Janelle Michonski is a well-known artist in Wichita Falls who owns the Seventh Street Studio on the corner of 7th and Ohio. This studio is home to 11 working artists and hosts a live model drawing night that is open to the public every Monday evening from 6-8 p.m. There is a small $5 fee, to help pay the model.
The artists also teach, do commission work, and will be starting painting parties very soon that are open to the public. The studio was integral in starting the After Hours Art Walks that take place on the first Thursday of the month starting in spring and go until the fall months.
Janelle started drawing at the age of seven. She bitterly recalls her first attempt being a tree. “It looked like a cactus, so I asked my dad to help me draw a tree that looked like a tree. Ever since then I’ve been drawing. I started out with landscapes, then I switched to portraits. I wanted to know people from the inside out without actually interacting with them because I was shy,” she said.
She won awards for her drawing in high school and got a scholarship to college. Art was always part of her story. She doubted her ability to make a living with her art, and instead became a student of laboratory technology, or lab tech. That didn’t go well, and “was asked to leave and never come back”, she joked. After one semester, she had a 1.1 grade point average.
After a stint as a nurse’s aide, she started working in theater in New York City. “I worked on off Broadway as a followspot operator. I would shine the light on performers on the stage. At one point, I was actually able to design a stage for a vaudeville show. That was fun. The theater house was where the plays would show to see if they would be accepted on Broadway”, she said.
When the theater house was closed for the summer, Janelle tried something new. She went to work for a traveling circus. “I was a production assistant, I secured road permits for oversized vehicles, and even cleaned up after the elephants. I helped set up and take down the tents and I was a followstop operator there, too,” she said. “It was the most physical work I had ever done, but this circus was a special circus. It was connected with the School of Performing Arts, and it was called the Big Apple Circus.”
“When I got back, I was in a theater in Manhattan, and I accidentally stumbled across the Art Students League. I had never heard of it before, and curiosity made me open the door. I walked in, and I smelled turps [turpentine] and linseed oil; and they had a small gallery, and I saw a pastel by Daniel Greene. It blew my mind, and I knew that I had to go there,” she explained. “I immediately signed up to be a nude model to pay for tuition so that I could go there. I stopped working in theater and began modeling and taking classes. As I modeled I listened to the instructors, and it was like a free lesson. I also met famous artists like Daniel Greene and Burt Silverman. It was great.”
Even though she had never modeled, she didn’t hesitate to follow that path, and it has paid off in spades. It was there that she learned old masters’ techniques that she utilizes in her paintings and teaches to students in private lessons.
She eventually grew tired of New York City and moved home to the Adirondacks in Pennsylvania where she became a stock car racer. Yes, a stock car racer. She raced on frozen lakes and won 3 championships. What an eventful life! Most of us know her as the sweet and quiet studio owner downtown. Get to know her. She is so much more. Janelle Michonskli, she is an original.