We had the good fortune of connecting with Michelle Montrose and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michelle, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I always knew that I wanted to be an artist, but I didn’t consider it a career until I was a junior in high school. I knew I would be applying for colleges, and so I had to start seriously thinking about what I would do long term with my life. At that time I didn’t suspect that I’d go the fine art route- I thought maybe art therapy or even teaching. But as I completed coursework at SDSU it became apparent to me that I wanted to be an independent artist with a little contract work on the side. I graduated SDSU with a degree in Fine Arts and a certificate to teach English (because it was free, and I wanted a backup plan!) I ended up getting a graphic design position at a company during my last year of college. Unfortunately they couldn’t afford to have me full time, so I got a second part-time job as a afterschool program coordinator for a non-profit. The graphic design job hit some legal trouble, and I transitioned to the non-profit job full time and continued to do my paintings during the downtime. During that season I was working, a lot! Between making my own artwork and my day job I was feeling overwhelmed. Once I started to sell some of my own paintings, I scaled back my hours. It took about 3 years of part-time art and part-time day job until I was making about the same amount of income at each. However my art was my true passion and I figured, ‘if I’m making the same amount at each, why not do the one that I really, truly love?” So at that 3 year point, and the half and half income point, I finally decided to trust God, take a leap of faith, and do what I was created to do. Julia Cameron, who wrote the artist way, has a quote that I use to guide me daily “what you really want to do is what you are really meant to do.” I left the security of my day-job and applied to be a full member of the Spanish Village Art Center. I was accepted, and made that my base of operations for my fledgling business. You can still find my work (and sometimes me!) there today.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
As an artist I’ve never been good at “picking a lane”. Its led me on a long and winding road through my career, but I’ve enjoyed it all. I’m most well known for my colorful cityscapes that feature scenes from Greater Logan Heights. The paintings are incredibly saturated and have bright colors, but depict urban scenes of alley ways, telephone wires, and sometimes even dumpsters. People are caught off guard and delighted by the contrast. I am a city girl, and painting these streets in these vibrant colors communicates my love for San Diego, even the parts that don’t make it onto postcards. I worked part-time at a day job, and part-time as an artist for 3 years until I was making about the same at each. Taking the plunge and going into full time art was a leap of faith, and one that I’m grateful I made. I had a lot of support from my family, something that not many artists can claim. The hardest part about being an artist is not making the art, but selling the art. If I could live in a cottage and paint all day long and have the paintings mysteriously be exchanged for a monthly check, I would be in heaven. The networking, the accounting, the updating of my website, the sales…. all that is the hard part for me. Luckily I have a studio at the Spanish Village Art Center, which gives me a physical location to sell my work at an affordable price. That’s been instrumental in getting to a point where I can be an independent artist. Some of the challenges I have yet to overcome are getting formally represented by a gallery, figuring out an inventory system that works for me, increasing my online following, and creating an online sales platform -very important for quarantine/covid!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
As soon as she flies in, she’s probably starving because airplane food is expensive. I pick her up at the airport and immediately take her to Salud in Barrio Logan for tacos. Its important to impress the superiority of San Diegan mexican food from the beginning. Then a quick walking tour through Chicano park, the largest collection of outdoor murals in the USA, and a huge source of inspiration for the color palate I use for my paintings. Transition to, the spanish village, where she can see those paintings, along with the work of hundreds of other local artists. A little cafe pick me up at Daniels Coffee Cart right there in the village, then we relax at home and grill for dinner. The next day we go early to the San Diego Zoo, because its famous and actually really fabulous. My favorite thing to do is eat lunch at the benches inside the aviary and enjoy the ambient bird songs. Timed just right, we hop on the skyfari carts to get a view of the california tower during sunset. Then we leave before closing to avoid the crazy traffic on the way out. Tired from all the walking, the next day is a half-beach day. I find that if I go in the afternoon the parking is better, and the beach all day long is exhausting! Dinner at a sushi deli on the way home! After having a low-key day, we’ll do a hike next. Mission trails is not really my favorite, although its the most populated. Instead we drive a little farther to the Laguna Mountains and pick a trail that’s as long as we want to hike. Everything out there is beautiful- can’t go wrong. That night we’ll grab a simple dinner at home and then head to the Santee Drive-in to see a double feature, for only $10 a person! We’ll bring our own snacks and blankets and see the latest feature. The next day, we keep it super local (91977). The biscuits and gravy with homemade honey butter at communal coffee are THE BEST. Then we hop across the street to Maxwell’s house of books, say hi to the cat, grab a free novel from in front, then check out the endless selection on handmade bookshelves. It feels like a hedgemaze made of books. Then a walk around Chollas lake, with a little exploring out in the trail heads. After that we grab lunch at the BBQ shack in front of Valley Farms Market. On this final day, we conclude choose a parking lot out near seaworld for some free fireworks. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Big shoutout to my fellow studio partners at the Spanish Village! Padgett Mason Vicky Delong Sue Binford Also a HUGE shoutout to the Spanish Village Art Center itself, for providing an affordable and accessible place for locals to show their talents.
Other: Daily Paint Works: https://www.dailypaintworks.com/artists/michelle-montrose-11839 Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/michellejoymontrose Other Instagram accounts: @montrose_painting @montrose_magic @montrosewing Tumblr: https://sweetpotatopixiefry.tumblr.com/ Deviantart: https://www.deviantart.com/cewlbeenz Art Station: https://www.artstation.com/michellemontrose