– By Andrea Gaines
Two things defy reason when it comes to mural artist and painter Michele Sommers.
The first is her irrepressibly humble attitude towards her talent. The second is the absolute divinity of her work.
I knew that in writing about her in this way she would be thinking, Oh … come on … I’m not THAT good!
But, it really is hard to describe Sommers’ work without using words like moving, spiritual, dreamy, captivating.
Sommers says that she grew up doodling. But, how she got from that to taking on well-paid commissions for huge, wall-sized murals is quite the story.
Michele’s father was artistic, she says, but while very talented he never pursued art as a profession – something she seemed to regret on a personal level.
Michele has always loved to draw, but has only recently had any formal artistic training. When a good friend who owned a gourmet shop in Front Royal asked her if she would paint something pretty on the shop’s counter, however, she said, yes.
Within a few years, by word of mouth the paid commissions were rolling in. Her work is now in private homes, professional offices, small businesses, churches and animal shelters, on the interior and exterior of barns and on cinderblock walls.
Murals, as Sommers describes it, are living things. And, they are. Michele’s work seems to bloom and grow – to evolve – over time.
Says Sommers, “I ask my clients what they want in the mural. They give me a list of what should be in it, but we often add things along the way. When the mural is finished, I follow up with them every couple of weeks to make sure nothing more needs to be added. Murals evolve and age, just like living things.”
This was the case with a large, almost mural-sized canvas that Sommers recently completed for a local farm. With every manner of animal and insect in it – from cattle, to sheep, goats, farm dogs, horses, pigs and bees – Sommers’ reaction to the finished product was, “Might need another bird or two.”
A dramatic mural for an Ashburn seafood restaurant begs the same question – does it need another seagull? A large Mediterranean-style canvas, awash in tropical trees and flowers, literally looks like it is getting ready to sprout another fern. A seascape mural in a child’s bedroom shows a group of sea turtles, yearning to welcome, over time, a just-hatched baby turtle.
Then there is a very touching mural entitled, “Freedom Isn’t Free.” The personal story behind Sommers’ Freedom Isn’t Free says it all about this lovely and devoted artist and her client.
Her client, the manager of a large factory in Winchester said he wanted to dedicate a wall space to the sacrifices of the nation’s soldiers, including those he had served with in Iraq. He knew he wanted particular elements in the image, but provided her with few other details. He did, however, give her many of his own personal photos and contribute his military expertise. With that, she dove deep into herself … producing a dramatic, floor-to-ceiling image that shows an American eagle swooping in with a dramatic Freedom Isn’t Free banner, empty boots topped off with an old helmet, a POW/MIA flag, helicopters patrolling in the distance and two soldiers – one of whom is stepping out of the mural to greet those looking at it. A simple idea rendered in very personal and engaging way, the two soldiers are based on old wartime photos of Michele’s father and a newer one of her brother, both of which served as marines. Generations of soldiers seem to be waiting to be added to the moment.
This is Michele Sommers in a nutshell. Quietly humble. Aware of her talent. But, always focused on showcasing the beauty of life, and how it evolves over time.
See more of Michele Sommers’ work at www.facebook.com/sommersend.