I’M BEAMING ABOUT THIS. CHECK OUT MY FIRST LISTING.
THE OLDEST AILMENT
This little print shop began as a faraway goal of a little girl learning to draw. My father was a successful sculptor gone rogue–he (casually) became a businessman and CEO of a tech company in his thirties–but he gave me private art lessons throughout my childhood, bringing home easels and paints and pastels for my sister and I to play with. We’d be given an assignment, challenged to complete it for him to grade, and I would then spend hours perfecting and tweaking my pieces. I took it seriously; it became a crucial part of my identity as a child, being trained by him.
As I grew older, however, I began to compare my individual style to that of my peers, and I doubted myself, gaining distance from my artwork for honing my other, more naturally flowing artistic expression: writing. It wasn’t until college that I was challenged again by a father-like figure, one of my visual arts professors. He taught Cartooning and Illustration, a course he created as an adjunct after retiring from Warner Brothers. Well, he saw something in me; he said, “You’re not going to get an A in this class.” And I scoffed behind his back, offended but mostly intrigued. I wanted to prove to him that I was worthy of his time, not that I was better than anyone else, but that I knew myself well enough to be a confident artist. Instead of focusing on the grade, I rekindled this therapeutic, spiritual practice of mine in the effort to have meaningful conversations about what I was doing. I studied art history at uni, but I had lost my own identity as an artist. I didn’t consider writing to be intermingled or even on the cusp of flirting with visual art, until I met that retired artist and he told me I couldn’t do it, all because he knew I could.
I got high marks and landed that coveted “A” in his course. On the last day of class, he pulled me to the side and smiled, “I want to know what you are doing in five years, Michelle.” And that was the last interaction we had. So, once the five years is up, (and we’re getting close), I will be sending him an email with a link to this shop, and hopefully, with a little luck, some SEO-savvy keywords, and endless passion for what I’m doing, he’ll smile again.
And I didn’t forget about my dad, so don’t fret. He’s still a part of this story. After a series of strokes and a brain injury this past September, my dad has retired, relocated to Florida (30 minutes from me), and resumed his rightful place as my mentor. With his eye for detail, quality, and blunt realness every young woman needs to stay humble and focused, he has helped me form this shop to share my work with all of you. He has influenced me to stay true to myself, seeing me through the publication of my first novel at the age of 22 and my launch of OTHER. Magazine at 24.
I hope you enjoy my pieces, this story, and the messages I convey through this shop. Please feel free to message me to chat, follow me on Instagram @belleathena (personal) and @archaicmalady (art account) to get to know me more, and offer any feedback you’d like to make me a better artist, person, and human being.
Here’s to the mentors and challenges that light the way to our success. Cheers!