An Interview with Artist Darice Machel
I literally got lost in colour and detail when I visited Darcie Machel's website.
I found the sheer beauty and depth on display in her artwork completely breathtaking.
Darcie's Lahaina Maui painted landscapes are so detailed, real and powerful, it is like actually being on holiday on that beautiful island.
You can view Darcie's work on her website: www.daricemachelmcguire.com
You can purchase them here
Darcie also runs painting classes for kids and adults
Please talk about where you grew up and where you live now...
I was born in Sacramento California. In 1974, at the age of 15, my family moved to Kings Beach, Lake Tahoe. My dad bought Sierra Sheet Metal, a business he had worked for the winter before our move. Moving from the hot Sacramento Valley to the cold Sierra mountains was a huge change for all of us. Mom had her hands full trying to keep an eye on me and my sisters, especially me. I was the rebellious one. I never quite adapted to the the cold winters and often dreamed of living in Hawaii were I could go barefoot year round. However, it was a great place to raise my four children.
In 2002 I moved to Chico California. I worked at a frame shop and taught oil painting classes there at night, I’ll tell you more about that later. I met the love of my life in Chico. We had a common dream of moving to Hawaii, we talked about it often. Researching every book and any info we could get our hands on about the history, lifestyle and the art scene. In 2012 we made our dream come true and moved to Maui.
My life partner, Charlie, along with his cousin Pam, bought Island Printing & Imaging, a printing business located in Lahaina. Pam runs the commercial side and Charlie does the art printing side of the business. My art studio is located in one of the office spaces of their business.
I had a long list of goals to achieve that first year. One of them was to get my art into a gallery in Lahaina. I was joyously surprised to be accepted into Village Gallery ( the oldest continually operating gallery in Hawaii) just three short months after moving here. By the end of the year I was being represented in three galleries. I’m now in four galleries, Village Gallery, Kingwell Island Art and two of Karen Lei’s galleries.
Maui has been an amazing adventure. I absolutely love living here. I wake up each morning to the sound of tropical birds long before the sun rises. I enjoy our daily ride into Lahaina from Napili were we live. Views of the ocean and the West Maui Mountains are spectacular, I never get tired of seeing them. And the best part of living here is I get to go barefoot year round!
How did you discover art?
Growing up in a household with 5 girls there was always an opportunity to learn something creative. Sewing, dance, theater, cake decorating, flower arranging, crocheting, music, and singing. Painting came into my life after we moved to Tahoe.
Mom learned about an artist, whose work she really admired, was teaching oil painting classes once a week on the other side of the lake, an hour drive from where we lived. Her first lesson was a sunset seascape on a 24x36 canvas. Her teacher Rom Villa, was surprised she never painted before. When mom brought the painting home dad thought she had bought it. Dad was so impressed he had it framed. Mom was so hooked on painting that she went back every week, even during big snow storms. A year after her first class, mom opened the first gallery in Tahoe. It was a tiny space in front of my dad’s sheet metal shop. He converted the garage into a show room, they called it Lakeside Gallery.
My first painting lesson was at the kitchen table, mom was really excited to show me how to paint. My first painting was no where as big as her first, mine was only 4x6 inches. It was a misty scene of trees all draped with moss. It had a mysterious feel to it that sparked my imagination and desire to explore the painting world more, and lucky for me, there were plenty of opportunities to do that.
Who or what inspires your artwork?
I would have to say nature is what inspirers me most. I’m in love with this beautiful island and love to share it with others through my art. Most of my landscape paintings are void of people. To me people pollute the beauty of nature. I’d rather present a beautiful tropical beach with no one on it so that the person viewing it can imagine themselves on that beach.
Whales and sea turtles inspire me too. I get so excited seeing a giant humpback breach the surface of the ocean with a huge splash. Or seeing a Hawaiian green sea turtle resting on the beach. Both animals have special meaning here on the islands. The sea turtle represents good luck and longevity. The humpback whales symbolize peace, compassion, and love. What could be more inspiring than that?
What is your artistic process from idea to finished painting?
I have no shortage of inspiration here on Maui. There is so much beauty that surrounds me each day that the hardest thing for me to decide is what to paint, be it a landscape, seascape or one of the amazing sea creatures of the Pacific Ocean, and what medium I’ll use.
