A City’s Canvas: Profiles of the Artists of Downtown Winston-Salem Artist of the Month: Amber Michael

By David Willard

Oscar Wilde once said, “Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.” This insight into artists and their work is a reminder of how deeply artists are connected to their art. It is a piece of themselves. It is a window into their thoughts, hopes, and even beliefs, and it is those same windows that make each trip down the streets of downtown Winston-Salem a journey. This month’s journey to downtown Winston-Salem looks at an artist who takes her art to a new kind of canvas.

Amber Michael is a 28 year old makeup artist who specializes in special effects, beauty, and body painting. Also, just for good measure, she is a painter and amateur photographer. Her passion for her art has been recognized and honored: she won second place in the Emerging Artist Category at Living Art –Greensboro competition, and 4th in the same category at Living Art –Atlanta competition. Add to that list the fact that Michael is the Art Director, Show Coordinator and Supervising Makeup Artist for Spookywoods at Kersey Valley, and you get the picture that not only is Michael a busy woman, but she is truly living her dream; a dream that started in her childhood.

“Exploring the woods that surrounded my childhood home was a favorite pastime. As an only child, I spent hours creating my own fun amongst the trees and dreaming up lands of fairies and magical creatures. To this day, I create with my childhood memories held close to my heart,” says Michael. “I’ve been creating since I could hold a stick and draw in the earth. My parents were always supportive of my artistic side, entering me in coloring and art competitions since I was 5 years old. I received my first set of oils when I was 9 years old; I began painting with watercolor and acrylic a few years later,” she continues.

During her short career thus far, Michael has created work for films, music videos, commercials, children’s television shows, theatrical productions, photo shoots and live events. However, it is her current job title that allows Amber to fully utilize her special effects visions. As Artistic Director of Spookywoods, Michael truly gets to play.

“As a special effects makeup artist, I sculpt, mold and cast all of my prosthetic pieces. I do all of my fabrication work, including headpieces and costume pieces. As my ‘fall back’ job I am an Art Director, Show Coordinator and Supervising Makeup Artist for a nationally recognized haunted house, coming up on its 30th Anniversary. I have access to amazing original film quality sets, thousands of handmade, one of a kind costumes and film quality props. I try to use all that is at my disposal for photo shoots, installations and film work.   Thankfully, my bosses are very supportive of my individual creative endeavors and allow me a lot of creative free range, which means I am rarely, if ever, bored at work.” she adds.

Michael’s ultimate goal and her vision for her artwork is something much loftier and ambitious than just providing a good scare or catching the eye. “Back inside the house that I grew up in, I was surrounded by strong women. My grandmother, our loving matriarch, was a hugely positive force in my life and remains a constant source of inspiration. I attempt to create images which reconcile my feelings for that strong female figure. I strive to empower women by creating strong female characters through my work. Being surrounded by a strong family of women helped to shape this view,” she concludes.

It is with this determination to empower, and her drive to create her visions of fantastical worlds, that Amber Michael is making her mark. She, just like her art, strives to take people to places that only their minds’ eyes have imagined, places that can only be seen through the window that Michaels creates. And what a truly fantastic voyage it is.