About the artist
This week we meet Michele McCain, a digital artist with a passion for creating photographic storytelling images. Michele is a native Californian, living in San Diego. She never considered herself a creative person; her college education was in the sciences, and she worked as a registered nurse as well as being a busy mom when her kids were young.
After a life-changing event, she discovered a new calling as a photographic storyteller, and with it, a newfound enthusiasm as an artist. Michele now travels the world, photographing inspiring landscapes, decrepit rural decay, and unusual characters. These images serve as the individual subjects that she weaves into each of her one-of-a-kind storytelling images.
Though self-taught, Michele has developed a reputation as an artist and has received numerous awards and honours in the digital art and photography communities, including the prestigious Photoshop World Guru Award for Illustration in 2015. Her artwork has been featured in photographic and digital art publications and has exhibited in many prestigious galleries and exhibitions.
How did you first get into digital art?
In 2009, I became a widow at a relatively young age. Needing to reinvent my life, I decided that I wanted to travel on my own and so I bought my very first DSLR camera to document my travels. It was during those first trips that I discovered my passion for photography.
As I developed my camera and photography skills, I quickly became bored with just making pictures ‘pretty’ and wanted something more. I visited an international art exhibition at the time. Among the various categories on display were digital photography art and illustrations. To say I was fascinated, mesmerised, and captivated by what I saw would be an understatement; it completely blew me away! Experiencing photographic art created purely out of one’s imagination, I had to know more!
Why did you choose digital art as your medium?
I had never considered myself particularly artistic or creative. When I discovered digital art, I had no idea of the path that lay ahead of me. Since that time, I have chosen to focus exclusively on digital photographic art as my only medium. It has become the tool I use to express my thoughts, dreams, and emotions in a storytelling format. I love what I do!
What artistic styles are you particularly drawn to?
I am drawn to high quality surreal photographic manipulation. I love the drama, the mood, the thought-provoking themes of a well-executed image.
Tell us about the process you use to make your art.
My work begins in the field where I photograph the raw images that I use in my creations. I often start with an idea or dream and gather my material with a specific purpose in mind. My time spent in the field photographing is also for the pure enjoyment of the surroundings, only to be inspired to create a new, one-of-a-kind storytelling image at a later occasion. I catalogue my pictures in Adobe Lightroom with minimal processing.
Images to be used in a specific photographic story are compiled together in Photoshop. Each creation can often take days, weeks, sometimes months to complete. Most creations contain 75-100 layers.
What inspires you?
Many things inspire me. My quirky imagination is the primary source of my inspiration. I have very vivid dreams, from which many of my creations have been born. I spend time looking at the work of other artists by visiting art galleries everywhere I go. Children’s books have been a great source of inspiration for me, especially the beautifully illustrated ones. Also, I am an avid reader; many of my images have originated from a phrase or storyline that sparks my imagination.
Of all your images to date, which is your favourite, and why?
So hard to answer, because my images feel very personal. They feel sort of like my children; you can’t choose between them. Usually, it is the one I am currently working on. So, if I had to answer, I think my current personal favourite has to be ‘Heartstrings’.
Which three words or phrases would you use to describe your work?
Dark. Profound. Emotional.
What interesting responses to your artwork have you had?
I’m always surprised when people like my work and when they think it is good.
How do you think you’ve improved as an artist compared to when you first started?
Practice, practice, practice! I have made so many mistakes. Learning the fundamentals of realistic looking composites requires meticulous skill when making selections, colour casting, and light and shadows. I have grown tremendously; I am still growing. There is always so much to learn.
Which apps/programs do you use to create your art and which are your favourites?
I catalogue my images in Adobe Lightroom and create my storytelling images in Photoshop.
And finally, do you use images from stock sites as well as your photos and if so, which are your favourites and why?
I do not use stock images; all my work is with my pictures. This way, I know it is my work, and I feel more connected to my art.
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and artwork with us, Michele!