Once I decide on the subject and medium I get to work. Sometimes that means stretching a canvas before I paint and researching images I or my sweetie have taken. I sometimes use a combination or references to build my composition. I paint from back to front. Meaning I start with the background and work my way to the foreground, always leaving the tiny details for last.
When I do my acrylic pour paintings I first decide which technique I’m going to do then choose the colors. I keep the colors to a minimum, too many can create a muddy mess. I use a lot of my acrylic pour paintings as abstract backgrounds for many of my sea creature paintings. The organic movement created by the fluid paint works great for underwater scenes.
What is your favourite artist's media to paint with and why?
I have two favorites, oil and acrylics. Oil is my first love. Mixing the buttery richness of the paint on my palette and feeling the paint glide over the canvas brings me such joy and excitement. Each stroke of paint is a bit of a mystery, it can be a hit or miss. If it’s a miss I simply work it until I’m satisfied. The workability and long drying time allows me to play with the paint to get the best results.
Acrylic is my second love. Sometimes I think it’s starting to push oils aside. These past eight years since moving to Maui, I’ve been using acrylic a lot more, almost daily. Because I teach a lot of one day workshops or classes to visitors and locals, I needed to make sure the paintings they took home were dry enough to pack in their suitcases, acrylic is the best medium for that. I developed a series of paintings in different styles and techniques to offer these visiting students.
I also love to experiment with acrylic, they are so versatile. I can thin them way down and use them like watercolor, or thicken them up to paint impasto. I’m also hooked on the acrylic pouring techniques. My favorite ones are the “flip cup” and “Dutch Pour”.
How did you create and publish your book, 'The Art of Painting Acrylic' ?
On November 25th, 2013 I was contacted by the Senior Editor / Project Manager of Walter Foster Publishing by email. They were working on a book titled "The Art of Painting in Acrylic,” a 144-page, multi-authored book for their Collector's Series.
She wrote “I came across your website last week and thought you would be a good fit for a section on painting landscapes and seascapes. Is this something that would be of interest to you?
After reading her email 8 to 10 times and calming myself down a little, I went and got my husband. I wanted him to read it just incase I was dreaming. I was always told or lead to believe you have to submit a lot of work before a magazine or publisher would touch you. Never in my wildest dreams did I believe a publisher would seek me out. So after coming down from cloud nine, I emailed her back letting her know I was very interested. Then I didn’t hear back from her. After a week I started to think it was a dream or maybe even a scam. I had to remind myself it was she who reached out to me, so I emailed her again. Apparently, she never received my first reply. Good thing I followed up with my second email.
My first task was to send them 10 or 12 photographs of various scenes from around Maui. My husband and I spent a weekend going to and photographing places I felt would be good subjects to paint. The Walter Foster team picked four of the photos. I was given two deadlines to complete the paintings and write the step-by-step process for each. I had to have the first two paintings in by the first deadline and the last two by the second deadline. I beat both deadlines by 10 days each. To say I was a little nervous and excited would be a huge understatement.
Walter Foster Publishing has been around since 1922. I have a large collection of their books and it is a great honor to be in one of them.
Which artists do you admire and why?
There are so many artists I admire, from the old masters to today’s contemporary artists. Leonardo de Vinci is my favorite old master. Not just for his art but also for his thirst for knowledge and inventions. If I lived during his time I would have done everything in my power to be one of his apprentices.
My mom, Lola Owen, is perhaps my most favorite artist of all times. She started painting at the age of 45. Opened her Gallery a year later and taught 100s of people the joy of painting. I use to study her brush strokes and listened to her teach. She gave so much love and patience to each of her students. She was always eager to share her knowledge with others. When I started teaching I used her as my guiding light.
Which of your paintings is your favourite and why?
At the moment “Pele’s Steamy Kisses” is my favorite oil painting and my triptych “Three Sisters, Michelle, Kamala and Jill” is my favorite acrylic.
