Art teacher Michael Valley is all about “pushing things to the limits” when it comes to his artwork.
“I’m trying push the paint to its limit or I’m trying push the surface to its limit. I’m trying to take the surface of the paint and the surface of the canvas to another level. It’s just about pushing things to the limits. Trying to create extreme contrast to create intense paintings.”
He attributes part of that mindset to his mother.
“My mom was really artistic, and so she really kind of pushed that (abstract and impressionist art) ability,” he said. “It was one thing that I was really good at.”
And his talent emerged when he was a child.
“When I was really young, I could draw just about anything,” he said, noting he especially loved comic books and drawing superheroes.
His taste and focus grew.
“Later on it evolved into more abstract and loose, impressionistic kind of stuff,” Valley said.
This love of art led him to a career in teaching art to children and young adults. After obtaining his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in drawing and painting from the University of Georgia, Valley earned his teaching certification. Since then, he has taught at the University of Georgia in Athens and Georgia Perimeter College in Alpharetta. For the past 15 years, the Gainesville man has been teaching at East Hall High School in Gainesville. Before that, he taught at East Hall Middle School for three years.
“Their love for art at such a young age is really nice to see,” Valley said. “Sometimes when you (as an artist) get discouraged and see their (students) love at such a young age, and it’s really encouraging.”
But his teaching hasn’t stopped him from showcasing his artwork.
“I placed in every show I was in last year, so that was a really good year for me. I try to show nationally and in New York sometimes,” Valley said.
Recently, Valley submitted a piece locally in the Quinlan Visual Arts Center’s Members’ Exhibition and received honorable mention for his artwork “Broken.”
The Members’ Exhibition is a showcase designed to honor its members and their work.
“Every member is eligible to submit one piece, so that’s how it’s selected,” Quinlan Visual Arts Center Executive Director Amanda McClure said. “There’s no reflection process to it. It’s just as simple as that.”
When submitting his piece to the Quinlan, Valley said he “was really happy” with it.
“I was happy with the Quinlan, because they stopped making limits on size,” he said. “So that was actually a bigger size for me and I wanted to put it in there. It was just combining old styles with new styles and it worked really well. And I’m still trying to develop that even more.”
Valley said it also felt great to be recognized for the piece.
“Last year, I won best in show,” he said. “So that was really nice. The year before that I got another honorable mention. It was nice to actually win three years in a row and be appreciated. I keep trying to push my style.”
As for that style, Valley described it as “contrasting chaos and order.”
“It’s a developed style and texture, but I use spatial concepts too, like perspective,” he said.
Being able to show off his style as well as his students is a bonus. His students’ artwork has been on display in the Quinlan’s student show since he began teaching at East Hall.
“It’s great to have a place like that which supports the arts in Gainesville,” Valley said.