Art & Culture

Local artist’s journey begins with a New Year’s resolution

Lifelong Hollister resident Michaela Graves talks art, inspiration and the courage to follow one’s passion.
Graves gets her inspiration to paint from nature.
Graves paints from her studio in her home.
"Art is an expression of our individuality," Graves said.
Graves considers herself a modern impressionist.
Last year Graves had her art on display in her home for the San Benito County Arts Council's Open Studios Art Tour.
What started out as a challenge to paint meadows has led into painting various landscapes and images.

While some people ring in the new year sipping champagne with friends or brainstorming ideas for New Year’s resolutions, Michaela Graves of Hollister set a goal in 2018 to paint 100 meadows from an idea she got from Instagram.

One year later, Graves, who describes herself as a modern impressionist, is about to participate in her second Open Studio Art Tour for the San Benito Arts Council and is sharing her work on social media.

“I have always really loved art and creativity since I was little,” Graves said. “Two years ago I had been creating signs and invitations for an Etsy shop. I sort of felt like it was creative but not creative enough. So I decided to make a New Year’s resolution for myself to start painting and it just took off from there.”

At the start of her painting journey, Graves intended to share her work only with family and close friends. After posting her images on Instagram and receiving positive feedback, she realized “it wasn’t scary to share and I decided to do more.”

It was around that time Graves learned of the San Benito Arts Council’s Open Studio Art Tour and signed up. She shared her work with others while connecting with the local art community and opening up her home.

“It was super encouraging to know there was a community that wanted to rally behind the arts and artists in my community,” she said.

Though Graves began by painting meadows, she now has other landscapes and images in her portfolio too.

“I think that I am most inspired by nature,” Graves said. “There is so much beauty in nature. You are never short of a subject to paint. Also when I am in nature there is a calming force that is powerful at the same time. I like to bring that back into the studio and capture it on paper.”

For Graves, part of the process of creating each work involves her other passion—traveling and exploring. She photographs what she is drawn to, both the all-encompassing and small details, and then brings the images back to her studio to paint.

Painting is not the only area of growth for Graves over the past year. Wanting to market her work in the best way possible, she has taken classes in photography, Photoshop, and Instagram.

“In order to have a good art business you have to be able to take good pictures of your art,” she said.

Graves also embraces the importance of creating original works and not allowing society to dictate what “good art” is.

“Art is important because it allows us to be individuals both as the makers and as collectors,” she said. “We live in a culture where everything has become so manufactured and mass-produced that if we are not careful we will all end up with the same artificial art on our walls. Creating authentic art is the complete opposite of that and in many cases art is created in defiance of that idea. Art is an expression of our individuality; really good authentic art is a glimpse inside the artist.”

Graves explained that choosing to purchase a piece of art is an expression of a person’s creative individuality.

“That’s the magic factor in art, my paintings might resonate with you or they might not, and that’s OK because we’re all different, but we are all allowed to be ourselves,” she said. “That same freedom of authenticity is passed on to the collectors as well. They are given permission to express their own individuality by choosing exactly what they want and not what someone else is telling them to buy.”

Graves currently has works on display at the ARTspace Annex building in downtown Hollister. She will be opening her home for the second time with the San Benito Arts Council’s Open Studio Art Tour on April 13-14. Her art also appears on her Instagram account.

When asked what advice she would give to a new or aspiring artist, Graves said, “I would say just start. As simple as that sounds it is so hard to do. If you have the passion and you really want to do it, you have to take the risk and let go of any fears or reservations you have.”


Becky Bonner

Becky Bonner is a local teacher at San Benito High School who is passionate about sharing things to do in San Benito County.