Michaela Jean Upp - visual artist, gardener and mum

San Diego, California / United States

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Michaela, could you please tell us all about your background and your journey into the art world?


Like most artists, I was creative from a young age. My father was trained in art school and began teaching me the fundamentals of drawing and painting as soon as he saw promise in my skill. I continued to take art courses throughout high school but opted for an art history major in college instead. However, I never stopped making art and it eventually got to the point where I knew it needed to be my career as well.



You studied History of Art at the University of California, Berkeley but took studio classes because you were drawn to creating your own pieces. What did you do after university?


While in school I worked and interned at art museums and auction houses, but then felt I wanted to be in a field where more money was to be made. And like a true California girl, I thought, “Hollywood”! In all seriousness, I intended on pursuing a career in production design so I spent a few years in Los Angeles working in the film industry, but quickly learned that it takes a certain time of person, a certain grit and drive to make it in Hollywood. I was definitely more the independent artist type. So I left and returned to museum work, what I knew, but while there I never could stop the itch to create. Around this time Social Media started making a space in the art world for artists not represented by galleries or with the support of a BFA/MFA background. And so at 25, I took the leap into creating my own art business and never looked back!



I loved how you described that there is no other option for you than to create beautiful art. You are also a gardener and a mum. How does that all combine into who you are as a human being?


Yes! Artist, Mom, Gardener - totally embracing that as my external identity for my 30s. What it combines into is the ultimate earth experience that is true to me. I am on a continuous journey of self-exploration, of joining my inner child with my higher self and in that, I have discovered my purpose on earth (at least for now) is to raise my children as best as I can, make art that is true to me, and play in the earth and with the flowers! And maybe buy a sailboat, but that’s the next goal haha.



What is the meaning behind your art?


Love this question always. I would say there is more of a purpose than meaning to my work. With every painting, I hope to call the viewer back to nature by appealing to their inner child through my animated style and subject matter. I believe if more people could look at the natural world around them as they did when they were children we would all be so much more in love with life.


What are the biggest challenges for you at the moment?


Time! Or rather, balance. I am a stay at home mom first and so my work is constantly squeezed into the free time when my husband is home and/or when I have a babysitter. I could totally use one more day on the weekends haha.



What are your plans for the future?


I would love to get into illustration, perhaps children's books. I also want to shift my efforts towards licensing, but I do feel that whatever realm of licensing my work enters it must be eco-conscious. I sell most of my work online at the moment with intermittent gallery shows, but I do think in the next five years I am going to switch to a gallery model primarily so I can focus on making rather than selling.


Who inpires you (where do your ideas come from / what artists, creatives do you look up to)?


Well first nature of course, then my children. Then it moves onto other artists who I feel really capture play and beauty, especially in regards to plant and sea life. From the past, I am continuously influenced by Dufy, Cezanne, Monet, and Cedric Morris. Also popular illustrators like Beatrix Potter and Ludwig Bemelmans. As for contemporary artists, I love finding color and form inspiration from artists such as Hayley Barker, Ken Done, Vanessa Prager, Andy Dixon and Lulie Wallace (among many others).



What advice do you have for fellow art mums?


I am not sure I am totally qualified to give advice as I feel I am constantly seeking it out … but I would say ask your kids what they think of your work. They have such raw insight, and just as they can more easily see the wonder and magic in the world I think they can see it in your work too. Plus it's a great way to have them involved in what you do.


Lastly, I would say practice being as present as possible. It is so easy to be pulled between the worlds of artistry and motherhood, but they are both such sacred manifestations of creation that they both deserve your full attention whenever possible. In other words, if you're making art, don’t worry about the dishes and laundry and when you're reading a book to your little ones don’t obsess about art deadlines. Or do the best you can :).