Artist/Junior High Teacher Michelle Montrose Larsen
My name is Michelle Montrose Larsen. I'm from Orem, Utah and earned my BFA from Utah State University and my MFA from Lesley University. I teach all levels of visual art to grades 7-9. My hobbies include home improvement projects, camping, reading and watching sci-fi, but I don’t have too much time for hobbies.
How do you balance art making and art teaching?
I say yes and commit myself to art shows and projects before I can talk myself out of it. If I have a deadline to meet, it ensures that I make time for my art. I work project to project, deadline to deadline. Even if the next deadline is just a critique night with friends, or one piece for a show, or a proposal for a public art project that I probably won’t get, it keeps me going.
What other artists influence your work?
My current favorite artist is Mika Rottenberg.
What does your schedule for making art look like? The few hours between my son’s bedtime and my own bedtime, every night.
Do your students see you making art?
Not my own artwork, but I do a lot of demos and I always get sucked into them and find bits of class time to finish them. I like that it reminds my students that I teach what I truly love.
Do you think it is important for your students to know about your art career? Why?
Absolutely. It’s important that my students know that they can have a career in the arts, despite what everyone else will say. I also gives me clout ;)
How has teaching changed the way you make art?
I can be my own coach now. Instead of being overly emotional or negative or critical of myself, I can use the same techniques I use to motivate and inspire my students on myself. Sometimes it works, sometimes not, just like with my students :)
What advice would you give other artist teachers?
Practice what you preach. It’s easier said than done. Teachers have to develop an air of authority and leadership to be good teachers, but we can get a little carried away with our own ego. When I really stop and evaluate myself, I see many more similarities to my students than I would like to admit. It’s good though because it helps me have humility, compassion, and patience.
What is your favorite art supplier?
Blick. If anything is damaged or not satisfactory, they always make up for it.
Describe your favorite classroom project.
I love to teach how to draw facial features like eyes, noses, and mouths because it’s my personal passion and I could demo it a thousand times (I probably already have) and not get sick of it. I recently tried out a new project with botanical illustration and watercolor. I had so many students feel empowered by the techniques I taught and they finally felt like they had control over the watercolor instead of the other way around! That was pretty rewarding and of course botanical illustration always turns out beautiful.
How would you respond to someone who says you are not a true professional artist because you teach?
I would ask them to describe what they think a true professional artist is and go from there. There are many ways to measure success which is all based on your personal opinion of what success is.
Why is it important to you to continue making art?
I spend so much time talking and interacting with people, it is essential for my emotional and mental well-being that I engage in the internal, the illogical, and the non-verbal space that making art provides.
What advice would you give to a brand new teacher who wants to be an artist as well?
You can be a good teacher and leave at a decent hour every day! Too many art teachers do too much and don’t have any energy or time left for themselves. Don’t do things that your students can do for themselves. Get as many TA’s as you need to cut paper, organize supplies, clean, etc. Go home at a decent hour, eat a good dinner, and then spend the rest of the evening on yourself and your art, no netflix! A consistent daily practice of even just a couple hours is all the difference.
Information about the above paintings:
Yolk Swab, Oil on paper, 22”x 30”, 2016
Tainted, Oil on paper, 22”x 30”, 2016
Pear Cushion, Oil on paper, 22”x 30”, 2016
Where can we find your work?