Renee Mueller is an Ann Arbor-based artist who grew up in the magical world of theater and dance. Her love for this field led her to pursue her BFA in Dance and Choreography at the University of Michigan. When Renee decided to pursue another artistic avenue, her background in dance and choreography served as her inspiration.
When did your love of art first begin?
My love of art began when I was three and my mother took me to my first ballet class. I remember the white studio walls, the mirrors, the music and the freedom of movement. That class was the beginning of my artistic journey.
You grew up in the world of theater and dance where you had the chance to collaborate with dancers, actors, choreographers etc. How has that experience served as an inspiration for your artwork?
Starting out as a dancer and then making the move to choreographer was an incredibly liberating experience in my creative life. For the very first time I felt that I had a vision and a voice as an artist. I learned to devote myself to an idea and really spend time with it and allow it to mature.
These experiences, along with my love the theater has become a rich source of inspiration and the guiding light for my artwork.
You create beautiful abstract florals, whimsical portraits and mixed media pieces featuring a combination of the two. What drew you to these subjects in particular?
The female portrait is an inspiring muse for me and the stories I wish to tell. The portrait is extremely compelling as it is challenging.
I find flowers very romantic, yet fragile. The symbolism found in flowers may be represented literally, or as metaphors for beauty, brevity and life itself. So, by trying to weave these subjects together, I’m able to explore many ideas for my artwork.
When creating your pieces you work with mediums such as pastels, charcoal, acrylics and soil. What was it that drew you to these mediums in particular, and are there specific brands that you prefer to work with?
I’m constantly searching for new ways to tell a story through my art. The process of building up layers through the combination of different mediums such as charcoal, pastels and paint have become an important part of my creative process.
I start everything in charcoal, beginning with the softest and then working my way up to charcoal pencils for more detail work. I primarily use Nitram Charcoal in the sticks, vine and powder. I also love Big Stick Charcoal and General’s Charcoal pencils in regular and white as well.
I think pastels are my absolute favorite art supply. I use them on their own or combined with acrylic paints to create a lush, romantic effect in my work. Hands down, my favorite brand of pastel is Henri Roche from La Maison du Pastel in France. I love the story of the company and the pastels are like nothing I’ve ever used before. In addition to Henri Roche, I use Sennelier, the colors are beautiful and I love their buttery texture.
My favorite acrylics and oils are from Charvin Paris, the colors are simply gorgeous! I also use Liquitex Heavy Body and Holbein acrylics as well.
What are some of your favorite shades of pastels that you find yourself reaching for when adding color to your pieces?
The colors I seem to granite toward are; warm pinks, garnet red, magenta, olive greens, green golds, yellow ocher, and Payne’s gray.
Last year you decided to create 100 Portraits in 100 days, how did you keep yourself inspired during this project? Was there a particular portrait that was a personal favorite?
Creating 100 portraits in 100 days was defiantly an experience and a challenge, by day seven I was ready to throw in the towel. But, I really wanted to see what would happen if I completed the project. I found that if I started everyday at the same time and planned on working for 2-3 hours, I would find a rhythm – I made a cup of coffee, put on music and just started drawing.
My intention was to see if something would shift in my work. Overall, I did see a change in my work, but it really didn’t start showing up until after I finished the 100 portraits. Once this “self-imposed” project was complete, I could relax and just draw. I felt looser and more confident in the way I approached drawing the portrait. Most importantly, I finally came to terms with my own insecurities as an artist. I now accept and embrace that they are an important part of my work and my style as an artist.
The Soloist and The Green Velvet Coat are my two of my favorites.
Some artists who from photographs, imagination or a combination of the two. When creating a portrait are you purely working from your imagination, or do you also have photographs that you reference?
I normally begin with a few photo references and start sketching. I study the relationships of the features along with the values. After sketching it out a few times, I will abandon the photo and just work from the sketches in order to create a more expressive portrait.
In addition to creating beautiful pieces, you also teach classes online through your website, and you are also a guest artist with Ivy Newport’s Creative Network. What do you enjoy most about teaching?
After teaching dance for 35 years, making the shift to teach my style of art has been a wonderful experience. I find that guiding and encouraging women to create is extremely fulfilling. The online art community is full of talented, smart and extremely supportive women artists.
Ivy Newport is the first person to see something me as an artist and teacher and gave me an opportunity to teach for her beautiful creative network. It has been a wonderful experience and I’m excited and honored to be teaching for her again next year.
In addition to teaching for Ivy, I will be a guest teacher for four other Creative Networks this year. I’m truly honored to collaborate with such amazing and inspiring women.
You recently taught at a workshop hosted by Thistle and Bess. What is the most rewarding part about teaching budding artists?
The workshop was such a beautiful experience! I love Diana and her beautiful shop. The class was called Les Petite Portraits inspired by vintage photos of 1930’s starlets. We had eleven women and one gentleman who took the workshop and they did the most incredible portraits.
It was so fulfilling to see people who had never drawn the portrait before, feel great about what they created and inspired to continue. Also, there were some very talented women who hadn’t drawn in quite a while found their way back to their creativity.