What’s In My Bag? Artist’s inside secrets revealed!

Whats In My Bag Illustration

Whats In My Bag Illustration

What’s In My Bag? Artist’s inside secrets revealed!

You’ve seen the stars reveal their secrets in countless ‘What’s in Their Bag?’ features – so what better way to give a sneak peek into the mind of an ordinary ol’ artist like me than to draw staples of my bag’s contents – the good, bad, and the ugly? (Yes, the spattered background could very well indicate a presence of DUST. Yikes it’s time to clean this thing out.) I could totally charge for these lifehacks, y’all… but, just for you, I’m offering these gems for FREE for a limited time!
In all seriousness, drawing everyday objects and what they reveal as a collection has been very fascinating. I would love to do more series along these lines. Plus, it allows for some puns and fun, both of which I’m a fan.
This piece was a warmup ‘mini’ for a book concept prompt from Lilla Roger’s Studio MATS Bootcamp. The final concept that came from this is here: a ‘what’s in her bag’ life hack book featuring Amy Poehler.

Art News and Updates…

Hi there…

I’m pleased to announce that my piece ‘Chickasaw Panther Woman’ is showing in the exhibit ‘Our Nature’, the 2017 WCAGA Member Exhibit! I can’t wait to see her among the other fantastic chosen works. If you haven’t seen her in person, this is a great opportunity. Encaustic pieces are always so much more impactful in person—I believe even more so than many other mediums.

Exhibit Details:

Opening ReceptionMarch 23, 2017 – 6 pm to 8 pm
Exhibition Dates: March 23 to May 5, 2017

4th Floor Gallery, Jim Cherry Media Center
GA Perimeter College, Clarkston
555 N Indian Creek Drive
Clarkston, GA 30021

About ‘Our Nature’: 
Please join us for the 2017 WCAGA Member Exhibit, Our Nature. Nature and the environment is ”Ours” to enjoy, care about and celebrate. Some of us make work inspired by our surroundings, through images that remind us our world is to be treasured and sustained. Plants, birds, animals, insects and flowers reach into our psyche. We may be awed, inspired, calmed, excited and even protective of this world that sustains our life, and some artists create work that speaks to this inspiration. Other artists address the backstory to our urban environment. They bravely ask, ”What happens when we neglect, reject or ignore nature’s importance?” This exhibit reflects our own vision . . . our own Nature.

More about the Women’s Caucus for the Arts, GA here.


Previous events:

I’m excited to announce that my Adornment series is hanging for the month of February at the Candler Park San Francisco Coffee on Dekalb Ave.! It’s a very cozy spot with great staff and delicious things to drink and eat — and I sure love seeing these pieces on exposed brick in such a warm atmosphere. If you’re in the A in Feb, give it a visit!

About these pieces:


Working with the common threads of mark making, ritual, sacred and decorative modifications to appearance throughout civilization, Adornment is an exploration of how this drive to decorate defines us, and how that urge carries back throughout not only history, but peoples of cultures worldwide.
When investigated globally and historically, the similarities of the practice of adorning ourselves—especially women—reveal themselves, and we see how traditions of mark making and adorning in indigenous peoples in particular have shaped the aesthetic of our modern ideas of fashion and our own personal and cultural style choices.

In these character pieces, I’ve particularly focused upon the adornment practices of powerful women figures from dwindling (or gone) tribes and eras. Their decoration is presented in a modern and stylized manner, but the real detail and power lies not in their markings or items of adornment—but in their faces.

Each piece was researched and much information gathered about customs, marks, clothing, style, culture and history. Characters and markings are first drawn, then I layer with encaustic medium (beeswax & tree sap resin), pigment, and items, carving, mark making and burning—much as the body adornments are achieved—for a final presentation that is deep and rich—as is their history. I very much enjoy the ritual process of getting to know these creations, and consider it an honor to represent a piece of character and history, and tell a story of their beauty and power.
The central character, Dropka is from the Dropka people: a very small, isolated tribe located between India and Pakistan. Their lush and expressive decorative practices come from a long, rich history, kept strong within their very isolated community.
The Ouled Naïl are a tribe and a tribal confederation living in Algeria. The women of the Ouled Naïl historically were exoticized by western men, fascinated by their dance, music, and decoration.
The Chickasaw Panther Women participated in battle as communicators and strategists. This responsibility is represented in Chickasaw oral traditions as “Panther Woman.”

Artist Profile – Michele Phillips

Michele Phillips is an artist and illustrator living in Decatur, GA. She received her bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Florida State University. Michele has worked as an illustrator, tattoo artist, graphic designer, art director, and dancer. Her history in the tattoo arts always informs her work, as do elements of figures, patterns, ancient mythology and spirituality, animals, and the natural world.


EXCITING kidlit news: My Forgotten Self   (author Lynyetta Willis, illustrator: me!) has received first place for the 2016 Purple Dragonfly Award! ~  Awarded to picture books, for children 6 and older  that “inspire, inform, teach or entertain children. Dragonflies are reminders that we are light and can reflect the light in powerful ways if we choose to do so.”

