Thursday, May 24, 2012

Michelle Lee - Printmaker

"A Ghostly Reminder" - Screenprint
Michelle Lee

Name: Michelle Lee
City/State: Minneapolis, MN profile:

I discovered screenprinting while earning my Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in graphic design at MCAD. I just fell in love with it. Now, I screenprint and do some relief and letterpress printing. For my day job, I work as a book designer at Free Spirit Publishing, and I feel so lucky to have a creative job. I also teach in the Continuing Studies department at MCAD (I'm the teaching assistant for the Open Edition Printmaking Seminar and I teach the "Digital Goes Analog" class). I've also taught several DIY screenprinting workshops. My work has been shown locally, but mostly I like just making it and giving it away!

"Cornfed" - Screenprint

Tell me about your work? What are you currently working on? How is this different from past projects?
I'm a printmaker who focuses primarily on screenprinting, though I've been doing more relief (linoleum cut and letterpress) lately as well. I try to have several projects going at once, and I work on things that make me happy, or inspired, or angry. If there's no emotion behind it, there's no drive to get the work done! I recently finished a signage series, where I photographed lots of signage and screenprinted each one small, in kind of a postcard style, with a similar palette and a lot of detail. 

Right now I'm working on a "Perfect Moments" series, which are somewhat-degraded photographs of the moments in your life when you're supposed to be happiest, but when that pressure is often enough to make it quite the opposite experience. This work is fairly different from the signage pieces because the "Perfect Moments" are brightly-colored and also more abstract. 

I'm also starting to work much larger, and my three new bike pieces, "The First Commute of Winter," "You Spin Me Right Round," and "A Ghostly Reminder," are my first forays into large prints. ("You Spin Me Right Round" uses 7" records in the print, which is something I'd like to do more often.) I'm planning a few more large prints to be completed soon. Working large is such a different experience—since I pull all my prints by hand, it uses different muscle memory and different techniques. It forces me to work in new ways, which is good.

Finally, I'm trying to do more drawing-based screenprints and loose screenprints using tools like waxed paper for quick and abstract stencils. This is pretty much the opposite of my highly detailed, controlled signage work and it's a lot of fun.

"Perfect Moments Series: Birthday," screenprint

How did you decide to become an artist?
I think I was about 5 or 6 and drawing with my grandfather... some of my favorite childhood memories were of making art with him. As far back as I can remember, I've always known I'd pursue visual art in some way.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist? 
"This isn't working. Start again from scratch." 

When I was in design school, this was advice given to me by an instructor 2 days before a major deadline. Frustrating to hear at the time, but it turned out to be fantastic advice! Today, if I'm futzing and futzing with a piece and can't get it to work, I'll still often scrap it and start over. I sometimes take a deep breath and advise students to do that as well.

"Tomatoes: Before and Tomatoes: After" (diptych), screenprint

Many artists struggle to find ways to sell their art.  How do you sell your work?  How do you market yourself?
Can "badly" be an answer here? :) Honestly, this is something I need to be better about. Most of my marketing comes from word of mouth and having some of my work in local galleries like Altered Esthetics. When I was in the State Fair art show last year, that was terrific for many reasons, one of them being marketing. I also have small work (like cards) at the Grand Hand Gallery and Design Collective, which is really fantastic - I like those stores a lot. Sometime soon, I also want to put some small work on Etsy.

How do you come up with ideas for your work?
For some reason, being in motion is a great idea generator. I tend to come up with my best ideas while riding my bike. The lightrail or city buses can also be great places to come up with ideas and sketches for projects. If I'm ever stuck, I'll typically take my bike out and ride until I come up with a solution!

"First Commute of Winter" -Screenprint

What's inspiring you right now?
Bikes and gardening. I know, I know, everyone's thinking about those things now that it's spring, but I've been planning out my garden in InDesign since January!

Who are some of the Minnesota artists you enjoy?
You know, I'm always getting inspired by local artists, but I'm terrible with names! Some of the artists who have a large body of work that I love are Aesthetic Apparatus (, Amy Rice (, and Faye Passow (, whose very witty works always make me laugh. I'm often inspired by work that the Continuing Studies printmaking students at MCAD produce, too.

If I were to follow you around to see art in Minnesota, which places would we go? What would we see?
We'd start in the Warehouse and North Loop Districts of Downtown Minneapolis, looking at all the old signage, especially the old hand-painted, partly-faded signs on the brick facades. I know it's not "technically" art, but being a graphic designer, I absolutely love old signage. The old hand-painted fonts are incredible, and the textures they have when they're old and peeling are so compelling!

From there, we'd stop at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts (, where there's always certain to be something amazing in the display case and the gallery. We'd have to make a stop at the Minneapolis Institute of Art ( to look at the screenprints and Japanese art. As long as we were in South Minneapolis, we should definitely look at all the murals, especially in the Corcoran neighborhood. We'd swing through Northeast to check out some of the small galleries (like Altered, and if there was time, we'd drive out to some old small towns in rural Minnesota to check out the old buildings and old signage there. And then we'd be tired.

"Don't Mourn, Organize!," screenprint

In addition to, where do you go online for good art resources, whether to find a new artist, or to see what is going on in the art world locally and otherwise? 
My consumption of the Internet can be kind of random, but here are some sites I use:
. .. and I hate to admit it, but

Michelle Lee

Do you have any exhibits to promote in the near future?
I'll have one of my new pieces, "A Ghostly Reminder," at the Altered Esthetics Bike Art VII show in June. The opening is June 1, 2012.

I also had some work in the Casket Arts Building during Art-A-Whirl in the Vesper College space.

I'll have work in an upcoming exhibit at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts titled "Under Pressure," too. The dates aren't set in stone, but it should be in the late summer/early fall.

Michelle Lee is the Altered Esthetics 
Featured Artist for "Bike Art Vll"
Opening Reception:
Friday, June 1, 7pm-10pm
Artists’ Discussion:
Saturday, June 16th, 1pm-3pm 

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