The Dailey Creative

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When Michelle Dailey announced she was going back to school, many people thought the certified nursing assistant would study to become a nurse. Instead, she is following her love of all things creative and breaking into a new career as an artist.

Is it ever too late to dive into something new? 

“It is definitely never too late,” says Michelle Dailey. Michelle, who had worked as a certified nursing assistant and med aid for twelve years, came across alcohol ink painting while scrolling through Pinterest. It was love at first sight between the local artist and the abstract, flowy medium. She made a list of supplies, found them at the Hobby Lobby, and created her first alcohol ink painting at home. Sounds easy enough, right?

“It was a disaster!” she laughs. “It turned out to be so much more difficult than it looks. But I was determined that I was going to do this.”

That was back in November 2018. Fast forward to today, and she now has her first solo show of alcohol ink paintings on display at the Jane West Gallery in the Capitol Theatre through September 8. The exhibit has darkness and light, metallics and textures—the result of Michelle drawing on several pieces of nature as her influence. “Agates, barn wood, galaxies, greens and blacks from swamps, the ocean—a bunch of different things inspired it! When I go to paint, I never know exactly what I am going to do. It’s whatever I’m in the mood for that day. I just pluck out colors and jump in,” she explains.

Alcohol ink doesn’t stay on the shelves for very long at craft stores, but what exactly is an alcohol ink painting? Michelle describes the product and the technique beautifully, “It is an alcohol based, highly pigmented ink that can be diluted with isopropyl alcohol, allowing for the expansion of the media over the page.” She continues, “The iso alcohol is used as a thinner to obtain delicate shades of color and transparent washes.” People use it to paint ceramic tiles, or like Michelle, apply it on canvas or a special water-resistant paper. “The media dries really quickly, but reignites whenever iso alcohol is added, making it truly fluid and at times unpredictable,” she says. The outcome is an abstract mix of colors, shapes, and textures. While working at her kitchen table, which has now been grandfathered into her art table, Michelle uses paintbrushes, a hairdryer, sponges, palette knives, and paint scrapers as tools that add dimension to her work as she sways the inks in and out of the alcohol. It’s messy, but it’s evident in her voice how much she adores the process. To wind down at the end of the day, you can usually find her painting at home with music playing in the background. 

The mother of two is also a full-time art student studying on a scholarship at NSU. When people heard she was going back to school, many assumed it would be for nursing. Instead, she has chosen to pursue her BSA in studio art with an interdisciplinary emphasis. This fall marks her sophomore year. She says she wants to “dabble in everything” and ultimately open her own art gallery in Aberdeen upon graduation. Her coursework includes ceramics, sculpture, painting, and mixed media as well as photography, graphic design, and digital imaging. Posting images to social media is what first sparked her idea to pursue a degree in art. “I was a Beach Body coach for a while and was always posting and editing photos and adding words to photos, so I decided to further that and go into graphic design. But when I got into the studio classes at NSU, I just fell in love with being able to create things and I knew this is what I wanted to do,” she says. Last semester, her painting titled “Gypsies” won first place in a student-juried art competition and received the President Purchase Award, making it a part of NSU’s permanent collection.

Michelle posts the artwork she has available for commission on her Instagram account, @the_dailey_creative. She encourages other artists who are just getting started, like herself, to do the same. “If you are creating things, don’t be afraid to put them out there on social media and let people know! And if you want to take an art class, even one or two just for fun, the faculty at NSU are amazing. I highly recommend it.” // –Jenny Roth

 To reach Michelle Dailey, follow her on Instagram or email [email protected].