I’ve moved my art blog activities to my ‘works’ blog, so head on over and check it out/give it a follow: http://www.tumblr.com/blog/michelephillips



A Gratitude Adjustment, and why Thanksgiving rocks more than Christmas (yes, I said it…)

print image available: http://society6.com/MicheleCreates/Thankful-Buns_Print#1=45
print image available: http://bit.ly/1a62L4t

‘Tis the season…no, not THAT season (yet!)… I’m talking about the season of ’28 Days of People Being Grateful on FB’ (while the other 337 days are spent complaining), elastic waistbands, inflated travel prices and mass turkey-cide.
But also – and how I prefer to look at it –  A time for a change of season that brings cooler temps (which for me, living in the South, is a welcome thing indeed), making it actually inviting to curl up inside and draw or read. Grey days aren’t dreaded in my book – actually kind of the opposite. Don’t get me wrong, I adore light, sun, warmth. But rain and grey has always been soothing to me. When I was a child, if it was sunny, I was pressed to go outside, be loud, ‘have fun’. I often just wanted to draw and read. On rainy grey days, it wasn’t questioned; my time was my own. It felt like a deep rush of air to the lungs after breathing shallow for too long, and I still often get that feeling on a dreary day. (Unless I have to drive around in it, in which case- yep, it sucks.)
And of course, a time when everyone takes just a little more time to feel grateful. We hear it ALL the time ‘gratitude heals’, ‘you should be grateful’…  And sometimes it’s just hard to remember. Thanksgiving Season makes it simpler… it’s built right in to our daily thoughts. It’s one great big, national gratitude adjustment.

At different times in my life, I’ve gone through various ‘gratitude exercises’. Some were simple, some were downright painful- but every time, something magic happens when I put in even just a little effort. It’s palpable, but difficult to describe. That part of me that has become hardened with time, experience, heartache, disappointment, loss, fear… it softens up. The load feels lighter, and I’m pretty sure I’m nicer to be around, too.
This is not a new idea, of course, none of this is. The importance of gratitude is a cornerstone of teachings from most world religions, countless philosophers, and even Oprah (hey, if Oprah says it… ). For me, some of the best connection to gratitude I’ve been able to tap into that has really altered my perspective, my work, my relationships and my life in general comes from a Shambhala teacher named Pema Chodron. If you’ve never read any of her work, check it out sometime. She’s easy to find. She’s a Westerner writing about traditionally Eastern concepts, and therefore her (often humorous) presentation of these sometimes esoteric concepts is simple and accessible.

One of my favorite titles of hers is Start Where You Are. Kind of nice, isn’t it? What better place to start? No special equipment required, everything you need, you have already. An exercise from Start Where You Are:

“… I work on melting that hardness by generating more warmth, more open heart. A good way for any of us to do this is to think of a person toward whom we feel appreciation or love or gratitude. In other words, we connect with the warmth that we already have. If we can’t think of a person, we can think of a pet, or even a plant. Sometimes we have to search a bit. But as Trungpa Rinpoche used to say, Everybody loves something. Even if it’s just tortillas. The point is to touch in to the good heart that we already have and nurture it.”  ~Pema Chodron

(You may be able to guess from my illustration above that often I start with the animal kingdom, when people seem hard. :-))

Hey, I’m not saying I have this thing figured out… some days are more like this for me. (Not a terrific quality vid, but one of my favorite moments from him. Louis CK= brilliance.)

So, why does Thanksgiving rock more than Christmas? How dare I suggest such a thing?? It’s all that stuff I just mentioned. Because in my (glass-half-full tendencies) mind, it’s one of the few holidays that makes us want to be better people- even if it’s for 28 days on FB, or for one day, or even just during that one, ridiculously overwrought meal.
All that’s truly required for Thanksgiving is just that- giving of thanks. And it’s usually suggested said thanks be directed towards those closest to us… a lovely idea indeed. Whether it’s easy or challenging for us, it softens that hardened shell that isolates us as connected beings, even if just a little bit, for just a moment.

It’s one nice deep breath before the Big Daddy of all Holidays truly comes barreling in the door for reals (though all retailers would love us to extend our mass consumption well before this holiday- another rant for another time). I raise my fist in defiance and solidarity: Let us not forget the simple grace that is Thanksgiving! Christmas: WAIT YOUR TURN. We humans need our gratitude.

So please know that, when I say that I am thankful for YOU… whether you are someone close to me in ‘real life’, or whether it’s simply because you took a moment of precious time to look at my little illustration and check out my ramblings… I mean it. I really am. <3


(See those icons below? Feel free to share… and if you want to e-share the Thankful Buns, go ahead! If possible link it back to me somehow. Link for prints below image!)


Happy Birthday Virgo!


Virgos often get a bad rap. Am I right, fellow earth-mercurians?
As a smack-dab-in-the-middle of the sun sign period, card-carrying, no-denying-it Virgo myself, I was dismayed at most of the things I heard I was destined to be growing up.

I read things like this – “Virgo: the virgin. Overly Analytical, Modest, Logical, Sensible, Systematic, Intelligent, Practical, Responsible, Resilient, Good with budgeting, Focused, Self-Critical, Tidy, Hardworking…”
(Mind you, I’m not saying any of those are untrue, nor negative traits necessarily. But compared to most other signs… well, it’s a snoozefest of a description.)

