January 12, 2016


Michelle Guintu • Interview by • liz rice mccray
Disclosure: At the start of this interview we were already smitten with San Francisco artist Michelle Guintu. We first saw her painting of “the artist formally known as Prince”
at New Image Art Gallery last year, so when we had the opportunity to interview her before the opening of her two-person show with Kristen Liu Wong (“500 Likes” at New Image Art), we jumped at the opportunity. Thank you, Michelle, for taking the time to answer our questions.

When asked, “What do you do?” how do you answer?
I usually explain how I pay for rent.

So then was your childhood ambition to be in an artist? How did you get into art?
When I was a kid, I remember knowing what I wanted “not” to be. I just remember wanting to be cool like Cyndi Lauper or Punky Brewster. I wondered what I would end up doing;
I had no clue though. I always liked drawing as far as I can remember but never dreamt I wanted to be an artist. I probably didn’t know that an artist was a thing, ya know?
I think I really got into art in junior high because I always enjoyed assignments that involved drawing. I remember being competitive with posters and stuff. There was this one girl that was a good drawer and I was jealous of her and her dad was a cartoonist, so that made me feel like she was better for some reason. Anyways, I was really into Sailor Moon and anime and drew the sailor scouts constantly. I even had a Sailor Mars binder that had drawings of her and a handwritten list of her powers and special traits; it’s red, and it’s at my parent’s house still.

Your subjects are amazing. How do you pick the people you paint?
Yes, they’re amazing people, right? I pick the people I paint based on my level of adoration for them, I guess. Most of them are from nostalgia. I enjoy a good face too like Hulk Hogan and Ice Cube.

Haha yes, that’s what I meant, all amazing people. So tell us how would you put into words your present?
My present? Like present day? Well I’m getting ready for
a two-person show that’s opening next Saturday at New Image Art. I’m showing with Kristen Liu-Wong. She’s so cute; met for the first time a couple weeks ago at a show we were in at Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco. We both use pink a lot in our work. So that’s all I’ve been doing at the moment. Last night after painting I was contemplating whether or not to get some Chinese food at this one place, Yelping, and instagraming pictures for kinda of a long time; but I just ended up going home and eating cereal.

I’m curious what are your favorite activities?
Hmmm, I like looking up McDonalds hashtags. I put out a McDonalds ‘zine a couple years ago. I might make a second one if I find enough weird McDonalds-themed pictures. I also like searching for a good baseball hat. I laugh a lot
and like laughing I guess. I enjoy listening to stand-up; I went to my first live stand-up show when I was in LA this past summer. The only time I have for activities other than painting is some QT with my boo. He draws and stuff too, so we can work on stuff together and be productive at the same time. I like looking up restaurants and pictures of their food. I like when I find something good at thrift stores.
Depending on how drunk I am I enjoy karaoke only if it’s on a weekday though. Recently, I’ve been listening to podcasts while I paint. I just finished Anthony Bourdain and John Cusack’s session on The Nerdist podcast yesterday. Oh, I like going to art openings cuz I get to let loose and hang out with people I haven’t seen in a while.

How would you like to see your future develop?
I just want to keep making work and showing. Another solo show would be cool. I’d like to not overbook myself. Maybe become a master at time management. I would be into working on some new projects and collaborating with different people.

Do you do any commissioned portraits?
It depends if I have time or not. I’ve done a handful of family portraits for people; but I think I’m over that, too much pressure, ya know. I don’t want to bum people out if their daughter or so doesn’t look spot on.

Last question: Where can people check out your art?
I have a tumblr account that I forget to update so Instagram [@michelleguintu] is the best bet. I work a lot with New Image Art Gallery; I had two solo shows there so their website would have a bunch of my work up.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions. We look forward to seeing your two-person show with Kristen Liu Wong “500 likes” at New Image Art Gallery (newimageartgallery.com).