A Calming Palette


Michelle Barillaro draws viewers in with abstract cold wax art

Michelle Barillaro can still vividly remember receiving her first set of oil pastels when she was seven, along with a special coloring book she designated only for them. She can also remember how it felt when someone used a different medium in the book. “I was not very happy,” she says with a laugh. But because of her passion and interest, Barillaro’s mom enrolled her in some art classes at the community center, which spurred a future life in art.

Art was in her DNA. Visiting her dad who lived in Spain for a while, Barillaro felt drawn to the museums there; the buildings seemed to speak to her. She attended the University of Tennessee to study architecture, where she would fuse that interest in art with the knowledge of building structures. She’s been working in the field ever since.

About four years ago, Barillaro reintroduced herself to art as a hobby. She dabbled for years in several mediums, but after enrolling in a few classes, her talent seemed to flow naturally. She began painting in earnest, picking up new techniques and mediums along the way. She found her home quickly in abstract art. Aside from oil paint, Barillaro focuses much of her art on cold wax. “You mix it with the oil paint, of equal proportion, and then spread it on your wood panel,” she says. “Layer it, texture it, carve it, and you just get some really cool results.”

Her work has a certain color pallete, and that’s not an accident, she says. “They’re all variations of what I like, the turquoise, the beachy colors, but usually always with that pop of orange or red or chartreuse.” Her pieces start with a “punchy” color as their base, then are covered with more muted colors, pulling that original color out as she searches for the perfect composition.

Along with original work, Barillaro creates commissioned art, often inspired by a photograph or space shared with her by a client. She also teaches a monthly workshop at her home studio for those interested in learning the cold wax method. 

To learn more about her process or to view more of her art, visit www.michellebarillaroart.com.  

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