All posts by Michael Jewel Haley

My World And Welcome To It

I was invited by Chicago’s uber-talented encaustic artist Kari Hall to join in on this blog hop project. The project consists of answering some questions regarding art and my art process as well as to highlight other artists whom I admire and share them with you! First are my answers to the questions asked of me for the blog hop project:

1.) What am I working on/writing?

I am currently working on a large encaustic and oil painting on birch panel. At 48×48, it is the largest piece I’ve ever attempted. “A Shot in the Arm” is inspired by the Wilco song of the same title. I love using titles from other creative mediums to inspire ideas in my art, and Wilco’s music consistently lends itself to many interpretations and visual approaches. I’ve lived with this piece for over a year. I pass it in the hallway each morning, and it speaks to me – usually something along the lines of “When are you going to finish me?”  Two weeks ago I tossed it back on the workbench, and I expect to post the real finished piece in the next day or so. I’m finding that painting is a much more exploratory adventure than I ever imagined.

A Shot in the Arm
A Shot in the Arm

My work is very conceptual. For example, I have an idea to create an entire series of paintings based on the music of R.E.M. In fact, I’ve already gone so far as to narrow their extensive 30-year catalogue down to the 16 songs that will be featured in the series.

2.) How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?

My work reflects my lifelong fascination with photography, art, movies, music, numbers, Americana, story-telling, and the desire to capture and share visually arresting images from the most unlikely places. To my eyes, a deserted property or rusty sign can be every bit as interesting as a sunset – and it’s my hope that through my work I can inspire others to see the world around them in exciting new ways.

Golden State #2
Golden State #2

It all begins with an image. However, photography is but one medium, and the camera just one of many tools used in a creative process that includes beeswax, resin, acrylic paint, and found objects applied to birch wood panels. Finished works include large single panels as well as multi-image storyboards – like “Circus!” – that combine narrative and impressionistic elements – thus insuring each viewer enjoys their own unique interpretive experience.


3.) Why do I do what I do?

It’s in my blood. Every fiber of my being longs to create. Finding the right medium has always been the challenge for me. My natural parents were both musicians, and my mother also painted.

Mom & Pop making music together
Mom & Pop making music together

There was always music in the air and creative people in our home during my early childhood. The loss of my parents during my childhood left a creative vacuum in my life for decades. I loved music, but had no talent for it. I dabbled with writing, but my limited attention span ensured that the only thing I was good at creating was a pile of unfinished novels and screenplays. So, I guess the short answer is this: I create visual art because of ADD – or whatever the appropriate acronym is for my undiagnosed limitation. Then again, maybe it is simple laziness. In any case, painting and photography allows me to go from initial concept to a finished work in days rather than months.

4.) How does my writing/working process work?

My most creative and productive time in the studio occurs when I set the most enjoyable environment: a bright, sunny day, an early start, windows and blinds open, beeswax melting, and my favorite music in the air. I prefer working in natural light – which can be a challenge given that every window in my home studio is on the north side. I can’t emphasize the music enough. An eclectic mix of old favorites from the 60’s and 70’s and newer alternative rock playing at an agreeable level always brings out the best in me. Marti Somers invited to her work space, Studio Believe, a few years ago.  I loved the environment she created for herself to maximize her enjoyment of just being there in that space where ideas were allowed to come from anywhere.  We’re kindred spirits in that way, and once she dipped my fingers in beeswax I was sold.  If I have any advice to share with other artists who, like me, are just getting started on their journey, it’s this: create the environment you wish to create in first – and by environment I am referring to physical, mental, and emotional space. I don’t know who first said this, but I like it:

“Art is not a thing, it is a way”

Studio 48

Studio 48

As for my photography, I enjoy urban photo safaris. It’s rare that you’ll find me at the beach or the mountains with a camera, because I know I’ll never shoot a photo of the ocean, a sunset, or any other naturally beautiful location that will improve upon the work that nature has already done. What I do best is street photography and urban landscapes – subjects where I might be able to help find the beauty amid the blighted and mundane landscapes that we drive past every day without taking notice. Every day I walk out my front door I see the world as a potpourri of visual opportunity.

Brick & Mortar
Brick & Mortar

I want to thank Kari Hall for inviting me to participate in this project. It was an honor to be featured in her blog! It was a rewarding experience to think about and answer these questions about my work. I especially loved reading her answers posted on her blog last week. Read it here…

Kari Hall
Kari Hall

The artist I have selected to share with you is Giselle Gautreau. I discovered her work shortly after I began painting a few years ago, and was thrilled to learn she lived in the nearby Santa Cruz mountains here on the California coast. A visit to her mountain studio comes complete with breathtaking views of the natural settings that obviously inspire her work.  She is a loving, generous person, wonderful mother, and as down to earth as one is ever likely to find in someone so prodigiously talented.

Giselle Gautreau
Giselle Gautreau

Giselle Gautreau is an artist who works in oil and encaustic paints. Influenced by personal observation of the landscape around her, Giselle’s paintings are atmospheric and luminous.

Giselle works in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. She lives with her family, dogs, chickens and is a backyard beekeeper. Bees, nature and landscape are recurring themes in her work.

Born and raised in Massachusetts and Vermont, Giselle is from a French-Canadian family. She studied painting and printmaking at Maine College of Art, where she received her BFA. Giselle went on to obtain her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts.

Giselle has received awards for her work, including a Professional Artist Fellowship from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Virginia Commission for the Arts. Her paintings are included in private and corporate collections and has completed many commissions. Giselle’s work is currently represented by Hang Art Gallery in San Francisco, CA. She’s currently working on a solo exhibit at Hang Art scheduled for January, 2015.

