We thought now was a great time to post a new Michelle St. Laurent interview and to talk about the career and life of the woman who creates these lovely Disney watercolors!
Michelle St Laurent has made an indelible mark on the Disney fine art scene, and over her career has become one of the artists whose work is the most sought-after by Disney collectors. It’s plain to see why. With watercolor as her preferred medium, she suffuses her images with bright colors and visual depth, stays perfectly on-model, and captures a nostalgia and the joy of Disney in every piece.
Michelle St Laurent Disney art celebrates all the best of what animation is about, but it also conveys an emotional truth that goes far beyond what many would think is frivolous subject matter. Though perhaps some don’t realize it, she is tapping into the archetypes and mythology we all share and recognize somewhere inside ourselves. She herself identifies as being a ‘girlie-girl’, celebrating the softness, sensitivity, and warmth many ascribe as feminine.
Here are a few examples of her work, and the confluence of color, emotion, and femininity:
St. Laurent was born in New Jersey, and loved Disney from an early age.
After moving to Florida at 16, she attended college at the Art Institute in Ft. Lauderdale, with a focus on Advertising and Design. She had worked at the Magic Kingdom throughout her high school years, having known she wanted to be a Disney artist since the first time she went to Disney World at the age of 6. One of her first jobs was working at Sea World, creating murals and images for the attendees to see as they walked in and around the space.
Then she worked at a publishing company, doing illustration, graphic design, and advertising imagery. Her entire team got hired by Disney to work in the Disney Design Group. At that point, she started creating designs for projects that would lead to successful ventures like pin trading and Vinylmation. She says sometimes she would go into the parks and see people trading pins, walk up and see which ones she had designed, and sign the backs of the pins of the collectors asked her to. She loved seeing the joy her designs and the designs of her team would create in collectors. Imagine being able to have a hand in the pin trading at Disney from the very beginning! She also created a lot of other Disney merchandise fans would recognize, like the “My Disney Girl Doll”, which she built from the ground up, from body styles, to clothes, to their hair and accessories. Indeed, she has had influence on nearly every kind of item from dolls to art to consumables that you’d see walking into a Disney store.
She also created unique designs and merchandise for the New York City Disney store and to prepare for the opening of California Adventure. A number of specialized items created for Disney Cruise Lines are her ideas as well, and she often went as a special guest on cruises to sign her creations.
One of her favorite experiences was being the art director for Disney Design and Display, which was under the Park Events Department, where she was in charge of the entire design of special events at Disney World. St. Laurent says, “The cool thing about this job was you never knew what your next project would be, and you never had enough time to do it. You had to take the money you had and take you idea and bring it to life in a huge way.”
She used the example of the pin trading event that would happen once a year in Epcot, which they theme every year. One year they had a villains event on Friday the 13th, in 2013. She had to come up with the entire design.
You can watch this interview with Michelle St. Laurent to see pictures of the event, as well as a lot of her merchandising designs. She also talks about how she paints and structures her Disney fine art pieces:
All the while, Michelle St. Laurent was creating Disney art. Then and now, she kept a sketchbook for ideas and to draw in everyday. She has risen to become one of the top Disney fine artists in the world, and her originals sell out very quickly. Michelle St. Laurent Disney Fine Art commissions are also very much in demand, and she always has a list of dozens on her roster.
We were able to get a few originals we can offer to our clients. Snap them up if you love these characters!
We asked what Michelle St. Laurent Disney limited editions are her recent favorite releases, and she named these two:
We caught up with Michelle and asked her just a few things about what her life and art:
DISNEY FINE ARTIST MICHELLE ST. LAURENT INTERVIEW
What are you earliest memories of Disney?
When I was 6 years old I went to Disney World for the first time. We stayed at the Polynesian Hotel. I remember the fountains, the tikis and all the plants inside. There was a smell I’ll never forget.
Walking down main street for the first time and seeing the castle was the biggest thrill until we had dinner in the castle restaurant and Cinderella talked to me!
How did you know you were an artist, and what did you draw or paint when you were just starting?
After or during my trip to Disney I knew I wanted to be a Disney artist. I was in 1st grade and continued to fill my sketch books with all the Disney characters. I also drew some of my favorite people as I grew up like Elvis, Goldie Hawn and Madonna.
What do you think is the single biggest influence to your aesthetic and the style in which you paint?
Tough question because there are so many different techniques and styles that I gravitate to and inspire me. So many things I have yet to explore. What I’m doing now with watercolor is always changing. I don’t follow any traditional watercolor rules. I just paint the way I want to and I’ve learned to control it.
What are your favorite movies, the ones that comfort you and the ones that inspire your artistic soul?
Legends of the Fall
An American President
Sweet Home Alabama
Good Will Hunting
The Iron Giant
Do you have favorite Disney characters? if so, why?
Thumper – says what he thinks
Dopey – cutest dwarf
Stitch – trouble!
Hades- my favorite Villain
Merida – my favorite princess
How do you infuse your art with your sense of spirituality?
I Started infusing butterflies into all my art 3 years ago after my father past away. It’s a symbol that makes me feel close to him.
What has been, as an artist, your favorite project in your whole career?
So many! But if I have to pick one it would be Working with Disney Park events creating a giant Dumbo for the opening of the new Carnival fantasyland press event.
Do you play music while working, and name a few favorite albums or bands you love?
I definitely love to listen to music when I paint. I like big hair band music like Tesla and Motley Crue, Guns and Roses. They are in my playlist for sure. I have a good mix of everything. Reggae, pop, country, rock and oldies. Love Lady Gaga, Stained, Kenny Chesney, Fleetwood Mac, Live, Kid Rock, the Cure, and The Black-Eyed Peas.
What are 5 things fans of yours don’t know about you that might surprise them?
1. I won’t go in the ocean past my knees. I’m afraid of sharks.
2. I hate the heat, but I live in Florida.
3. I skipped work and got my daughter out of school one day to meet drummer Tommy Lee (founding member of Mötley Crüe.)
4. I can’t watch war movies.
5. I spill something every day!
What do you think explains such a strong connection between collectors and Disney art?
I think everybody has that special moment or that magical feeling inside or things that they remember or that’s touched them. It might just be something that happened in their lives, and then when they see a scene it reminds them of something or someone. You just never know who is going to relate to a certain piece. Sometimes it’s the story the painting tells. I sold a piece of Belle and the Beast with a rose. I told this story, I was talking about it, and why I painted it. I have this special connection with Belle and that story because I raised my daughter by myself, and she had this special connection with my father and always called him her Papa. When she was a little girl she used to say to me, “oh, Belle has a Papa, too.” When I was telling that story, and talking about my painting, the lady that bought it had that similar experience that I had. She totally related to the painting because of my story.