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Cottonwood Art Festival Features Michelle Mardis

Cottonwood Art Festival has selected Michelle Mardis as the featured artist for the spring 2013 event, to be held May 4-5 at Richardson’s Cottonwood Park. Mardis’ distinctive style of art is infused with the unusual — color, that is.

Although she now makes her home in Tarpon Springs, Florida, it’s easy to see that Mardis is originally from Texas — she was born in Fort Worth and grew up in North Richland Hills. “Basically I have always lived my life bigger than most — I have never done anything the normal way. Although as a child I colored inside the lines, I have always preferred to color the picture in an unusual color!”

Mardis is a self-taught artist. She still stays inside the lines, but she also shows the lines — as in the lines on people’s faces and hands. This adds to the appeal of her work, and her choice of unexpected colors draws the eye. It involves the emotions and creates an impact.

She respects the work of artists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein — who helped bring art into pop culture — for their use of color. Her choice of color is a reflection of these artists, but whereas Warhol used screen printing that achieved a softer look for his subjects, Mardis says her style is bolder. She paints in acrylic on canvas for much of her work.

“I use bold brushstrokes. Most of my paintings are done on larger canvases, so I don’t have a lot of detail,” she explains. “Even when you see the lines on people’s faces, looking at the larger painting is different than the smaller picture on my website.”

Mardis embraces color — “Color is life.” Strong colors are used to suggest the shadings and planes of an image instead of attention to tiny details. Regarding her choice of subjects, Mardis has “an appreciation for people who have lead full lives and it shows on their faces.”

In addition to human subjects, for the last 12 years much of Mardis’ work has been of animals, particularly commissioned pet portraits. These are also done in non-traditional colors. In 2012, she decided to change her approach. The dogs are seen in realistic colors against vivid backgrounds.

“This has opened up my audience and rejuvenated by interest in painting dogs,” states Mardis, adding. “While people often say the dog’s eyes are sad, to me the look is more soulful. I like to research and educate myself on each breed I paint. It makes the painting part easier.”

Richland High School art teacher Sina Coulson influenced Mardis, as did her grandmother Dorothy Wood. Both of her parents are artistic, and her father is an architect, “so it’s in the genes.” She likes experimenting, the variety of it, and has also worked with metal.

Mardis has an extensive following from doing outdoor art shows and other events. She has received awards from shows in Asheville, SC; Muskegon, MI; Tuscaloosa, AL; Philadelphia, PA; and numerous communities in Florida.

She created original artwork for a blues album for legendary blues man Tom McCoy and the cover artwork for “The New Barker” magazine.

On the road to art shows many weekends throughout the year, Mardis’ friendliness and sense of humor have served her well and are reflected in her work — finding humor and joy in her paintings.

She moved to Florida in 1992 and looks forward to her trips back to Texas, where she gets to visit with friends and eat Tex-Mex. “You cannot find good Tex-Mex here,” Mardis says of her home in Florida, “but they have amazing Cuban food.”

View Michelle Mardis’ work at or visit her on Facebook at The festival is Saturday, May 4, 10 AM to 7 PM (with live music until 8 PM), and Sunday, May 5, 10 AM to 6 PM. Cottonwood Park is located at 1321 W. Beltline Road, one block east of Coit Road in Richardson, TX. Parking and admission are free. The artists’ works are available for purchase, as are food and beverages, and some children’s events require a fee.

Now in its 44th year, the bi-annual Cottonwood Art Festival is a juried show. Jurors have selected over 240 artists from 1,400 submissions to exhibit their museum-quality work at the festival. The artists compete in 14 categories: 2D Mixed Media, 3D Mixed Media, Ceramics, Digital, Drawings/Pastels, Fiber, Glass, Jewelry, Leather, Metalwork, Painting, Photography, Sculpture and Wood. Rated as one of the top art festivals in the United States, the prestigious show is the premier fine art event in North Texas.

Cottonwood Art Festival is more than just the art. The festival also features top local bands performing the best in rock, country, jazz, blues, swing and folk. Check out the courtyard, sit in the shade by the lake, relax and enjoy the music. Food and spirits are also available in the courtyard.

Courtyard by Marriott is the official host hotel for Cottonwood Art Festival. Call 972-235-5000 for reservations. Ask for the Cottonwood rate.

Cottonwood Art Festival

Cottonwood has something for everyone, including mini-Picassos. For more information, go to or Facebook at or Twitter

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