The Waking Dream

For me, travel = no sleep. Maybe 4 hours a night, if I’m lucky. I just don’t sleep well except in my own bed. So, after 10 days in Chicago and Austin followed by two evenings of photo editing deep into the night, I came home determined to rest tonight. It isn’t happening. I’m being forced to admit I’m just not very good at closing my eyes. When I allow, my dreams are vivid, colorful, adventurous – I could sell tickets. But the images I conjure in the waking dream that is my life keep me so much more engaged, inspired, and entertained. It must be the drugs, you say?  Nah, who needs drugs when I have a camera, beeswax, oil paint, a blow torch and a little imagination?

Star Quality

Solid Footing
Solid Footing

Austin, Texas, November 1997.

I’m in town for a week on business and to attend the final two shows of Wilco’s “Being There” tour at Liberty Lunch – or maybe it was the other way around. I dropped in for dinner one night at Threadgill’s – a former filling station that had been converted into an iconic roadhouse specializing in gravy-smothered Southern dishes and live music – and where Janis Joplin got her start back in the day.

On this particular evening, the big voice emanating from the stage belonged to a diminutive Filipina from Chicago named Anna Lynn Fermin, who was in town promoting her first album. Armed with an acoustic guitar, undeniable charm, a passel of catchy country-rock gems, and a voice Patsy Cline would kill for, Anna stole the spotlight in a venue accustomed to having major talents in abundance on any given night. Spill your beer on a patron at Threadgill’s, and it’s likely to be someone you have in your iPod.

It wasn’t until I chatted her up after the show that I discovered the lovely and unassuming person Anna happens to be. On a side note: When I mentioned I was in town for the Wilco shows, she revealed that Wilco’s Bob Egan had contributed steel guitar on her own record. (Wilco and Anna Fermin are both Chicagoans). And so a loose bond was formed.

Today, 17 years and 8 albums later, our friendship has developed into one I hold quite dear. I’ve enjoyed watching – mostly from a distance – as her career and music have evolved, while she has become a huge supporter of my visual art. I’m quite thrilled to report that I’ll be flying to Chicago this holiday weekend to shoot images of Anna and her band, Trigger Gospel, along with some local color – “Anna’s Chicago” – to be used as album art for an upcoming release. It’s an honor and opportunity I can’t pass up. I’m hoping my images do Anna and her music justice.

For more on Anna’s world, follow this link to

Waxing Americana

My son Christopher is an aspiring filmmaker.  In the fall of 2011 – not long after I began working with encaustic paint – we took a road trip together to my hometown of Redding, California.  I had decided to create some images based on my hometown for my first public showing of my art.  Christopher decided to join me and document the experience as part of a film school assignment.  While the work – as well as the creative process itself – documented in this video is a bit dated now, it still captures a moment in time my son and I enjoyed together very much.


MJH 4-13-2014



Crystal Ball

I can predict the future. And with alarming accuracy. My own, at least. This is how it will go down:

After a lifetime of dodging bullets – literally and figuratively – which includes thousands of miles acting as a unbelted navigator to a perpetually inebriated driver until age 8, major head trauma on three separate occasions before my 12th birthday, a romantic tryst on the edge of a bluff overlooking the Pacific as the ground gave way beneath, staring down the barrel of a bi-polar hunting companion’s 30.06, and dozens of other dramatic near misses – at some point in the future, I will find myself idling at a stop light, reflecting on my luck, good fortune, and a life well-lived, and the light will turn green. And I will forget to look left.

MJH 3-1-13

The New Girl

So, I just loaded the new CD from She & Him (Volume 3) into my MacBook drive to copy it into iTunes. While waiting for it to load, I strolled over to YouTube to play, and as I sat here idly watching the screen the suggested viewing queue on the right-hand side immediately updated to include a video of a Conan O’Brien interview of Zooey Deschanel. Coincidence? Unlikely. Disturbing? Somewhat. Inevitable? Without a doubt.

Under The Influence

A friend – whom I adore – recently asked me if I was “under the influence. Again. “

It’s funny, I don’t recall ever being under the influence of anything other than music, love, pure joy, a beautiful woman – or some combination of those four. Despite my liberal leanings and “live and let live” philosophy, I am as ridiculously straight-arrow as they come.

Come to think of it, maybe I misunderstood, and she was referring to those four powerful influences all along.

MJH 10-31-13

Fine Art America

As you are all no doubt aware, I have devoted the past couple years to my creative life. In the process, I have completed a modest body of work, most of it within the medium of encaustic painting. For those unfamiliar with encaustic (as I was until a few years ago), it refers to the use of beeswax as the base element – often mixed with dry pigments and/or oil paint – whfich is applied to a hard, porous substrate (in my case, a birch wood panel) and then fused, layer by layer, with heat (my trusty blowtorch), until the final image is complete. The encaustic medium (beeswax mixed tree sap) gives the finished work a luminous visual quality, and – assuming you maintain the temperature inside your homes under 170 degrees – they will maintain an archival quality for hundreds of years, as evidenced by the discoveries of ancient Greek encaustic paintings.

While my original paintings are for sale directly through me, I have also partnered with Fine Art America to sell reproductions of my work through their website. Various formats and sizes are available, including: stretched canvas, acrylic print, metal print, framed print, and greeting cards. Finding room in a budget for original pieces of art can be a challenge for all of us, and this partnership will provide an opportunity for all art lovers of all budgets to own something unique and beautiful for your homes and offices. I’ve also made some of my original photographs available for sale as well, and will continue adding content to this site on a regular basis.

With the holiday season just around the corner, this is the perfect time to order gifts for your friends and loved ones. Just click on the link below, and Fine Art America will do all the work to pack and ship your order anywhere in the world.

Enjoy perusing my site, and don’t forget:

Happiness is a warm blowtorch!

MJH 9-23-13