An elementary school teacher by profession, Weatherly Melchers Stroh has transitioned back to one of her passions — full-time painting.
It was a good decision. Not only is she making a living with her work, but she also was named winner of the 2014 Michigan Great Artist online contest and earned the Chairman’s Award at Birmingham’s Our Town art show last fall.
Being a full-time painter is really not such a stretch for Stroh, who has embraced art her whole life and is the great-grand-niece of well-known American Impressionist painter Gari Melchers, whose paintings are in the collection of the Detroit Institute of Art. Her mother, Susanne Stroh, was a noted Detroit interior designer and is an artist as well. And on top of that, she’s the fifth generation in the Stroh’s brewing family.
Weatherly Stroh, 41, paints what she loves — horses, dogs and landscapes — all from her naturally lighted third-floor studio in her home in Birmingham.
Her love of horses stems from childhood and growing up on her family’s horse farm in Metamora. She commuted daily to Cranbrook for high school with other students from her area.
“We lived in a farmhouse that was more than 100 years old,” she says. “I rode my first horse at age 4 or 5 and was competing when I was 7 or 8. In high school, I was the Reserve National Champion for my division of hunters and jumpers. I took a break for 17 years and then I placed sixth nationally.”
After teaching for a few years in Colorado, Stroh decided to move back to Michigan in 2010 and devote her energy to painting full time. The mainstay of her business is from commissions to paint dogs and other animals. She often works from photographs, but loves to meet her subjects in person so she can get to know their personalities. That spark is what she captures so vividly in her well-composed portraits.
“My clients seem to love the paintings,” Stroh says. “I did a portrait of one woman’s dog last year, and the dog has since passed away. She wanted to share how much they appreciated the painting now that he was gone. It’s sad, but nice because I captured his spirit.”
You have a legacy of art in your family. Does it feel natural to you?
I feel like it’s in my blood. I had never thought about it much, but now that I’m painting full time, I think it is my calling.
Did you ever think you’d make a living painting?
I’m lucky to be making a living as a full-time artist. It felt unattainable a few years ago. Never in a million years did I think I’d make money, but slowly and surely I have grown my business and name, and I hope it will continue to grow.
What was your commission for the White Horse Inn in Metamora?
The White Horse Inn was the oldest restaurant in Michigan. It will reopen in November. The painting — larger than normal for me — is of a fox hunt. It was a very fun project and opportunity.
What has changed in the art world of today?
Most of my business comes through the Internet and social media as well as word of mouth. Being able to post paintings and have my work seen online is amazing for exposure and marketing. Most of my work is from out-of-state clients.
How does it feel to be back in Michigan?
Some people think it’s crazy to come back, but I think it’s an exciting time to be here. There’s so much positive energy in Detroit, so many creative businesses, restaurants, galleries, studios and museums. It feels very vibrant to me when I go to Detroit. When I was growing up, we would never go.
What’s your passion?
I love anything outdoorsy or athletic, like Nordic skiing or tennis. I like to travel, and I love to read and have quiet time. Yet I’m usually up for any sort of adventure. And I love horses and their personalities. Growing up with them, I always had a connection with them.
What do you like about Birmingham?
I love the convenience of it. I can walk to town for great restaurants, and there are great trails around Quarton Lake to take the dogs. I like going to Commonwealth for lunch and walking at Cranbrook. And it’s close to Downtown Detroit, too, if you want to explore.
How did you get the name Weatherly?
I was named after an America’s Cup winner in the 1960s. My parents were on Lake Michigan and saw the boat and there you go! NS
— Interviewed by Keri Guten Cohen
You can contact Weatherly Stroh at (970) 376-2356 or go to www.weatherlystroh.com.