As a child in Saratoga, New York, Michelle Winnie drew all the time, including on the back of her parents’ drapes, behavior which landed her in trouble. She enrolled at Brockport University as an art major and a goal to work as a graphic artist. But the man she met during orientation week—her future husband—laughed when she stated her major, and she ended up following him into biology and a career as a high school science teacher.
That education ended up being not only enjoyable but also valuable to the artist within. “That knowledge of the human body really helped me to understand figures when I draw and paint,” she said.
After leaving teaching following the birth of her third child, Winnie helped in her husband’s dental practice for several years before finding her way back to art. She joined a co-op studio where she started painting, drawing inspiration from her new community. “They helped me learn how to paint and turned me on to color,” she said. “I was a black and white girl to begin with; drawing is still my strength.”
Her favorite subject is her daughter. “I have barrels of images of her from the time she could pose, and she continues to be my subject,” said Winnie. “I stage her, dress her up, and she performs for me. She lives for it.”
Winnie describes her style as fragmented and emotional. “When I do a painting, I think of a word like happy or scared, and when I paint, I keep saying that word over and over again,” she said. “The strokes then have that emotion. For example, when the word is happy, I’m smiling a lot, and the brush just seems to move differently than when I’m angry.”
Winnie and her family had been intending to move to the Virgin Islands until Hurricane Irma destroyed the house they had bought. So they explored South Carolina, settling into a home on Lake Keowee in Seneca, where Winnie is active at the Blue Ridge Arts Center as an assistant in the gallery. She is also a member of the Gateway Arts Center in Westminster and of the Anderson Artists Guild. A highlight was her selection as the top award winner at AAG's 2019 juried show for her acrylic painting Orchid. "I was very surprised," she said. "That award was really appreciated. It makes you want to jump in and keep going."