Skamokawa resident Laurie Michaels is the featured artist at Tsuga Gallery for the month of May.
Michaels and her husband moved to the area four years ago and two years ago after her art was exhibited at Redmen Hall, she joined Tsuga Gallery.
Michaels was raised in Modesto, California. She doesn't remember a time when she wasn't an artist. One of her first memories is of her father showing her how to layer crayon colors. She was always creative, making stuffed animals with paper, cotton balls and staples. She drew portraits of her classmates and sold them for a nickel.
During her freshman year of high school, she picked up a pencil and started drawing. She hasn't stopped. Something about it worked.
"I've always drawn animals," Michaels said. "I've never done people. I started with dogs because they were what I knew and loved."
She took a color and design class in high school and a couple other art classes. She started painting and learned about good materials, which she discovered, made a lot of difference.
While living in Bellingham, a place she loved so much she thought she would die there, she met her husband online. He was living in Michigan. When the time was right, she gave up paradise and moved to the Midwest.
Her husband, David, "My very good man," as she calls him, is a long haul trucker. They enjoyed each other's company so much she joined him and they spent three weeks at a time on the road.
"They kept sending us to Washington and it broke my heart to leave every time," Michaels said. "I've always loved it here. I looked at him one day and said, 'Do you think we could move out here?"
Her very good man thought about it for a few seconds and replied simply, "Sure."
They decided to settle near Portland so she could be near her friend and he could be near a hub in Vancouver. He wanted a house with a dock, and by golly, he found one.
"I love it here," Michaels said. "I love being on the river."
As for her art, she's been trying new things. She did a series of animals as religious icons in acrylic and now she is revisiting the theme in pastels. She used oils in high school, but she's since become sensitive to the chemicals. She has done a lot of art journaling, especially on those days and nights she was on the road with her husband.
"That is where a lot of my creative juices went," Michaels said. "Now I look over those and even my roughest sketches still bring back that moment. I'm so glad I did that. A few years ago I took an online course and she encouraged me to slow down and see more of what I'm doing."
"Art lets me show people the way I see things. I try to show people animals in a good light, because a lot of people don't care about animals, which makes me sad. They are the biggest point in my life," Michaels said "Art gives me a great deal of satisfaction and peace. How did I do that? I don't remember doing that. You get into a state where everything comes together and then when you stop you wonder how you got there. It fascinates me and I feel very blessed that I get to do this."
"So many people think that art is a talent, that it's a gift. It is a way of seeing. Everybody sees things a different way. What I have now are the skills to show how I see things. It's a skill. It takes practice. The more you practice, the better you get and then you reach a point where you see big gains and that is the most exciting feeling in the world," Michaels said. "It feeds on itself. I keep getting better and I love it and it makes me love it all the more and I want to get better. It's very exciting. I'm blessed that I get to keep practicing."