Michelle D. Ferrera draws soft silhouettes on wood canvas, using simple pencil to express emotion through the feminine form. The 31-year-old New Jersey native moved west two years ago in pursuit of the life she always dreamed of; the life of a full time artist. After a short five months in San Diego, Ferrera was nominated for RAW Visual Artist of the Year in our city semi-finals.
RAW: Natural Born Artists is an international community of independent artists with roots in Southern California. On Friday, the local semi-finalists across nine categories will showcase their creations to a panel of judges before a live audience in hopes of continuing on to the finals, held in Hollywood in January. More categories include Fashion Designer of the Year, Musician of the Year and Photographer of the Year.
Get to know Michelle D. Ferrera in this week's San Diego artist profile.
Q: How/why did you begin working with wood as your canvas?
A: I began working with wood around 2007, I ran out of canvas and really need to create. After fussing around my mom’s garage I found some wood and began working with collage/magazine cut outs, painting, drawing. I get bored easy and like to experiment, so after I finished the mixed media series I started drawing on the wood. The more I worked with it, the more detailed I got.
Q: Walk us through your creative process.
A: I'm pretty simple, can work anywhere, as soon as I get in the zone I'm in it. Sometimes if I have a piece next to me while the TV is on, people are in the room, somehow I can just tune everything(one) out and get busy. But ideally I prefer some triphop, it’s more about the emotion and to get back to the emotion I was in when I first started a piece. I usually work in 4-6 hour chunks but have knocked out 10 hours in one day. Some of my favorite days are when I'm just prepping the wood, with some Beyonce in the background, while sanding wood, dancing around, building the frames, drilling, dancing some more, snacking in between...as long as my hands are busy I'm a happy camper!
Q: What about San Diego lifestyle inspires your artistic sensibility?
A: San Diego's openness, air of clarity, being able to breathe so freely is what really drives my ability to create so much than I have in my life! And of course being able to walk around, people watch, the pretty faces, different body types, and really down to earth personalities that are just super friendly to talk to. Sharing stories with strangers is so inspiring and makes me love being able to create what I see around me.
Q: Who are the women in your drawings?
A: All of my work are self portraits. I used to be a wedding photographer so I like to play with the camera a bit, though I don't care too much how great the photo is when I take the self portraits. Mostly it’s about the emotion, how I'm feeling at the moment, the gestures, body movement. The photo is just for reference. Once I have the wood prepped, I just started drawing. The goal is never the end result, it’s the process, getting in that zone, feeling how I felt, in the Simple Flavors series, it was celebrating newness and how good I felt!
Q: Do you still experiment with other creative outlets?
A: Writing was, is and will always be my first love. As a child I really wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I was always writing stories, poems, books. I have written 3 books that can be purchased through Blurb and currently working on 3 more. I always have a journal/notebook/sketchbook nearby for notes, music I will have to add to my playlist, artists to look up, sketches, plans for new work, rambling, nightmares, dreams, goals, anything and everything. I've always done art in some sort of way, even on the side when I worked corporate, but being a full-time artist now is an awesome way to be able to create in every way I can. I've done murals, photography, caricatures, tattoo designs, logo designs, book covers, portraits...I'm eager to always try new outlets, experiment and learn from other artists.
Q: Big picture goals/dreams for yourself as an artist?
A: My goal first and foremost is to create a way, a direction to continue to be a full-time artist. I love being able to create and wish to just continue that dream! I will always write, and though I'm enjoying working through Blurb's Print on Demand, I'd love to eventually sell through a traditional book publisher. I'd love to have a studio where I can work or maybe one day have a gallery, where I can have my mom making some of our traditional Italian dishes combined with our homemade family wine and gravy, where my musician/percussionist sister can make the people shake all night, where my other sisters and their kids have a place to create and let their wild sides out...a place for people to not feel alone and share! As an artist I'd love to pass along the message of how important it is to share our flaws, our stories of loss, and healing, to accept it and celebrate all of it with one another.
Q: Why is RAW an important community for artists in San Diego? How has RAW helped you?
A: RAW has been super helpful in so many ways for me as a community and individually! Being new here (originally from the East Coast, NJ, end of November I'll be out west 2 years but in San Diego only since July) is really a challenge. RAW supplies information on how to market yourself along with companies that give discounts on postcards/business cards which we need to help with exposure. They are also super informative on upcoming events, always looking for ways to get us involved with art locally. As a new San Diego resident this is so important, especially that I want to stay here, want to build some roots here. Sara Wilwerding (RAW San Diego's Director) is so dedicated to helping us build our careers as artists and I'm so grateful for her help these past few months.
Q: What will you be showcasing at the RAWawards on Friday?
A: I'm excited to be showcasing work from the Simple Flavors series, Alive series and of course the most recent series, Last Night I Became the Monster.
Q: When you’re not working, where can we find you in San Diego?
A: My boyfriend and I live downtown, near the ballpark and really enjoy quality time spent soaking in the sun on Coronado followed by the Sun Deck's Bloody Mary's, biking around town or even to Cabrillo National Monument, what a trek! We're big foodies and love trying new places, most recently Fig Tree Cafe in Hillcrest, Candela's, the Palm, The Butcher Shop, Whiskey Girl, Dragons Den, Analog, Searsucker...to name a few. I've also done a few art shows at Bar Basic through Thumbprint Gallery (based in La Jolla).
Details: The RAWawards San Diego semi-finals is open to the public, with tickets priced at $15 in advance. Friday, Nov. 16, 7 to 11:30pm at 4th & B. 21+, cocktail attire requested. rawartists.org