Mikaela Fortune, a senior studio art major, had planned to be a children’s book illustrator when she first came to the University of Denver. Since then, her interests have grown from drawing to printmaking and even photography. Fortune credits the program in the School of Art and Art History for opening her eyes to other artistic outlets.
“We are required to take many studio classes in many different mediums,” Fortune says. “I have had to use materials that I probably never would have touched otherwise, and I think this has made me a much better artist.”
Growing up in the small town of Falcon, Colo., Fortune was considered the class artist, often taking on the creative aspects of group projects. Her high school art teacher encouraged her artistic talent, and in 2009 Fortune won the Congressional Art District Exhibition Grand Prize and a $4,000 scholarship. The winning piece, nine grayscale portraits of members of her high school jazz band, was on display in the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., for one year.
Fortune has work on display as part of the current BFA exhibition in the Victoria Myhren Gallery; her exhibition “Greyscale” also was on display in the student gallery in the Shwayder Art Building in October. It consisted of 173 stipple drawings, each 2 inches by 2 inches, depicting various facial expressions, specifically of the eyes and mouth.
“I pulled the images from screenshots of films and television serials in order to create engaging and dynamic drawings,” Fortune says. “Pausing a film or the television yielded much more interesting expressions than copying them directly from a catalog of facial expressions or from static images on the Internet.”
Fortune prefers to use illustration markers and screen printing in her figure- or portrait-based works, often pulling imagery from pop culture sources.
“As a child of the digital age, I have been heavily influenced by the media, pop culture and the dynamics of virtual community,” she says.
Catherine Chauvin, associate professor in printmaking, has worked with Fortune since having her in a foundation drawing class Fortune’s freshman year.
“I remember trying to keep this bright student challenged because her drawing skills were so solid,” Chauvin says. “I think she looked up to the advanced figure drawing students who sat in our sessions and modeled her projects to keep up with theirs. Since then, Mikaela has grown from a quiet, conscientious student to a confident leader. Her passion for reading, observing media and making artwork with a thread of the multiple is still as apparent as in her first quarter at DU.”