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Art & Life with Tesa Michaels

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tesa Michaels.

Tesa, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
Art and creativity are deeply rooted in me. I am a fifth-generation artist and third generation fine artist. From a young age I was immersed in a creative atmosphere that offered constant inspiration and a family that nurtured my artistic endeavors.

In grammar school I won art contests, at the age of 12 painting I painted first oil painting taught by her mom, painting murals for schools. My grandmother and mother introduced and taught many mediums. Yet I always gravitated toward fine art; specifically drawing and painting.

At age 16, I was accepted into my first national show, and even ended up teaching the art class during the last semester of her senior year of high school.

I then went on and attended The Art Institute of Colorado, studying fine art then graphic design.

Following school, I worked in the graphic design field, in printing as an art and marketing director for a health products company, and in advertising at J. Walter Thompson as an art director working on Ford Motor Company commercials.

I loved working as I did as an Art Director, but I realized that I had moved too far from being a fine artist, which really felt that was “who I was”, I then decided to begin a new career as a professional artist focusing on oil paintings. Wanting to share my enthusiasm and technical skills as an artist I began to teach art workshops and classes at The Showcase Art Center and Aims Community College in Greeley, Colorado.

In Colorado at that time I began to study under Clifford T. Bailey, who was my idol for years. We ended up meeting one day, I through the grace of God began painting with him. He helped me really develop and fine-tune my oil painting skills and helped me find my voice as a fine artist.

He has encouraged me and influenced me as an artist and mentor; for that I will be forever grateful, which will forever reflect in my work as an artist.

I then moved to the San Diego area and continued to paint professionally. I struggled for a while to really find my niche and style.

Yet at the time there was this struggle of jumping into being a full-time artist. Yet, I knew this IS who I was and I never looked back. At the same time, I made that decision by jumping in and had an outside studio in NTC for a while.

At that time, my grandpa passed. At his end he began to tell me stories of him and when he started his successful business. I was the same age as he was when he began. He was also a strong influence on me in my steadfast decision in being a professional artist.

With my grandma, mom and then my grandpa being so supportive, I knew with my passion and determination to follow my dreams I knew I was doing the right thing.

During that time my mom would take me to the large gem and mineral shows for her and her jewelry she created. She and I would go to the shows and I began collecting semi-precious stones.

She then encourages me to incorporate them into my art. I thought she was crazy at first. Yet, I listened.

I created my first painting with one piece of agate and now use hundreds of specimens in my paintings.
My mom is now my partner in collecting the stones that I use in my paintings. We have been fortunate to work with many collectors and vendors from all around the world sourcing my stones that I use in my work. We meet them at the large gem and mineral shows throughout the country.

I then had to take a break from everything to battle Lyme Disease, it almost took my life and I had to put things on hold. Throughout the years battling that and through all the hardships encountered I never lost my creativity. I held a determination to continue painting and healing. Art was my light at the end of my tunnel that I focused on to get well again.

Once retuning to life as an artist and able to paint I focused on incorporating the semi-precious stones into my paintings. I found such joy and excitement in using them.

For the past 5 years I’ve focused on that series I call my “Elements” series where I incorporate elements from the earth in my paintings.

I didn’t intend to set out to be a mixed media artist, but now I am one and have such a passion for what I do.

I am now known as “the semi-precious stones artist”

I am so grateful to be doing what I do and create in the way I do.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I consider myself a Mixed Media Semi Precious Stones Artist. I incorporate semi-precious stones into my art. I use them in paintings in two styles: abstract and landscapes. I also incorporate the stones in to a home décor line with woods and other elements I find from the earth.

I have also been fortunate enough to use precious stones in a commission that incorporated diamonds and rubies. That was a fun painting to do.

They are mostly painted in panels (wood) that are custom made for me from a local business here in SD. He French cleats them to handle the weight of the paintings. My largest one is 4-foot x 6-foot weighing 105 lbs.

I do use some canvas as long as I keep things light. I prime the panels and then paint on them. Usually adding a lot of texture to the panel that will bring more texture and detention to my work. Then lay them flat to glue the stones. I paint them upright and then I have a special 4-foot easel that is hydraulic on a remote that my uncle built custom for me. I can use the easel to lower the heavy paintings and then raise them up so I do not need to move them. I am unable to move them due to the weight.

I never worry about how many stones I use for a piece. I pretty much go as crazy as I can with all the stones I use and worry about the weight later. The more the better in my opinion. But there are some that I do more minimally on canvas and to fit a particular composition. My favorite thing is working with the larger panels because that is where I can use my larger specimens of stones in order to bring together the composition. I push my limits of what size of stones I can glue on because I love the grand, large, powerful statement that the larger stones make.

Everyone has 1 stone on them shelve they’ve collected. I wanted to bring the stones into people’s homes in a grand way. I want them to make an impact and a statement when you see them. Those are my favorites to create. That maybe my message about my work is I want it to make an impact and to touch you, invoke an emotion when you see them. Plus, people feel the energy from the stones as well, making them have even more of an impact. My stones come from all around the world and some are millions of years old. Genuine stones that the earth has created. I want to showcase them in a grand way to give them the glory they deserve. God and the earth has created these masterpieces that need to be displayed in a grand way.

Any advice for aspiring or new artists?
The sky is the limit when it comes to art and being an artist, we have no celling. Do not hold back. Let loose, be free. Never let anyone hinder your creativity. Allow and be open to a critique, never criticism. Always follow your intuition in creating and the process. Follow your own inner self, allow your own true light to shine and never let anyone fade it. There will always be someone better than you and worse than you. Focus on growing and moving forward. PAINT, that is the only way you will get better.

There is always going to be that resistance, hesitance, insecurities, as a professional artist that is normal, learn how to work with that and accept that. Never judge a painting until it is finished, and always finish the painting. If it sucks, give it to my mom, you should see how many bad one she has, you will look back on it and laugh and see how far you have come. I hate the stigma of the “starving artist” saying. Yes, you can make a living. Find your niece, your tribe and you will thrive. Once you’ve painted one hundred, be prepared to paint a thousand more, once you do that, do it again. In my opinion there are no “experts” in our field. It is always something more to learn, to explore and to do. It never ends. We have no limitations and do not let people limit you.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
You can visit my website:

Instagram @tesamichaelsart
Facebook: tesamichaelsart

I add a lot of behind the scenes on those social media pages
I am represented by:

Front Porch Gallery in Carlsbad, CA
Lu Martin Galleries in Laguna Beach, CA
Exposures International Gallery of Fine Art, Sedona AZ

Contact Info:

  • Website:
  • Phone: 303-746-3229
  • Email:
  • Instagram: tesamichaelsart
  • Facebook: tesamichaelsart

Image Credit:
Me with the man: Marty Herman Owner of Exposures International Gallery of Fine Art in the gallery
Me outside in front of window: At Lu Martin Galleries in Laguna Beach, CA.

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.


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