Local Fine artist finds a place on the big screen
Universal Studios gave artist Michele Mitchell only brief descriptions of characters that would inhabit the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
But from those few sentences, the classically trained portrait artist, living in Fairview, created creatures that today live forever on film, from the lovable hobbits to the vicious, snarling orcs. She even used neighbors as models.
I felt like I was already living in Middle Earth," Mitchell said.
The artist showed the "Lord of the Rings" illustrations and several portraits Monday to students at Veritas Christian Academy, a small, private school in Henderson County based on a classical curriculum that includes Latin, rhetoric and logic classes.
"I think having a classical education will definitely help me when I apply to college." said Keli Johnson, 14. "it sets us apart. You learn how to argue and think on your feet."
Michele Mitchell spent years traveling the globe perfecting their skills as classical portrait artists.
But it was their illustrations for the "lord of the Rings" trilogy that had students at Veritas Christian Academy on the edge of their seats Monday.
"I thought she was super amazing," said Stephen Walker, 14. "She looked like an ordinary person, but she was an extraordinary artist."
Veritas Academy is a small, private school in Henderson County based on a classical curriculum. Here, first-graders recite jingles to dissect sentences and 10th-graders debate spirituality without acrimony.
"I think having a classical education will definitely help me when I apply to college," said Keli Johnson, 14. "It sets us apart. You learn how to use logic, so you know how to argue and think on your feet."
The classical school was an ideal place to talk about their work, the artists said. Their lifelike portraits, often difficult to distinguish from photographs, are part of a classical tradition reaching back to the Renaissance Masters.
While she has used photographs to pain portraits, she prefers to paint real people. Models usually have to sit for two hours about six times. The finished product can cost as much as $13,500., if not more.
"Classical art is such a powerful articulation of form and light that it always takes people and moves them through time," Mitchell said. "I don't think abstract art has the same impact."
Students listened politely and attentively as the artist recounted the grueling years as an art student and the struggles to perfect the craft of picture-making in Minneapolis, Chicago and Italy. Mitchell has won international awards and exhibited her portraits around the world.
But her "Lord of the Rings" illustrations quickly had the students buzzing.
"It's great that local artists are getting this kind of attention," said Aaron West, 14.
Mitchell recollected that Universal liked the illustrations so much that the studio asked her to move to California to do even more work. But she turned down the offer. She wasn't ready to leave the area, especially with her two young daughters being so young, or discontinue her work as a portrait artist, she said.
"I came to a crossroad. I could have gone the commercial route or stayed with fine art. I chose the fine arts, though the commercial route would have eased the financial challenges. The fine arts is where I belong."
Article written by Amy Miller of the Citizen Times of Asheville, NC