Asheville artist Michelle Hamilton admits that “facing a blank canvas used to scare the life out of me.” But those days faded into oblivion once she discovered what she describes as her “polyamorous relationship” with art.
“Now a blank canvas excites me,” she exclaims. “It’s me, encaustics, and epoxy resin all in bed together in my studio. I love to put those two together and watch what happens.”
Hamilton’s work typically showcases bold, bright, festive colors that are layered and textured for maximum visual depth and vivid impact. One day she learned that if she topped off her pieces with a crystal-clear epoxy resin, it added even more visual depth and made the colors pop with stunning brilliance — and that was a game changer.
“It’s easy on the client, too,” Hamilton says, “because the resin protects your picture so you don’t have to frame it. I had a piece fall off the wall and there wasn’t even a dent.”
Accidents happen. But happy accidents can be expected while creating joyful works of art. Hamilton describes how a literal fly in the ointment “took it to the next level.”
She had completed one of her pieces, finished it with a virtually bulletproof coating of resin, and left it overnight for the resin to cure. “I came into the studio the next morning and there was a bubble in the surface where a fly had gotten in it, and I thought the painting was ruined. So I sanded it down until I got the fly out, then touched it up with some paint and put resin back on.”
By the time all the drama had subsided, the painting essentially had two layers of resin with some paint between. But the result was unexpectedly dramatic — in the best way possible. “It was a eureka moment,” recalls Hamilton, “because that gave it even more depth. Now I layer everything I do, and sometimes use three layers.”
Hamilton is essentially self taught, and she has experimented with art since she was a child. Later in life she made lots of mosaics — something she learned on her own — and she used to revive furniture with paint and découpage. She also handcrafted jewelry on her dining-room table, while she and her husband ran a hair salon and raised their children.
“When you’re a parent and business owner, everyone else comes first, and I was always lamenting that I needed more space to do art,” she says. “But even having a studio means you’re claiming that you’re an artist and the voices in my head said, ‘Who do you think you are?’ You just have to persevere.”
Finally, 12 years ago, Hamilton had the time and resources to set up her own space — and the doubt receded. “I remember sitting there giddy as all get out, being as confident as I knew the sun would rise that I was going to find something to do I’d fall in love with,” she says. Soon she crossed paths with encaustics. “I love it because of its mutable-ness; it’s limitless. With encaustics, I found my niche.”
Michelle Hamilton, Asheville, michellehamiltonart.com and on IG @michellehamiltonart. Hamilton is represented by Trackside Studios (375 Depot St., River Arts District, tracksidestudios375.com). Hamilton also sells work at Art Play (artplay-studio.com), Marquee (marqueeasheville.com), Seven Sisters Gallery (119 Broadway Ave., Black Mountain, sevensistersgallery.com), and K2 Studio (59 College St., k2furniture.com).