"When you try to be the artists you admire, you lose yourself. There are artists and styles that I enjoy, but I know now that I can’t be all of them."
Artist and illustrator Michelle Borjon, who goes by the name ghostii on Redbubble, has a beautiful portfolio filled with dreamy depiction of Goddesses and mythical creatures that show off her a passion for illustrating the mystical and eerie.
Michelle took the time to share with us the importance of artists developing their own genuine style while remaining sensitive, thoughtful, and honest.
Be sure to check out Michelle’s shop for more of her work.
How did you become an illustrator?
I chose to pursue a degree, and career, in illustration because of its narrative qualities and how broad it is in regards to genre and media. I was exposed to digital painting as a teenager and was mesmerized by the way people could take technology and make art. Whenever I run out of paper or don’t have the time or space to paint I can pull out my tablet and get going. I imagine my parents would have greatly appreciated having a similar tool for me to play with as a child as it would have been a cleaner alternative; I was always drawing on the walls as a kid. Art is just something I’ve always loved. It’s cliché, maybe, but it’s also very true. I had a notebook I used to draw in when I was a very little girl and I even remember making my own sketchbook out of lined paper so that I could draw the ballerina bears that patterned my blanket and the penguins on my grandmother’s table cloth.
Where do you draw creative inspiration from?
My part of the world is relatively quiet. And I prefer it that way. I live in the country in Illinois so I’m surrounded by lots and lots of undisturbed earth. Trees, tall grass, rolling fields, and even more rolling fields, bright blue skies, birds, deer, cows, chickens — I love it. Sometimes the air smells sweet and it’s almost surreal. Living here I’ve learned that nature can be very narrative if you look close enough. There’s a whole world of little critters, creatures, and land untouched by man – outside of my home especially. The world is vast, mysterious, beautiful, and regal and I try to capture some sense of that, especially with my figurative work. I’m a fairly introverted person and I enjoy the quietness of stillness and I think that shows in my portfolio. Though the Earth is loud, it speaks gently.
"It would have been nice to know that just because you publish half a dozen works doesn’t mean you’re going to be making mad cash right away. It takes time. Being noticed takes time. Nothing comes easily."
What draws you to the whimsical, abstracted or celestial as you mentioned aspects of your work?
Honestly, I think it’s all the science fiction and fantasy that I love. I daydream quite a bit and that usually involves some sort of storytelling. The short stories I make up on a daily basis involve everything from ladybugs to rabbits to gods to clouds. It makes daily travels and moments of quiet very interesting. The project I’m working on now was inspired by a pair of girls on bikes. It’s not as ordinary and humdrum as that but my interest in the fantastical will certainly help lift it off the ground. I’m no Annie Stegg or Peter Mohrbacher but stylistically, what you see is the way I personally and technically am able to translate science fiction and fantasy.
Do the characters you create have a spirituality of their own?
Ironically, I’m not incredibly spiritual, but I love painting higher beings – goddesses – because I think women are incredibly strong. It makes sense to me that the beings that preside over the earth would be female or non-binary for their nurturing, warm, balanced, and fair characteristics. Gods and goddesses do interest me though. I like to spend time researching them before I make any character that’s supposed to represent some sort of element so I can learn about the symbolism of animals, patterns, signs, etc. It helps me to understand the character I’m creating as well, regardless of how celestial or spiritual they might be. With “Tempest” I looked at Aztec and Mayan gods which is where I learned about winged serpents. So, each character may not canonically represent a real god but in my own private cosmology, they definitely have a place.
What advice would you give to other artists who want to change their style or direction?
Definitely don’t force it. When you try to be the artists you admire, you lose yourself. There are artists and styles that I enjoy but I know now that I can’t be all of them. Take for instance Annie Stegg and Mohrbacher, I think they’re incredible artists and I love both their work equally, but I just can’t be that artist. I could certainly learn, but it wouldn’t be genuine. It wasn’t until I finished my degree and I had time to take a break from art that I realized I couldn’t be the artist I wanted to be because that artist was an amalgamation of the ones I loved. It was too much and too scattered. I took a break from making art for a while and when I finally got back into I had all this energy. I missed it. If you don’t love what you’re doing I don’t think you’re going to be as successful as you’d like to be. Artists grow the way people do naturally, inherently. If you’re struggling with what you’re putting out then take a step back for a while. Take a break. Come back with fresh eyes and a well-rested mind. It’s also very, very important to be honest with yourself.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started about selling artwork online?
It would have been nice to know that just because you publish half a dozen works doesn’t mean you’re going to be making mad cash right away. It takes time. Being noticed takes time. Nothing comes easily. Also, just because you’re favorite painting, drawing, etc isn’t you’re best seller doesn’t mean it isn’t good. One of my favorite paintings isn’t exactly popular. That doesn’t stop me from loving it though. Immediate commercial success does not mean failure.
"It’s important to exercise or practice and hone your skills, but that doesn’t mean you have to complete a new work every day or even be proud of your scribble."
How do you stay in touch with your own creativity?
I don’t paint or even draw every day. I’ll doodle and sketch whenever a new idea comes to me but if I’m tired or uninspired then I’m going to let myself rest. Some people will say draw something small every day and that’s absolutely perfectly okay but don’t feel terrible if you don’t. Everyone grows at different paces and in different ways. It’s important to exercise or practice and hone your skills but that doesn’t mean you have to complete a new work every day or even be proud of your scribble. I work digitally, all of my published illustrations are digital, but I still use acrylics and various dry media. I’m not very good with traditional media but I feel that it’s important to practice it so I don’t lose it. In short, rest, keep an open mind, grow.
Which is your favorite artwork you’ve added to Redbubble and why?
Right now I’d have to say “Revenant.” I’ve always wanted to make something dark but because of my palette I’ve never been able to. I love bright, soothing colors and have always had trouble not turning something “dark” bright near the end. I think it about sums me up, whatever that means.