NISKAYUNA- Michele Benton readily admits that she is a basketball player first and an artist second.
But considering she played professional basketball, art comes in as a close second.
“I always wanted to take art classes in college, but with basketball, we would miss two or three days of classes for every game that we had,” Benton said.
She attended Colgate University, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history and met her husband, Steve (who also played basketball at the university).
She played professional basketball in Luxembourg for a season before coming back to the U.S.
“It was a great experience and I’m so glad I did it, but it was tough being so far away from family,” Benton said.
After moving back, she coached basketball at SUNY Binghamton and then began a career in marketing and moved to Niskayuna.
During this time, she’d put art aside for the most part. But when she had her two kids, Emilie and Nick and became a stay at home mom, she got back into it.
“At first, I was just designing things for my kids rooms,” Benton said. But then friends began to ask her to paint decorations for their children’s’ rooms, she started an eBay account and her art became more of a business.
As her kids grew older, she stopped working on decorations and began to hone her painting skills.
“I joined the Schenectady Arts Society and the Saratoga Arts Council,” Benton said. She’s taking classes through these and getting a second chance at having an art education.
In the past year, she’s been working with resin.
“It has a mind of its own. It moves for hours after you apply it,” Benton said.
The unpredictable nature of the epoxy resin, which forms a coating over any piece of art.
Benton has been experimenting with applying the resin directly to other paintings she’s done and applying it to paintings that aren’t yet dry so that the resin mixes directly with the paint.
This creates a glassy abstract art effect on the piece. Color is her strong suit and in most of her pieces, she finds a way to create an intensity in the colors she uses that matches that of a fireworks show.
“I’ve been doing these on wood but I’ve also done canvas,” Benton said.
At her latest show in Saratoga’s Art in the Park, she noticed that the pieces that sold the most were ‘useful art’.
“I made these coasters out of resin and they sold really well, better than the larger pieces,” Benton said.
That left her with a bit of a dilemma.
“Do I paint what I love or do I paint what sells?” Benton asked.
She loves working with expansive pieces and large abstracts. But she’s found that people have a harder time deciding to buy those during art shows.
“But that’s always been the question: do you paint because you love it or because you want to make money?” Benton said.
Her artistic passions have led her to paint for a mix of both reasons.
“I’m also working on portraits,” Benton said.
While those stray far from her abstract pieces, she doesn’t find them to be as challenging as she’d thought.
“I’ve been grabbing photos from online and just working from those for now,” Benton said.
Even in her portrait, there’s an explosion of color in the background or woven into the subject’s hair. Thus, she doesn’t lose her signature expression.
“ . . . basketball is basically first priority in this household, but I’m lucky that my kids and husband are so supportive of me indulging my second love: art,” Benton said.