Interview by Jess Petrylak
Sketchbook Pages, Michelle Caron-Pawlowsky
Who is Michelle Caron-Pawlowsky?
A woman, an artist, a feminist, a student, a dog ear enthusiast, a mystic forest king – someone who makes art to sort through the ever-growing mess inside her head.
What is your main source of inspiration?
Honestly, probably Tumblr! It’s a fantastic place to stay inspired, keep up with artists you admire, discover new artists, and share your own work. Montreal also has wonderful museums that I try to visit at least semi-regularly. And my friends are often a massive inspiration.
Rise and Shine, Michelle Caron-Pawlowsky
What does being a woman in the art world entail to you? What have you experienced specifically as a woman that a male artist could not relate to?
Right now I’m making a lot of work around what it means to be a woman, and my experiences as a woman. I think that sometimes some of the male artists around me get uncomfortable because I can be really blunt, and talk about things in my art that they get to pretend don’t exist because they aren’t faced with them every day. Sometimes I worry about crossing the line between representing or talking about something, and like, almost milking it? I don’t want people to feel like that’s what I’m doing when I make art about sensitive topics, because it’s really always just me trying to work through my own shit. I’ve had male artists in my life say that I work with topics like sexual assault and mental illness to get attention, which is unfair. I think those reactions will always be there to some extent. As a woman in general it’s so easy to have your feelings totally shut down or invalidated.
Juicy, Michelle Caron-Pawlowsky
What mediums do you prefer to work with?
I think photography is my favourite medium, both film and digital. I just started screen printing for the first time this month and I totally fell in love with that too. And drawing and painting. I also make music (does that count?). I sort of love everything. As long as I’m creating, I’m happy.
I Still Love You, I Just Don’t Like You Anymore, Michelle Caron-Pawlowsky
What is your first memory with art?
One time in kindergarten, I was sitting at a table in class trying to do my drawing project. There was a boy sitting at the other end of the table who kept pulling the table cloth towards himself because it was too short to cover both ends of the table, and I kept pulling it back. I ended up getting really fed up, grabbed a pair of scissors, cut the table cloth down the middle, went back to my seat, and kept drawing. The teachers told my mom to punish me but she was too proud. She still tells me that story all the time.
This is What a Flashback Looks Like, Michelle Caron-Pawlowsky
Who are some of your own favorite visual artists?
Tim Walker is the first that comes to mind. His photography blows my mind. I also really love Lissy Elle Laricchia, Annie Leibovitz, Hope Gangloff, Alexandra Levasseur, Jenn Mann, Jenny Holzer, John William Waterhouse, and Egon Schiele.
What is your go to art making song?
I can’t say I’ve got one specific song, but Beach House is often my go to art making band. I find that blasting them sets a really great atmosphere for making art. Other than that, some other songs I always go to when making art are Jerk It Out by The Caesars, Bruises by Chairlift, Stars by The Cranberries, Doll Parts by Hole, A Better Son/Daughter by Rilo Kiley, Monster Love by Soko feat. Ariel Pink, and La fête triste by Trisomie 21. I’ll stop now because I could honestly give you hundreds. Since I make music too, I spend a lot of time finding new music to keep myself inspired. Too much time, probably.
Just Stand There and Look Pretty, Michelle Caron-Pawlowsky
Can photography offer you something that painting cannot, or visa versa? What about drawing/illustration?
I think that a lot of the time when I have an idea for an art piece, I can recreate it a lot more accurately with photography in a way that I can look at and say “Yes, this is exactly what I wanted, I’m happy with this.” In my experience that can be harder to do with painting or drawing. Also, if you do something more magical with a photograph, some kind of photoshop magic or something, a viewer can see it and sort of place themselves within that image because it’s a photo, it’s the real world (with some tweaking.) That’s how it’s always been for me, anyway. Sometimes I look at a photograph that someone else has created and I want to be in that world so badly I can feel it in my whole body. I don’t usually get that with drawings or paintings, as much as I adore those art forms. It’s a different kind of admiration.
Untitled, Michelle Caron-Pawlowsky
What is your schooling background involving art? Do you believe it is necessary to go to art school to become successful?
I’m currently an art student in CEGEP, which is a sort of transition school between high school and university that you have to do if you live in Quebec. I’m in the process of applying to university in Studio Arts or Photography and hopefully minoring in Women’s Studies. I really don’t believe you have to go to art school to become successful; I started out as a science student, I was just totally miserable. This is what I love to do, and I’m really lucky that I live somewhere where university is so affordable, and that I have this opportunity. I don’t think I’d be able to go to art school if I didn’t live here.
Pink Nude, Michelle Caron-Pawlowsky
What does “successful” look like to you?
Doing something that you love. Being happy.
What can art making offer to a women/girls? What does it offer to you?
There are incredible communities of women artists out there. Becoming part of those spheres is really rewarding and can give you a wonderful, supportive network. Being a woman/girl can be real frickin’ hard sometimes, and art is such a good way to explore and deal with that in a healthy way. Art is so important to me, especially as a woman. It keeps me alive.
Laila, Michelle Caron-Pawlowsky
What is your favorite color to work with?
Blue! Half of my paint tubes are different shades of blue. My hair is blue, too. My teachers tell me to stop using so much blue. Everything is blue.
How does your artwork reflect you, or the message you wish to share?
My artwork is the most accurate reflection of myself I can manage. I use myself as a model quite often. My work is just a lot of snapshots of how I see myself and the world around me.
Kiss, Michelle Caron-Pawlowsky
What’s the best compliment you’ve gotten on your artwork? What’s the worst critique?
There’ve been a couple times when people have messaged me saying that my art has helped them through hard times, which is really touching. I can’t really think of a worst critique – I tend to forget the negative. I’m really lucky to be surrounded by people who know how to constructively criticize each other’s work. I’ve had mean people say mean things, but on multiple occasions those people have ended up copying the exact parts of my work that they were talking badly about. So I take it as a compliment.
Untitled, Michelle Caron-Pawlowsky
What are your plans for your future art and future self?
Right now, just keep studying and keep experimenting and keep making things that make me happy. I have no idea where I’m going, or what life looks like for my future self, but I’m having fun trying to figure it out. I think I would get bored if I knew exactly where I was headed.
Sophie, Michelle Caron-Pawlowsky
Where can we contact you, buy and view your work?
Twitter & Instagram: @map_keeper
Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/mapkeeper (where I make music with my internet-brother Adam Rensch)
I have an etsy shop: etsy.com/shop/ZoeHaunt
and I can be reached at email@example.com for commissions or anything like that.