Proud, Young, Black – Talking Art With Michelle Angela Jenkins

By Dishan Anderson – February 5, 2019

During an unusually mild December in London, Ontario, I had the privilege of sitting with London-born artist Michelle Angela Jenkins. Sitting cozy adjacent from each other while Christmas music blared on in the background, Michelle gave me a little insight into her world as an artist. I met Michelle just a few months earlier and, learning that she was a painter, was eager to learn more about her work her accomplishments.

Red, for Michelle Angela Jenkins symbolizes passion; a passion for her art and burning desire to create.

Michelle was born in London, Ontario, to one of the first black families in London. Her grandfather, James F. Jenkins, was the first black newspaper editor in London and founder of Dawn of Tomorrow. Not only was her grandfather a notable figure in the London community, but Michelle’s aunt, Kay Livingstone, was also a social activist, actress, and radio host.

If you were not aware of who Kay Livingstone was, she was a notable figure in the coalition of blacks and visible minorities in Canada, and one of the leading black actresses. Her most notable works are developing Caribana, forming The Congress of Black Women of Canada and coining the term visible minority.

In 2018, Livingstone’s face appeared on the postage stamp in honour of Black History Month. Michelle felt proud of the posthumous honour bestowed on her aunt.

“This prestigious honour further motivates me towards empowering and supporting women,” she says.

Michelle describes herself as a proud, young, black, female artist with an innate desire to create art.

Outside the norm

“I think artists, we are wired differently,” she states. “We have a different brain, we think differently. We move differently. It’s not to say that we are better, it is just that we are extremely different than I think the average norm.”

Michelle is very humble regarding her art, and considers herself fortunate to be able to do the thing she loves. She describes her work as emotional art rather than abstract.

The artistic process for Michelle consists of the feelings within her. These feelings can lie dormant until she can transfer them onto the canvas. She never sketches, though. She is keener towards using oils and acrylics and occasionally pastels.

Her journey as an artist started when she was in the fourth grade when she won a youth art award here in London. However, it was not until she won the award for the second time in the eighth grade that she thought, “you know what, I am onto something.”

Eventually, Michelle would go on to have her art exhibited all around the world, including Antigua, Barbados, Canada, France, United Arab Emirates, Italy, and Saudi Arabia. In October 2018, her art was exhibited in Paris at the Carrousel de Louvre for the second time.

Initially, the support for young Michelle to be an artist by her parents was not there. Yet, she was persistent in pursuing it by always engaging herself to be in touch with art. In fact, Michelle’s passion influenced her to spend her summers teaching and producing art. She was even fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to teach art in Antigua.

Higher learning

But it wasn’t until university that she got formal art training

“That was when I got a good flavor of understanding it a bit more,” Michelle says.

Her tertiary educational background is extensive beginning at Fanshawe College, where she pursued a diploma in Development Services Worker with a Deaf Major and Educational Assistant.

Then, she studied at the University of Windsor pursuing a major in Italian and a minor in art. She enhanced her studies in Italian language and history at the University of Dante Alighieri in Florence, Italy. In addition, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in education at the University of Toronto.

If asked what is integral to her work as an artist, Michelle would answer to always be true to yourself. The artist’s mother jokingly says, “if only she [Michelle] can paint an apple.”

What drives Michelle is her integrity with being proud of who she is, where she comes from and just painting.

She lives by the mantra “never paint to sell, only paint for your own enjoyment.” This mantra exemplifies that for Michelle it isn’t about the selling of the art, it is the creative process, the flow of energy and the passion that helps produce a piece and the story behind it.

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