We all have it. That little voice in the back of our head that makes us question if we’re really doing what we’re on this earth to do. The key, according to Michelle Reeves, is to quit silencing that voice and, instead, be silent and listen to it. For anyone who has ever wondered Is this it?or What’s my purpose in life?, then this is the FACES you don’t want to miss.
Michelle is a Nashville transplant who has lived everywhere from California to Connecticut. She arrived in Music City from Denver, though, when she and her husband selected Nashville as the place where they would start over following The Great Recession. Grab a cup of coffee, settle in, and get to know this very inspiring FACE of Nashville. Enjoy!
So what led you to Nashville?
I met and married my husband Steve in Nebraska, and in 2000, we moved to Denver. In 2009, we moved to Nashville to start over. We lost everything in the [economy] crash, so we decided to move closer to family. We figured if we were going to start over and reinvent ourselves, we may as well do it near family.
You were a makeup artist — tell me about that.
In Denver, I was a regional marketing specialist for a large property management company. I worked my way up very quickly and then lost it and had to reinvent myself. I’ve always done makeup and makeovers since the early ’80s, so I went to a large department store when we moved here, and I worked for one of the top three largest cosmetic companies in the world. I was the counter manager and then became a regional pro-team makeup artist, where I traveled from store to store as part of [the professional artist’s] team. It was all about sales and meeting people, but it allowed me to be creative, so it fed me. But it was 12 hours on your feet, and it started to take a toll on my body. I then started my own business as a personal shopper and makeup artist, which was good in theory, but I struggled for two years of What am I supposed to be doing? Why can’t I figure out who I am for real?
And then what happened?
One day, I interviewed for a job that I thought I was a really good fit for — and I was. It was in real estate and sales, which I’m very good at. It was for a company that I could really get on board with … their mission statement and their culture. In the interview, the gentleman asked me, “What are you passionate about? What is your passion?” And I couldn’t answer him.
Well, I decided I wanted to be an interior designer, so I went back to school in 2017. It was going great, and then I took a color theory class, and it blew my world because it felt like I was home. It felt like this is me! Even though I’m good at putting rooms together, I hated putting a storyboard together for an interior design project. It just didn’t feel right, but color theory? I was on fire! I started painting and never looked back.
Tell me about your paintings — what inspires your work?
My mom is a painter — she paints watercolors. And I grew up looking at her coffee table books about art — four-color, beautiful photographs of all this luscious art by Van Gogh and Monet. I would spend hours looking through these books, and there are works by both that just move me. That started young. Everyone has a happy place. When I walk into a floral shop and get knocked over by that gorgeous smell — it transports me! Everything falls away, and I get lost in that fragrant yumminess. A beautiful garden is breathtaking! I love the smell, the beauty that flowers represent, how fragile but hardy they are. So I wanted to take that feeling and put it on canvas.
What have you learned as you’ve embarked on your new painting career?
I’m a 52-year-old woman. I’ve got to embrace all my strengths and all my weaknesses. You know you’ve found your authentic self when you know how to manage both sides honestly, and I think I’m getting there. I think I come across one way to friends, and I can be gregarious and outgoing and bubbly, but then I’m incredibly insecure. The one thing I love so much about being able to paint is that you paint for yourself. You don’t paint for anybody else. And I know the exact moment that a painting is done. I work and work and work, and then all of a sudden I’m done — I just know. Don’t get me wrong, I have a ton of turds hanging on the wall, and I know when a turd’s a turd. But I also have some that I’m really proud of.
How has the discovery of this new talent and the career that is unfolding as a result transferred to the rest of your life?
If you’re swimming upstream, you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing. If it doesn’t come easy for your soul … Why isn’t this working out? Why am I having to work so hard? — these are questions that I had to ask for decades. It wasn’t until I was broken that I decided I had to listen. That voice is so quiet, but it’s been there my whole life. If you are not open to hearing it, you never will.
How would you advise someone to hear their own voice?
I would start with the question that I asked myself. What is my happy place? And be honest with yourself. Where are you the happiest? When you’re surrounded by people? Creating? Writing? Driving a fast car? When you’re making money? Preaching the gospel? I think when you are your authentic self like Oprah says, and you listen to what makes you you, then you’re listening, and you can start answering those questions.
Who have been your strongest supporters throughout this journey?
There are three people. My husband is one who, anytime he watches a movie or watches a show on reality TV, he says, “You could do that,” or I finish a painting, and he says, “That’s my new favorite!” Then there’s my brother-in-law, Johnny Gerhart, who is an incredible artist in his own right. His belief in what I’m doing shows, and he is always in my corner pushing me. He’s the one who gave me the large canvas for my birthday — the 60-by-48. I sat on it for months, and I knew that I’d wake up one morning ready to paint on it. It intimidated me — I’d never done a painting that big. I woke up one morning and had my coffee, and that morning, it all just came together. It’s been a favorite among many, that painting, and I think it really shows who I am. And my sister is the other. She puts her money where her mouth is. When she loves something, she buys it. Those three people have really fed me and just embraced what I’m doing to a point where I didn’t have a choice but to believe in myself! And my son Ethan is one of my biggest fans. He truly is always excited for me, with the art shows and new paintings.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of entering this new phase in your life?
Relief! Because at 52, when you don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing, it almost feels like you have failed yourself. Not in life, but you’ve failed yourself. You didn’t do right by yourself. I always felt like I was living vicariously through others. I was tired of that. I wanted to get out of the audience and get on the stage and be a participant in my life. And I feel like finally I’m there. Whether someone likes it or not is okay, but when someone looks at you and says, “Yeah, you’re supposed to be doing this,” it sure is a bonus!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Do right. My dad gave that to me.
What are three things you can’t live without aside from faith, family and friends?
Coffee. Fresh-cut flowers. And lip gloss.
Thank you, Michelle. Check out more of Michelle’s work on her website at michellereevesart.com or follow her on Instagram at @michellereevesartnashville. And thank you to Leila Grossman of Grannis Photography for the beautiful photos of Michelle in her home studio in West Nashville.
Before we embark on a new year of FACES of TriStar, we want to look back once more at our 2018 FACES of TriStar, each one an inspiration in their own way. Click HERE!