Steve Gompf, Oreo Cookies and the Art of Constructive Criticism

Portrait of Steve Gompf by Michele Bledsoe









In 2018, the world lost a great artist

and I lost my friend.

A true creative genius..

Steve Gompf was one of the most wildly imaginative

and passionate artists I have ever known..

and he taught me the true meaning

of constructive criticism.


When we shared a gallery years ago

my work had become very gray.

Soft tones and faded colors..

I was struggling with my palette

and I had lost my way.

It was Steve who brought me back.


Wonderfully eccentric,

playful and engaging..

Steve was also as blunt as a sledgehammer.


He marched up to my work

and held an Oreo cookie against a “dark” area

in one of my paintings..

“That’s not dark!” he exclaimed,

THIS is dark.”

I was floored.

He was absolutely right.

After this artistic epiphany

my work improved dramatically.


When Steve asked me to paint his portrait

I had no words..

but I was thrilled at the opportunity

to pour out my love and gratitude

in a way we would both understand.

The Art of Painting Below the Surface

“Assemblage” by Michele Bledsoe

If you look at a photograph of me

you see the face I wear,

the body I walk around in

and a few items of clothing;

unlike my paintings..

which show you what I look like

on the inside.

Objects, Animals and the Art of Taking Requests


Sharing the experience of art with a group of inner city kids

is how my husband and I spend our Monday evenings.

We sit elbow to elbow with those beautiful young artists

talking and drawing together.


Often, the kids will make requests..

asking us to draw a particular

animal or object..

We are always happy to comply.

So we draw spaceships and unicorns

insects and dinosaurs

Tinkerbell and octopi.

It’s good practice for us as artists..

a test of speed and skill.


I am always deeply touched when

of all the wondrous things in their vast and limitless imaginations,

the kids choose to draw us..

sometimes, with an octopus.




Self-Portraits, Spirituality and the Art of Breaking Free

ribbon poster

Every work of art is a self-portrait of the artist who created it.

Sometimes this is obvious..

other times, it is not.

I have included many representations of myself in my paintings..

A strange figure formed out of sculpted wood with jointed arms. Or some mysterious organic construction of tangled branches and swirling leaves.

Sometimes, I wear my human face.

Maybe these depictions are not so recognizable to the casual observer…

but I really don’t consider the flesh I walk around in

as all there is to “myself”.

We are so much more than that.

We are spiritual beings trapped in the body of a dying animal..

But through art, we can break free.





Painting Portraits and the Art of Averting Your Eyes


In my painting, “Return to Innocence” I made the terrible mistake of making the central figure stare directly at me. This is just a section of a much larger painting, and the figure is close to life-sized. Those piercing eyes and blank stare are a little unsettling. I don’t know why, but it gives me the creeps.

Painting a portrait is an incredibly intimate experience. Staring intently at someone’s face for hours on end. Days. Weeks.. sometime months.. is intense. But it seems I’ve learned my lesson. Whenever I paint a portrait – I make the eyes look away from me.

jeff falk2

In my portrait of Jeff Falk, he seems to be looking at a point over my left shoulder.

steve gompf

My portrait of Steve Gompf is also looking somewhere else. Possibly at some invisible dog at my side.


In her portrait, I gave my sister a dreamy, faraway look.


Currently, I am working on a portrait of author and poet, Manuel Paul Arenas. This painting will become the cover of his soon-to-be-released book “Black Hymeneal” – A Collection of Black Light Verse and Gothic Vignettes..

Good to know that he won’t be staring at me while I read it.

The Art of Doing and Not Listening

jeff falk2

“Portrait of Jeff Falk” by Michele Bledsoe


When it comes to painting, my favorite thing to do is sit in front of a blank canvas and just start drawing.

Stream of consciousness.

I don’t plan anything out.

I don’t make preliminary sketches.

I don’t use reference material.

I let the drawing take me where it wants to go.


Many artists have told me that portraits are hard.

They tell me it’s difficult to get a likeness..

I don’t listen.

That is why I can paint portraits

and capture a likeness.

I never stop to think whether or not I can or can’t..

I just do.

Such is life.




Dead Baby Birds and Weird Portraits

Lullaby 2014

There are certain objects that repeat themselves in my paintings.

Leaves, ribbons, crumbling stone, bits of string.. and the occasional dead baby bird.

I call this painting, “Lullaby”.. because that’s what it is.

Many years ago, I painted a portrait of my sister for a Christmas present. She was thrilled, but demanded that I leave off her glasses – and warned me not to do anything “weird” to her.

Suffice it to say, I did what I wanted.. and did not let her look at it until it was done.


When she saw the painting, she looked at me and shouted: “A DEAD BABY CHICKEN! WHY??”

She didn’t even notice the mouse.

I am happy to say that after the initial shock, she has come to really love her portrait..

but I still wish she had let me paint her with glasses.