What’s in Your Toolbox: Michelle Armas

I have long admired today’s interviewee, whose work I have followed and pinned so many times! Her expressive and wildly colorful canvases can seduce even the most color-shy cynic. Michelle Armas traded in a corporate branding gig to pursue a career in painting, and aren’t we all so glad she did? Anthropologie certainly is, as evidenced by them carrying her work in stores and online. Get ready for a completely uncensored, bawdy interview! I love a woman with a good sense of humor. — Ginny

1. Design*Sponge: What is in your toolbox?

Michelle Armas: My most important tool is the ‘ol internet, minus all the porn. Well, actually, I guess beautiful interiors and colors are porn for me. Other tools I can’t live without: studio lighting, drill, plastic cups. Lets see . . . I use a great app called CalenGoo to sync all my appointments and stuff. I like to listen to books and music to distract my always working brain while I work, so I am an iTunes junky.

2. Design*Sponge: Fill in the blank, “When I am in my studio, I feel _____________.”

The interview continues after the jump . . .

3. Design*Sponge: What is on the top shelves of your inspiration library right now?

Michelle Armas: A couple volumes of Edouard Vuillard paintings, a book about Houdini, Anthology magazine, and Fast Company.

4. Design*Sponge: How do you keep yourself organized? Time management is often one of the biggest obstacles for creative minds. Do you have an agenda book, and do you make to-do lists?

Michelle Armas: I do indeed have an agenda, and I also use a system where I email myself things like “You are a total loser if you forget Jane’s birthday on Friday.” I am also a fan of post-it notes. My computer is full of them. Mostly I keep myself organized by working every day and being really systematic about delegating and keeping up with delegating. It is way easier for me to create files to hand off to my assistant or to train her really well on how to answer customer service emails than to do them myself. I just happen to be blessed with a very wonderful assistant(s). Even though, let me take a moment to say that I hate that term. It seems pretentious. Ok, so lets call them Studio Buddies. I like that better.

5. Design*Sponge: If you could have one superhero (or magical) power, what would it be and why?

Michelle Armas: Um easy. It would be the ability to eat whatever I wanted and never feel sick or gain weight. I am getting all misty eyed just thinking about it.

6. Design*Sponge: What is the best advice you have ever received, and what is the one piece of advice you would offer to a young artist/designer?

Michelle Armas: The best advice I ever got . . . from my husband: “Scan your paintings and keep the files in multiple locations.” Genius. The advice I would offer other people is to be genuine and work hard and be a force of positivity and love in other people’s lives. It will come back to you in your business. I mean, have you ever noticed that shitty people are always having problems?

7. Design*Sponge: How do you combat creative blocks?

Michelle Armas: I don’t get it often, this creative block. Sometimes, though, I do, and I bust out of it by trying to create something totally different from my usual. Or I just leave the studio and don’t come back for a few days; that also works.

8. Design*Sponge: Where do you like to shop for inspiration?

Michelle Armas: Hmmm, I am not much of a shopper. I do love museums, though, and I LOVE museum shops. I never feel guilty about buying books, so they just love me when I go up to them and say, “I need to make a pile of books, you are going to need several boxes . . .” Aside from that, I mostly love really great antique shops. Not stuffy ones, but the kinds of places where you can find cool old paintings or textiles.

9. Design*Sponge: If you could peek inside the studio/toolbox of any designer/artist/craftsperson, whose would it be and why?

Michelle Armas: Abraham Lincoln. I would love to be invisible in his office (omg, getting chills just thinking about it!!! (oh, and eating a burrito of course, since I now have magical powers)). I would love to watch him think and meet with his peers. I admire him so much!

10. Design*Sponge: If you could make a master mix-tape of music that is inspiring you at the moment, what would it include?

Michelle Armas: Songs that make me happy: “The Bay” by Metronomy. “Disposable Parts” by Enon. “Lebanese Blonde” by Thievery Corp. “Sway” by Rosemary Clooney. “5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO” by The Coup. “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” by Cake. “ATLiens” by Outkast. “Dirty Harry” by Gorillaz. “Cha Cha Cha De Loupe” by Serge Gainsbourg. Ok, so if I am feeling moody, I like to listen to Erik Satie.


I love this quote, “Have you ever noticed shitty people are always having problems?” What a great way to sum up that phenomenon. What an inspiring, easygoing interview!


Great interview! I’m in the middle of framing one of her prints that I received as a gift. Can’t wait to hang it in my apartment and admire it everyday.

Emily @ Peck Life

Ahh, it’s so nice to finally put a face to a name! I too, have loved many of her pins and work on pinterest. It’s just BEAUTIFUL!

Miz. November

Bravo! Bravo! As always, Michelle, totally entertaining and insightful interview.

Barbara Pagani

I was so happy to see this interview to get a closer look into Michelle’s studio. I too fell in love with Michelle’s work some time ago and now she is part of the group of artist that I look to when I need some eye candy. Not only is her work refreshing. colourful but playful. She inspires me.

ri gal

Wow. Those colours! I remember when I was 13 or 14 I did a painting that looks similar to her style, with a lot of those vivid but soft colours. What if I could work as one of her ‘studio buddies’…
P.S. I’m genuinely curious- how do you ‘be a force of positivity’ in other people’s lives?

Lisa from Wicked & Weird

Really fun interview – usually I start scanning the photos after answer 3 or 4 (I have a very full google reader) but I actually wish you had more question for Michelle! Super fun, and LOVE her stuff.

Veronica Rivera Lima

Am I crazy or did you once tell me you were starting your own graphic design company. Did I have too many cocktails?? Your paintings are um….amazing! I am totally inspired by this interview and definitely look up to you Michelle Armas!


Your paintings are so beautiful. I love all of them. Hope to be buying a few soon. You are a fantastic artist love all the colors.