In today’s interview, we would like to introduce you a Rebelle artist - an American photographer, painter, mother of four children and an exceptional woman - Michelle Parsley. We were curious about her professional life and her participation in one of the most prestigious competitions for artists and photographers in the USA - PPA’s International Photographic Competition.
Hello Michelle, first of all, thank you very much for finding some spare time in your busy schedule to answer a couple of questions! My first one would be simple: When did you start to see your future as an artist?
I have always been artistic. I started drawing and painting as a child and continued creating artwork well into high school. When I graduated, I begged my parents to let me go to art school. “What can you do with an art degree?” they said. I ended up in nursing school and I stopped drawing and painting because it was time to “grow up”. After several years of trying to ignore the artistic part of myself, I finally picked up a pencil and some paper and began to draw again. Before I knew it, my friends were asking me to draw portraits of their children. Then friends would say: “I don’t have a very good picture. Can you take my child’s picture too?”. That is when I moved into photography. From there, things just progressed naturally until today. Now I create both custom portraits and custom artwork for clients from all over the United States.
What is the most favorite painting technique of yours and why? Do you prefer a traditional or digital approach?
I think graphite style is one of my favorite techniques. When I was growing up, I had to have pencils for school so drawing became my main artistic pursuit. In more recent times, I have become quite addicted to creating watercolor portraits digitally with Rebelle. The realistic way the “paint” flows across the digital “paper” is fascinating to me! The entire process is quite addictive!
I enjoy traditional and digital mediums for different reasons. With traditional mediums, there is the tactile sensation of the pencil on the paper or the brush on the canvas - the satisfaction of creating something from nothing. Easily the best part of using digital mediums is having the freedom to “mess up” without destroying hours upon hours of work. It has made me take more risks with my ideas and creations. I have had an explosion of growth in my skill level in both traditional and digital mediums because of this.
What is it like to do art as a business in the USA?
Artists in the United States are typically undervalued. Only those clients that truly respect and understand the kind of work that goes into a custom piece of artwork are willing to commission a custom piece. There is also a negative feeling toward digital artwork. It is often assumed that software is creating the artwork with one click - like many apps do these days (never mind that app “artwork” is often very bad!). I like to point out to my clients that with digital creation, they have the comfort of knowing that their artwork is always replaceable for a nominal fee.
You are a PPA photographer. Could you tell us more about PPA, its annual International Photographic Competition and your achievements on it?
To quote directly from PPA’s website “Professional Photographers of America (PPA) is the world’s largest non-profit photography association organized for professional photographers by professional photographers.”
PPA’s International Photographic Competition has two categories in which one can compete - the photographic open and the artist category. Four images can be entered each year in each category. I compete in both categories.
The judges of the competition are highly trained and sit on panels of six jurors. Each juror scores the images as they are presented and an average is achieved determining if the image is accepted for “merit” or not. Earning general collection merit in IPC is no easy feat! Statistics over the years have shown that roughly 35% of the images that are entered receive general collection merit.
Once an image has earned general collection merit, they are looked at by a second panel known as a “loan panel”. Made up of 7-15 jurors, these panels look at every merit image to determine if they are the “best of the best”. If you are lucky enough to have an image chosen for the loan collection, it is a very BIG deal. Statistics show only about 10% of the general collection merit images ever make it to the loan collection. Once all loan images have been selected, a vote is taken from each juror to determine an overall first, second and third place for each category for the Grand Imaging Awards. These awards are given at Imaging USA - PPA’s annual convention.
I have entered IPC six times in the photographic open category and four times in the artist category. In that time, I have earned 20 loan collection images and 15 general collection images, both a first and third-place finish overall in the artist category, the Imaging Excellence Award (this award is given to those who earn more than 13 loan prints), the American Society of Photographer’s district award (this award is for the highest scoring print in the district competitions), and I have earned the Canon Par Excellence award twice (more information on this award can be found here).
I think we can agree it is a huge success, right? Has Rebelle contributed to your creativity in some way? What is it you appreciate about it the most?
From the very first time, I discovered digital painting I had the desire to create watercolor artwork. It was always an exercise in futility ending in major frustration. Then I found Rebelle. From the first day, I was able to create artwork, letting the paint run and move with the paper - just like the real thing! I was totally hooked and have spent countless hours creating both personal pieces and commissions for clients in this wonderful software.
We’re definitely happy about that! Is there any dream you’d like to accomplish as an artist or a photographer?
My dream is to create more commissioned artwork. I have already begun to make a shift in my business to realize that dream because it is where my heart truly lies. I enjoy photography, and I create lovely images for my clients, but my true joy is in creating art. It fills my soul in a way that pushing a button on a camera never will.
Thank you for your time Michelle, we wish you all your dreams come true!
Find more about Michelle, her work and portfolio on www.parsleyfineart.com