Job predictions were even worse! Here’s one of those dreaded ‘top 10’ lists the interwebs are so fond of. To sum the list up, the big hitters are (and I don’t think these have changed since the lists I read when I was a child):
Tax Auditor (oh yikes!)
Professional Housecleaner (well, a girl can dream, right?!)
Executive Assistant
Welder (hm. okay…)

Before anyone gets upset because their profession is listed – just like the traits – I’m not saying these are ‘bad’ professions, or unsavory, or not valuable. They just held nothing – simply nothing – of interest for me.
And for a little girl growing up wanting nothing more than to be an artist (and dancer) and create create create, and craving some approval from somewhere… well, all this sounded about as dry as saltines in the desert (and equally as enticing).

Now because at least part of me does believe there is something to this astrology thing, I’ve thought about it and read about it and paid attention to it for a lot of years. (Hey, I am a Virgo after all! I analyze. Like I said, those traits aren’t necessarily untrue, they just paint the picture with only a couple of colors in the palette.)

And I think we Virgos have historically suffered a truly bad rap. Visions of schoolchildren, pointing and taunting ‘poor little Virrrrgin, poor crazy, OCD Virrrrgoooo!’ come to mind.nelson

I’d like Virgos to come out of hiding in shame! So what if we aren’t quite the perfect visages we’ve strived to be for so long! Who cares? (only us, that’s who).

It’s time to recognize the cleverness and creativity that can also be present within all that analysis, and attention to detail. I love this little quote here that sums that up nicely.

Fortunately, people seem to have loosened their grip on the old notion that Virgo is super uptight and/or asexual. Selma Hayek, Jason Statham, Beyoncé and James Marsden among many many others have helped squash this worn-out stereotype.

Happy Birthday my fellow Fabulous Virgos! Let your freaky Virgo flag fly proud!
Get excited over that label maker AND also blow some minds with your creative and innovative ideas!

I made the Earth-Sign, Mercury-Ruled Virgo vision (inspired in part by the inimitable Zoe Jakes) above as a gift for and tribute to all my Virgo pals (and there are many – we do like to travel in packs, don’t we? You know who you are) and for those who love us.

Share her, fly her proud, and see her on different stuff here!

Stay tuned for other sun signs representations… I will be adding each sign to make a series…

Mind Your HeART

Get this illustration- see link at end of post…

“Follow your heart.” “What does your head tell you?” “Listen to your gut…” The notion of these ‘anatomical oracles’ and what those familiar old sayings means fascinates me…  some ideas and experiences inspired me to create the little illustration above, and share a bit about what I’ve found to be true for me…

I have a massage therapist who is more of a healer than simply a body worker. Truly – how she packs so much power and love and light into her tiny elfin-like body is a mystery of science – but she does, and her magical work is crucial to my well being! But I digress… my point was that after each session, she invites me to draw some ‘Angel Cards’ and reflects on their meaning with me.

If you’re unfamiliar with Angel Cards, it’s simple enough. A single word on each small slip of cardstock, with an accompanying little ‘angel’ illustration makes up a ‘deck’. You hold an issue, or question, or some facet of your life forefront in your mind and draw five cards – in this case, out of a little cloth bag – line ’em up, and see what they say to you. Here’s my draw from about a week ago:

AngelCards Aug2013
If you recoil at the mystical, supernatural, or such general spiritual practices, relax… I’m not here to tell you what to believe. Take what you like, and leave the rest.

What I like about these cards is, no matter what comes out of that bag – no matter what my beliefs or what’s going on in life at that moment – something happens, and heart and mind come together in that space to define a meaning– in each provocative word, in the order in which they line up, even in the tiny angel pictures.

Is it guided by something bigger, or just in my own head? Personally, I do believe there’s something bigger at work that brings it all together and leads me to ‘see’ what I see… but does it really matter, if there’s clarity, and melding of heartstrings and brainwaves?

Our Angel Card drawings are one of those moments where some kind of shift happens (call it magical if you will). Somewhere within and between my brain and my heart, there’s space where they meet– and that space holds the seeds of creativity for me, as well as some peace and wisdom.

It doesn’t stay forever.

But it’s happened enough that I know it continually resides in that space, and I can tap back into it if I pay attention.

Mind my heart. Love my mind. Refuel them both, often and generously. For me, that means things like swimming in sun-drenched waters, being sparked by the creativity in others, laughing (or even crying) with Mr. Wonderful, bursting with pride over my dear offspring, being still and meditating… and Angel Cards after a glorious session of body and soul work.

Crunchy? Oh sure, I’ll own that! (After all– my handle at the tattoo shop many moons ago was “Woodstock” – but that’s another story for another time.)

But crunchy or no, I know that within that space of Mind my Heart/Heart my Mind, is where something bigger than me can channel through my work, and where creativity with insight– with purpose– lives. For creatives of all types, our craft- our lives- depends upon it.

Like the illustration? Get it on cool stuff here!