Though in real life Port Orchard artist Michele Sleight is a detailed-oriented, middle-aged mother of four, in the world which she creates with pen and ink, she is a more spontaneous, still extensively detail-oriented illustrator of imagination
And while they are meticulously defined, the concepts of her work are often as whimsical as a child’s dreams.
In fact, there is one piece in the show that came from her own subconscious one night as she was counting sheep to induce sleep. On the verge between dreaming and lying awake she saw the sheep she had been counting begin to melt into the sky like body-sized puffs of smoke.
When she woke, she put it down on paper.
“Almost every one of these has some sort of background story to it,” Sleight said. “It’s whimsical but not cutesy … there are just real subjects doing weird things.”
In another work which also came out of a dream — this time her friend, PO artist Marti Green’s dream — a row of large chickens are shown with the focus on their legs which are adorned with the fashion accessories of humans — i.e. high heels, roller skates, diamond rings.
“It’s not usually the type of art that people want to hang on their living room wall … it takes a quirky personality,” Sleight said.
While it would definitely take a quirky personality to buy and hang a cartoonish portrait of chicken legs above the family couch, other pieces of Sleight’s art are easy for many people to identify with.
As an example, her piece called “Here’s To Us” depicts a fun-loving trio of women enjoying glasses of red wine in an outdoor hot tub, heads tipped back, feet kicked up and their glasses about to touch as they toast.
“I’ve had so many ladies see that and say, ‘Oh that’s cool, that’s what we do!’” Sleight said with a smile. “There’s really no big lofty message in any of these … I just hope it gives them some kind of enjoyment.”
A self-taught artist up until taking college courses after working as a stay at home mom with each of her children, Sleight’s work has a child-like innocent quality that is punctuated by her precise detail and devotion to texture. Sleight employs the stippling technique of pen and ink and works with hundreds, sometimes thousands of repetitive dots in order to achieve the right color or feel.
Many of her works also employ a bold color scheme, illuminating the whimsy.
Around town, Sleight has also exhibited a big piece of her joy on the side of the Bethel Avenue Bookstore in Port Orchard. She painted the roughly 16-by-14-ft. mural titled “Darkness” for the store last summer.
At the upcoming show at the Sidney – which opens July 5 with an artist’s reception slated for 1-4 p.m. July 8 – Sleight will have works ranging from greeting card-sized 6-by-6-inchers, to what are relatively big works for her, she said, at 33-by-33-inches.
In addition, a framed, autographed print of her counting sheep affair, titled “Dreamfield” will be up for raffle during the artist’s reception as Sleight hopes to raise funds and awareness for the American Parkinson’s Association.
The Sidney Museum and Gallery
202 Sidney Ave.
11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday thru Saturday
1 to 4 p.m. Sundays
Port Orchard pen and ink artist Michele Sleight