Art is finally a full-time career for 42-year-old Lansing resident Michelle Detering, this week’s Summer of Art artist. After being told to choose a major that would lead to a job and working as an academic advisor at Lansing Community College for 17 years, Detering has beaten the odds. She has gone through some hardships and taken some side paths, but sooner or later, everyone has to figure out what is truly valuable in life. For Detering, it’s art.
It wasn’t exactly a twist ending for Detering. Art has been part of her life all along. When she was a child, her parents encouraged her to develop a passion to observe the world around her, including art and nature. She started drawing and painting as a youngster, and picked up photography in high school.
“I have always been interested in sharing with others the beauty I find in the world around me,” Detering said.
Her college degree did not align with her passion, but she found a way to take art classes on the side. Her commitment to art deepened a few years ago when her mother, who was also an artist, died.
“She was a really good artist, but never showed her work,” Detering said. “I then decided that I wanted to focus on art and let my work be seen and enjoyed by others.”
Around this time, she was taking a watercolor class at Lansing Community College.
“The professor opened my eyes to the possibility of watercolor and what a beautiful medium it is,” Detering said.
She wants viewers of her art to understand that she puts her heart and soul into her work.
“I want the image to stay with the person after they have seen it,” Detering said.
The artist works primarily in two mediums, painting and photography.
“I’m able to express myself through two very different ways which allows me to tell unique stories,” Detering said.
While her paintings use bright colors and abstract designs, her photography tries to capture what she calls “the magic of a place at a specific moment in time.”
Detering has no plan or desire to retire anytime soon and said that she still has a great deal to learn.
“I would like to continue to develop, as both a painter and photographer,” she said.
She recently added another dimension to her artistic development by teaching art workshops at the Grove Gallery in East Lansing, where some of her own work is featured.
“I have really enjoyed teaching others how to express their creative side,” Detering said.
She believes everyone has some level of creativity.
“You have to nurture it in order for it to grow,” Detering said. “The more you feed your creativity, the more it grows.” She urges others to actively seek beauty in the world, as she has.
When her students become discouraged, she reminds them that it takes practice.
“Learn as much as you can from the old masters and others practicing in the field,” Detering said. “Don’t let others discourage you.”
But there is a limit to what others can teach. She also stresses that in art, it’s important to listen to yourself and trust the gifts and abilities you have.
“Create art because you love it,” Detering said. “Create art because you have a story to tell.”