Michelle Lubin’s father was an artist who influenced her upbringing with his creativity. So it’s no surprise that Lubin chose to follow the same calling after some years of working in another field. These days Lubin creates amazing art, drawing directly with a mechanical pencil on wood panels, she custom builds in her garage/studio in Imperial Beach.
Lubin grew up in New Jersey as one of four girls. Her father was a stay at home dad, due to an eye disease, while her mother was the bread winner of the family - at a time when that arrangement was not very common. Her father had retinitis pigmentosa, a gradual deterioration of the back wall of the eyes.
“It was a challenge but he would never stop painting….he was an incredible artist, all natural talent from since he was a little boy,” said Lubin.
Art has always been therapeutic for Lubin. “I’ve always done it. I’m an artist at heart,” she said. She became an artist full time in 2011 after a move to San Diego.
While in college Lubin was torn about being an artist. She switched majors a number of times because she didn’t have the passion for what she was studying. It was after she went on a study abroad program to Australia that she came back with a clearer picture of what she wanted to do. She received a Fine Arts degree from Montclair State University in New Jersey and to make ends meet, worked for a technology company as a projects manager while continuing to do art on the side.
Then everything happened at once: she was laid off from her job, her boyfriend of seven years broke up with her, and her grandmother died. “My whole life was turned upside down,” she said.
Lubin believes if all those things had not happened she would be in a different place today. “I was a completely different person. I was 50 pounds overweight… Once at the bottom you can only go up. I always tell people I seem happy but I still struggle with demons. Art reminds me of who I am. It’s grounding,” she explained.
When Lubin decided to dedicate her life to art, her mother did not support her decision. “There is still the mentality that if you decide to be an artist you’re going to struggle,” she recalled.
Her initial art work was different than it is today. She did a lot of collage work. “It took a while to find my style,” she said. “Art is a reflection of your life…who we are at the moment.”
Her first success with art happened when she was able to get a booth at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. She lived in New Jersey, just outside Manhattan, and she took some of her pieces to the art fair and sold almost all of them. Less than a year later she moved to the West Coast. Lubin marketed herself to local galleries, followed galleries and artists on social media, gave away business cards and apprenticed at a gallery in Los Angeles commuting from Oceanside.
“Not until I moved to San Diego - which is such a warm, friendly and accepting [place] that it made a difference. This is where I want to be and where there are people I want to be around,” she said.
While living in San Diego she met her future husband. The couple has a 4-year-old daughter.
Her work now focuses on figure drawings and portraits. “I always heard that was the hardest thing, not just technically but for the vulnerability, and mental and spiritual [aspects.] I needed it at that time. I tapped into the therapeutic aspect,” she said.
Working on wood is something she started doing out of necessity. She was renting a studio garage in New Jersey and there were stacks of wood panels leaning on a wall. Lubin picked one up and started experimenting with it. She started learning about wood and how to work with it by watching tutorials.
Although she continues to work mostly on wood, she does a little bit of everything also working with canvas and paper depending on her clients. She personally prefers wood. “It feels like skin. Each piece of wood is so unique in itself, some pieces are rough, some smooth - you never know what you’re going to get,” she said.
Lubin recently painted a mural of a sunset on Seacoast Drive and Imperial Beach Boulevard. This is the third mural she has painted in Imperial Beach and the first time she worked with oil paint, as well as the first time painting a utility box, but she is happy with the result.
“People that know my art work are surprised by the landscape. It shows clients and collectors I can do other stuff. Challenges are fun. If I learned anything from my dad it was - ‘unless you try it and do it, you won’t know it.’ If you feel good about something in your heart, no one can take that away,” she said.
Lubin recently won the 2020 Business of Art Scholarship mentored and provided by Patric Stillman, owner of The Studio Door in Hillcrest, Mission Federal Little Italy ArtWalk, and San Diego Visual Arts Network.
After the COVID-19 pandemic started, Lubin decided to help the less fortunate in the some way. Every time she sells her art work, she is donating 50 percent to South Bay Community Services. So far she has given away $500 and she will be sending another $100 soon.
“Giving back to the community that has helped me so much…I want to be part of the solution.”
The “Just Breathe” art series she is working on right now is raw with emotions. Lubin’s art work is 95 percent self-portraits based on photographs. She admits to have struggled with anxiety and depression. “It’s so taboo, people are afraid to talk about,” she said.
Lubin deals with her struggles by creating art and would like to study art therapy because it has helped her so much. She feels she has made a difference when she can help someone else. Case in point was when she talked to a veteran who said he did not understand art until he had PTSD.
“That, right there, is everything. He admitted understanding art is the most beautiful thing,” she said.
Lubin hopes that through her art, people can connect with her and her emotions. “[My art] is how people connect with me and with each other. I feel that way. I feel that is all I could ask for. People buy [a piece] when they connect with the emotions [in it,]” she said.
For more information, view or buy Lubin’s pieces log on MDferrera.com