San Diego, CA, USA
My name is Michaela Jean Upp, I am a mother, avid gardener, and painter. I have been artistically inclined and in love with nature my entire life. My earliest memories include admiring the flowers in my grandfather’s garden, speaking to a myriad of animals (some pets, some not), and pretending to be a mermaid in the Pacific Ocean. My artist father began teaching the fundamentals of drawing at a young age and my interest in art remained with me through the school years. Unsure of my talents, I enrolled in the History of Art program at UC Berkeley instead of Fine Art, although I filled my schedule with as many studio courses as possible. There I fell in love with painting and have not been able to put my brush down since.
Today, my artwork is a call to nature by appealing to the “inner child” in us all. I am devoted to Earth and all her plant and animal beings. I believe that children are innately tied to these living creatures in a most mystical way. Through the creation of art, I hope to remind others of the connection they once had with all life on our planet. My art is simply a more eloquently expressed awareness of the flower loving, animal groupie, cold-water mermaid I once was, and seek to be again.
My artwork is an exploration of childhood wonder with an emphasis on the sensory experience of paintings. By way of animated lines, texture and bright colors in surprising places, the composition becomes reminiscent of story book illustrations. My paintings are linked together by repeated motifs that relate to my sense of self, like chapters in a book, while skewed perspectives dismantle any sense of contemporary reality. Often when creating art I reference only images in my brain and fine tune the objects that stand out most when I close my eyes. The clearer the image is in my memory, the clearer it is in the painting. The busyness of my compositions are an actualization of my scattered thoughts and highly-stimulated existence. However, the source for my art is nature as seen through the eyes of my inner child.
I work in a variety of mediums, but my process remains similar with both mixed media and traditional oil painting- switching between meticulous strokes of color and sketched-style drawing. I loosely plot paint onto the canvas then tighten the painting with sharp lining, sometimes literally cutting through the paint with pencil. The process of slicing paint also serves as a therapeutic release of tension gathered while slowly painting calculated blocks of color. In other words, the act of scribbling over my methodical artwork serves as a way to embody the freedom of what it is to be a child making art.
"I believe what makes my art and business unique today is a direct relation to my artwork’s meaning. That sounds vague but let me explain … I hope my art speaks to your inner child and in doing so brings you back to nature and the beauty in life all around us. I feel I have a direct link to this intention as my personal garden and children quite literally direct my work- from the flowers I grow to color inspiration based off of my children’s tastes.
My art is grounded. I am very proud of this and I am proud that I have been able to balance these three roles- mother, artist and gardener- and unite them in the name of art.
My path to becoming an artist was at the base level, written in my DNA. My father is an artist, thus I was a creative beginning at the earliest stages of childhood, I even loved Monet as a preschooler. But for fear of failure, I attempted what I thought would be more lucrative paths before becoming a full-time painter. Eventually, I could not deny my need to create anymore and took the leap into selling my own art.
Despite the difficulties that come with being an independent creative, I would say the challenge was exponentially intensified by doing so while also becoming a mother at the same time. (I got pregnant with my first five months after quitting my ‘day job.’) I’ve needed to take lots of pauses to prioritize motherhood along the way and at times I’ve felt resentment for this sacrifice. That sounds harsh, but the creative drive is strong and can be bitter when it’s pushed aside if even for your own child. However, like there is no true option for me other than being an artist I feel the same about being a mother. This was also written in the stars and is the most magical thing that can happen in life.
My children are my heart and so after a pause, I am able to see that they are always growing and changing and that our moments together are sacred. My creativity will always be. And so I am able to overcome these more human moments of frustration and redirect this great honor of witnessing childhood to beings I love more than anything and put it back into my art."