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Through a stained glass eye

Green Bay painter views world, creates art in bold colors

By Rachel Sankey

Chelle with one of her finished paintings. She takes commissions to preserve wedding bouquets through her abstract artwork. Rachel Sankey Photo

Green Bay native Michelle Diederich, who goes by Chelle, grew up in the Catholic church where she said she attended mass every Sunday. 

However, it wasn’t the sermons that caught her attention, but rather the beauty of the building.

“I would get lost in the pattern of the bricks on the floor or the light shining through the stained glass windows,” Chelle said. 

Though Chelle said she no longer attends church, the appeal of a stained glass-look and bold color themes has stuck with her.

Life as an artist

Chelle said art has been a part of her life since she was little, creating pieces in class during school, but didn’t really find her voice through art until college.

“That’s when I learned how to paint with oil, which made a difference in my world,” she said. “I feel like I never knew what to do with acrylic paint… I could never make it work the way I wanted to. And even within the oil, I’ve developed a different technique of using it than a lot of other oil painters.”

Chelle said growing up, she didn’t realize you could make a career out of being an artist. She attended Monmouth College in Illinois to pursue a degree in art business and French, but said she started a corporate job post-gradation, because that’s what she thought she had to do.

“I wasn’t happy,” Chelle said. “I wasn’t making art. It was shocking to find out how much that made a difference in my life, not making art.”

Since then, she said she has started to slowly separate herself from the corporate world and work more on her art career.

“I’m building up my business learning how to be an artist,” she said. “It’s not just about making art, there’s a lot of business to it, too. Luckily, I love the business aspects.”

Finding inspiration

Chelle said she started to create more abstract paintings and played around with lots of different color schemes – most recently inspired by a photo of a wedding bouquet her friend, a photographer, posted on Instagram.

She said she fell in love with the color scheme and wanted to create something out of it. Her friend sent her the photos of the bouquet to work with, and after finishing her version of the bouquet, Chelle said she wanted to keep creating “forever bouquets” for married couples.

“That’s been something I’m really excited about, because it’s the color, it’s the beauty of the flower and also this joy of the wedding day and the celebration aspect,” she said. “I’m trying to think about it in terms of joy.”

Chelle said a lot of planning goes into painting the abstract bouquet before it actually begins, including what color the canvas should be.

“Pink is normally the color I use for my canvases,” she said. “There’s a lot of science behind it. Pink looks good with the whole color palette and tends to be a very good base color. It’s not quite the warmth of red, but it’s also not a cool color, it’s kind of a weird in the middle color.”

Oil paint, Chelle said, despite her thinned version, takes a long time to dry. Due to this, she said a commissioned bouquet painting will take up to three months to fulfill. 

“I think commissioning a painting is something very new to people,” she said. “I think it can seem scary and different, but I really want this to be a way that people can preserve their wedding. If you try and keep the flowers they might brown and lose some of the color. There’s always that special thing of having the actual flowers, but this is kind of sharing more of that spirit.”

Local art scene

Chelle said the Green Bay art scene, as a whole, can be challenging. She said although there are a lot of great artists within the area, there seems to be a disconnect between the artist and the client.

“I think it’s a matter of breaking down those misconceptions from potential buyers,” Chelle said. “I think a lot of people have this misconception that it’s not worth the money because you can buy something to hang on your wall at TJ Maxx, but a lot of people don’t see it (handmade/local art) as the investment it could be.”

At the end of the day, Chelle said she hopes her art pieces bring joy to the people that look at them. 

“Whether it’s the bright colors, or a moment that shines,” she said. “I want it to be something that when you look at it, it makes your day brighter.”

Rachel Sankey is the associate editor of Green Bay City Pages. She can be reached via email at [email protected].

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