It began with filmmaking. William Blanchard, this week’s cover artist, attended film school at the University of Southern California before moving back to Michigan to teach at Lansing Community College for more than 30 years.

His interest in painting and animation began there. Blanchard took basic art classes, while teaching himself on the side.

“Painting isn’t really challenging to me,” Blanchard said. “I just think of an image, and thought about it have a need to paint it.”

His family laughs at the first step of the creation process. He’ll take hundreds of pictures that he later looks back at studiously.

It doesn’t always matter if the pictures come out well. Blanchard looks for one that stands out as something that can be a good painting; one that doesn’t leave his mind after flipping through more photographs.

That’s how “Dancing Ladies” was born. “That one as a photograph didn’t look that interesting, but I sketched out what the image looked like,” Blanchard said. “After sketching that, I painted the colors of the flowers. I don’t have good color vision, so I don’t know if the color is even right.”

Why the title, “Dancing Ladies?” What inspired that?

The picture is an orchid. Originally, I took some pictures when we were at the Frederick Meijer gardens — the flower was blooming. It was one of those things I kept thinking about, and didn’t want to have anything in the background. I wanted the flowers standing out by themselves. I didn’t know the flower’s name when I took the picture, but I have a daughter who works for a high-end florist out in Seattle, and they told me it’s what they call dancing ladies. They look like little bodies and striped skirts with how they hang. It seems fitting.

What is the medium of the painting?

How long does the creation process typically take? It’s acrylic painting. I don’t work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on these things, so it probably took weeks. The total hours of working on it was probably just a few days. I work on paintings for an hour or two before getting tired of it, but sometimes it’s a while because I lose track of time.

Do your paintings usually focus on nature?

I usually paint people. I really like people; I think people’s faces are interesting. I was hoping my other picture would be chosen, because it has more story to it. It’s my granddaughter. When I started, I was worried about doing portraits. I’ve done very few flowers actually. But there’s a book I read about how to paint; one line said, “flowers sell,” so I thought I’d try it. I paint portraits of people, but I kind of doubt someone would buy a picture of someone you don’t know.

How do you find people you want to paint?

I went on a European trip and took pictures of castles and stones, but I found most the interesting part to be the corners where there are people’s face. The ones I like best are the ones with people, like street performers. I just sold three pictures of a market to the woman who cuts my hair. She said she was looking for pictures to put up, and I don’t paint hair, and I thought of how she could probably get glamor shots free. When I got home, I thought of the pictures I had taken of people during my trip to Europe. I took them back and now they’re up in her shop.

Is your work being displayed anywhere else?

I’m presenting at the Mid-Michigan Physicians Building. There’s a show there for two or three months. I thought at first that it’s a medical building, so how many people go there and actually see the paintings? But then people walk the halls and tell me they saw mine.

I also have one hanging in Grand Ledge.

It’s my first picture that I sold a long time ago, and it’s now in their museum. It’s of the city’s bridge and ice cream shop. The guy didn’t have the space for it anymore, so he donated it to the city. It’s a bigger canvas; I don’t do those anymore because they’re hard to move.

Call for submissions

This summer, City Pulse will feature local art on our cover for up to eight issues: June 27-Aug. 29, excluding our Aug. 15 anniversary issue. Submission guidelines: Anyone living in Ingham, Eaton or Clinton counties may submit entries. Artists agree to give the originals to the Arts Council of Greater Lansing, which places them in the silent auction at its annual Holiday Glitter fundraiser. The artists receive 30 percent.

Submissions should be print quality (300 dpi).

The available space is 10.25 inches wide by 6.5 inches high. Your art need not be exactly that, but it needs to be a rectangle of roughly those proportions — or able to be cropped to those proportions — for us to make it work.

Submit an original piece of art to lansingarts.slideroom.com. For more information, please call the Arts Council at (517) 372-4636.