting, and enjoying the process of learning to manipulate the ink in order to bring out wonderful depth, light, and detail.
4. Describe your style in one sentence.
Abstract art created with the intuitive fluidity of alcohol ink to express the beauty of nature and the organic world.
5. Has your style changed over time?
I think the subject matter has changed more than the style. My work used to be more abstract, but lately, I find it leaning more toward the organic qualities of the natural world. I notice that I am experimenting much more as well, adding gold leaf, powders, and other mediums. I think the confidence I feel surrounding my art has opened me up to so much growth, I don't feel as controlled, and I approach each piece with more clarity and calm.
6. What are your main artistic tools?
There is a specific paper that I use called Yupo, it is non-porous-allowing for the fluidity of the ink as it glides across the surface. I use my breath a lot, I can move the ink by hovering over it, inhaling, and exhaling. The watercolor tank brush is my most precious tool, (they come in various brush sizes) I fill the tank with blending solution, and then carve into the dry ink to bring out the detail and depth. Alcohol blending solution is also wonderful on wet ink, I drag it across the paper creating organic elements like flowers, branches, and leaves.
7. Do you ever experience creativity blocks and how do you stay positive and inspired?
All the time! I think every artist does. Personally, I have learned to flow with those moments and times, to step away from the work, and immerse myself in other things that make me happy and inspire me. Eventually, it always passes and you come back to what you know.
8.What artists - either contemporary or from history - have had an impact on you and your art practice?
I studied Art History at University and was always in awe of the sheer genius of the Renaissance painters like Leonardo DaVinci and Michelangelo, the methodology, training, and raw skill. Today I find myself very drawn to the detail-oriented work of the Art Nouveau painters like Gustav Klimt. I don't think there is one specific style or period that truly moves me and inspires my work, I am drawn to nature, beauty, and the light.
9. Do you think the art world has changed or will be changing due to the pandemic? If yes, how?
I think the world, in general, is always in flux, change is inevitable, either we flow with it or stagnate. I choose the former.
10. What project are you working on right now? What would you like to do next?
Around the time of COVID, there were many exciting and wonderful things happening, exhibitions, and collaborations. For now, I am concentrating on building my body of work and enjoying the time this situation has gifted me to do so. I started a very large painting a couple of months ago, and that has been keeping me company on a daily basis. I hope when things settle down a little, we have the pleasure once again of exhibiting and sharing art on a more personal level.