“Pele’s Steamy Kisses” was inspired by a commissioned piece I did called “Fire and Water”. My client asked if I'd do a painting with lava flowing into the sea. One of his favorite artists was Jules Tavernier who painted many Hawaii volcano oil paintings back in the 1800s. I never heard of Jules until my client introduced me to his work. I'm so glad he did. The man was a true master at his art. Anyway, after completing the 12x16 oil commission I kept thinking about it and wondered how it would look on a much larger canvas. The result was even better then what I imagined and I had so much fun painting it. The title was a challenge. I knew I wanted to have the connection of Pele, the volcano Goddess and her relationship with the ocean. So I began researching the Hawaiian stories of Pele. I came across a poem written by Annie Marcum Wong. In it was a line that said “Pele's steamy kisses are saved for the sea”. As soon as I read it I knew I found my title.
My “Three Sisters” painting was inspired by the U.S. Presidential Inauguration. More specifically the outfits Michelle Obama, Kamala Harris and Jill Biden were wearing. The colors ignited my imagination as did the women themselves. Three beautiful women, three beautiful colors. Choosing to create this triptych as an abstract using the “Dutch pour” technique challenged both my color mixing skills and the skill to know when to stop. Each painting has the colors of the other paintings, giving them all a sense of connectedness.
What is your strategy for marketing yourself?
I’ve been working on getting my name “out there” since the early 2000s. First I started by writing news announcements and submitting art to the local news magazine in Tahoe. I use to write the newsletter for my parents gallery and have been writing my own monthly newsletter for the past five years. When Facebook came into existence, way back when, I saw how useful a tool it was and began building my page. I joined Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram almost as soon as they came into existence. Building my online presence has taken years and the journey has been interesting. Many social media platforms have come and gone and I tried all of them. Instagram ( https://www.instagram.com/daricemachel/ ) has taken over as my favorite social media platform for marketing. I sometimes do giveaways to help build my following.
Other marketing strategies I do is enter art competitions and run ads in art magazines both local and national. I do interviews such as this one and write and contribute to blogs.
Writing my monthly newsletter has been and will continue to be my best form of marketing. My newsletter helps me stay connected to my art collectors and students in a more personal way than social media.
Please talk about your art classes that you run...
I began teaching workshops at my mom’s gallery 30 years ago. When I moved to Chico I started doing an oil painting class once a week after work. In 2008 during the great recession, I opened Art E Studio ( http://www.art-e-studio.net ) and began teaching full time. It was pretty scary at first because I was taking a huge risk in a time of great uncertainty. My classes became very popular and grew rapidly by word of mouth. Each class had no more than six students and was two hours long. Mornings and evenings were for the adults, and I had 5 after school classes for teens and pre-teens. Saturdays were for the younger kids, 5 to 10 year olds. I taught mostly oil painting and just a couple of classes in acrylic.
I would help each student come up with and plan out their paintings. We would explore different styles, techniques and a bit of art history. It was fun and challenging to help 42 students a week all doing something different. Watching each one grow in their skills and self confidence was priceless.
When I moved to Maui I had to rethink how I was going offer my classes. I realized quickly that most of the people coming to my classes were going to be vacationers who wanted to do something other than spend the day at the beach. So I worked up some island themed paintings that could be done in just a few hours using acrylics. I posted these paintings on my website with the length of time to do each one and the price. I included all the art supplies for each or these paintings. Once a year I come up with new paintings and change out the less popular ones.
Since the Pandemic I’ve had to change things up again. I have put a hold on all out of state visitors coming to my studio and have limited my classes to local residence only and take just one student at a time. I’ll take two or three if they are in the same family. I’ve started learning how to use Zoom so I can offer online classes.
Life is ever changing, the art world is ever changing, and I do my best to change with it.
What are your plans for 2021?
Every year I write a list of goals I want to achieve. I keep this list visible so I can view it often. I some how manage to accomplish most of them each year. The ones I don’t achieve I add to the following year. This year some of my goals are to get better at doing Zoom classes, double my newsletter subscribers, increase my art sales by 25% and to enter 5 new art competitions. I have way more then that but I think you get the picture.
I am constantly moving forward, working on developing as an artist and art teacher. Learning, growing and sharing art with anyone who comes into my life, for however long or short that might be. My Moto is one I made up a few years ago “She who creates is master of her universe”.