Our Artist Fellows

In our busy city lives filled with noise, stress, and technology, it can be hard to find the time and space to create art and get inspired. That’s why we created our Artist Fellowship Program—to provide artists time and space to create and recharge. Each month we host a number of artists at our Outposts and invite them to experience Getaway, and to set aside time for their art.

To meet a few of our January artists, keep reading, and see what they had to say about their art and their Getaways.

Michelle Van Leer, Illustrator

Michelle grew up in South Florida and moved to the Atlanta area when she was in high school. You can find her at a vegan restaurant, on a hike, exploring a new city with her boyfriend, or at the library where she works.

When asked how she got started as an artist, Michelle said, “When I was younger my mom would draw Disney characters in her sketchbooks and I was always so amazed by her work. I followed her lead and drew characters in her sketchbook, using my Disney books for reference. It wasn’t until high school that I started drawing patterns and really enjoyed that type of drawing. I spent many classes in my own world, doodling on my school papers. I eventually got my own sketchbook and a fine tip Sharpie and perfected my current style over the years.”

She says she started taking her art more seriously in the past couple of years, so she started painting, opened an Etsy shop, and participated in art shows.

Michelle’s connection to nature has had a guiding influence in her life. She says, “My connection to nature has shaped the way I do things in my personal life, whether it be what I eat or how I shop for clothes. I’ve become more conscious of the environment as I’ve gotten older, and I love learning about ways that I can lessen my environmental impact. Treating mother nature kindly is important to me.”

Michelle cites nature as a big influence on her artwork—some of her biggest inspirations include the color and organic shapes that can be found in nature.

Regarding her Getaway, Michelle notes, “I’ve always wanted to live in a tiny house so staying in the cabin was a cool experience. It was a beautiful area, super quiet, and it felt like we were the only ones there. It was the perfect environment for drawing because I didn’t have wifi or cell service, so I was able to get a drawing done sooner than usual. I have the bad habit of letting my phone distract me!”

You can find more of Michelle’s work on Instagram @michellevart and her website: michellevanleerart.com.

Christian Yi, Photographer

Christian Yi was born and raised in Los Angeles. He was first introduced to photography during college, and he got his first DSLR in 2016. “Today I am one of the lucky ones who gets to do what they love for a job,” Christian reflects.

Christian says nature is his place to escape. “It is a place where I can shut down and be present. I love to go out and smell the crisp, unpolluted air, touch the earth, take a hike, and hear the crackle of twigs and rocks beneath my feet. In nature I am free. There is no boss to please (except for myself and I can be a real stickler), and no schedule or deadlines except for the ones I put on myself.”

Without extra noise, Christian is able to create art that truly represents how he feels at a specific moment in time because there’s nothing that can impede his train of thought.

Christian explains, “I wish my Getaway was longer! I went to Getaway with my girlfriend and we spent our time telling stories, learning how to play dominos, drinking hot cocoa with our steak dinner with potatoes and butter that we prepared over the mini grill, and stargazing from our massive window overlooking the beautiful mountains of Running Springs. My time at Getaway was a reminder that a routine digital detox is essential for a healthy creative mind.”

You can find more of Christian’s work on his Instagram @christianyi_ and his website: www.christianyi.com.

Phoenix Oullette, Photographer

Phoenix lives in Indianapolis with her husband of four years. She started her own photography business right after she graduated from Purdue University, and she loves photographing all things related to love and travel.

On being a photographer, Phoenix says, “Exploring the world and getting to document it, really hits your heart in a different way.”

For Phoenix, her connection to nature provides her with comfort and a sense of faith. She elaborates, “Seeing the moon shining, bright stars, tall mountains, colorful leaves, the vastness of the ocean, or even the sand between my toes reminds me of God and humbles me in a really good way. I’m thankful to get to capture every bit of it, and I try to preserve sweet memories through photos.”

Phoenix describes her Getaway as, “soul-warming, intimate, and just so dang beautiful. I loved getting to document the simplicity of the home and environment and to just enjoy the atmosphere, being tucked in the mountains. The stars were SO bright at night, and we awoke to a fiery sunrise that I snapped some shots of. I’d 110% recommend this experience for anyone in any stage of life. It was refreshing and cozy, and it was just a joy to step away from the business of life to slow down and take in the beautiful mountains. “

You can find more of Phoenix’s work on both of her Instagram accounts: @phoenixouellette and @crimsonseasphoto.

Sarah Robbins, Illustrator

Sarah Robbins is a native Texan, but they spent a decade in Baltimore where they went to the Maryland Institute College of Art to pursue a degree in Illustration, Printmaking, and Book Arts. They recently moved to Cleveland, Ohio to work as a Staff Illustrator for American Greetings.

When asked to describe their work, Sarah said, “I would say that I straddle a lot of different worlds artistically, be it fiber arts, printmaking, and more recently, animating. In my professional career, I also focus a lot on editorial illustration, making politically-charged and conceptual artwork for magazines and online articles.”

Generally, Sarah can be found hanging out with their two cats, reading horror-sci-fi novels, and working on new knitting projects.

Sarah says they’re always thinking about nature and how they’re connected to it. They check the weather constantly because they’re in love with storms and dramatic weather, which they said was, “possibly a product of growing up in tornado alley.”

Nature was also a big part of Sarah’s childhood. They said, “I grew up running around in creek beds and climbing trees. I think a lot of textures and patterns in nature make it into my artwork, both consciously and unconsciously, but it is a fountain of inspiration whenever I feel stuck. My most recent book, Tony is about a praying mantis I rescued from the woods, and on other levels, it’s also about personal growth—so these ideas are often very intertwined with lots of lessons to be found in nature.”

Sarah considered going on their Getaway alone for a meditative retreat, but they decided instead to invite their mom to join them. “Our Getaway was maybe more like a sleepover or camp-out than the quiet reflection some seek, but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. We had some quiet, beautiful hikes, taking in the snowy forests and rivers, and after all that, we could relax in our cozy cabin, catching up and watching movies.”

Sarah found the architecture of the cabins themselves to be a source of inspiration because of the way they interact with the landscape. “While there I felt very inspired just to sketch and reconnect with pen on paper, which led to my final animation once I left. I really look forward to my next Getaway—I’m hoping for a longer stay where I can really immerse myself in drawing.”

You can find more of Sarah’s work on their Instagram @bugwithapen, and their website: www.BugDraws.com.

Feeling inspired to make time for your art in nature? Book your Getaway today.