Artist Proof Interview with Artist: Melissa Contreras
Global Location: U.S
Melissa Contreras is an illustrator based out of Santa Monica. A Central California native, she moved to L.A. to attend UCLA and received a BA in Fine Art. As well as showing her work in galleries and boutiques internationally, she has just finished illustrating her first children’s books. Melissa loves to draw from dreams and imagination, working mostly with gouache and acrylics, sometimes applying them to sculpted forms and other media. Her latest pursuit is a jewelry line based off of her illustrations.
AP: How long have you been making art for and what lead you to start?
MC: For as long as I can remember. I loved drawing and doing crafty things. Every summer I would be engrossed in a different craft: God’s eyes, friendship bracelets, seed bead bracelets, stained glass ornaments, dough ornaments, weavings, tie-dyed clothes—& always, always drawing.
AP: Where do you currently live and work ? And how does this influence your work?
MC: I live in Santa Monica. Born and raised in California, I think the environment and weather has been a huge influence and inspiration on my work. I love being out in nature, be it in the mountains or on the beach, it is my favorite place to be.
AP: Did you have formal training if so what? If your self taught can you tell us what you prefer about being a self taught artist vs having formal training?
MC: I have a BA in FIne Art from UCLA. But I am always open to learning and growing. It’s important to always be aware. I also went to an elementary school where we had art class once a week. I learned about perspective, negative space, composition - the most valuable art classes I have ever had. A lot about being an artist is about seeing. Having an open mind, seeing things exactly as they are and not having any preconceived notions. Formal training or not, my skills really improved once I finally just started believing in myself and practiced, practiced, practiced.
AP: Can you tell us about where you make your work is it in your house, a studio , etc.,. and how it effects your work?
MC: I work from home. I usually take my sketchbook around with me and sketch whenever I get a chance. I do all my painting at my dining room table. I dream of the day when I can have my own little private studio to just engross myself in the creative process.
AP: What are some of you favorite design projects/exhibitions you have worked on to date?
MC: Illustrating the children’s book “Butterfly’s Circus” was quite an experience. It was hard work, but I learned tons about the process and I love the finished product. It was the first time I ever carried through characters in more than 1 image. In all of my paintings I’ve always started from scratch. I hardly even look at any of my other works as reference. This time I HAD to. The characters had to look consistent through each spread. Sanrio’s “3 Apples - A celebration of 35 years of Hello Kitty” was an amazing exhibition to be able to participate in. It was at Royal T Gallery in Culver City. The art show was curated by Jaime of JapanLA. The event was amazing and it was almost surreal—I’ve been a fan of Sanrio & Hello Kitty my entire life.Of course, having my work sold in Target was pretty great, too. I love POKETO and I am so grateful they invited me to participate in the project. It was something so relatable, that I felt like people kind of got what I was trying to do and where I’m trying to go with my art.
AP: What is your medium of choice?
MC: I love painting in gouache. I consider it a cross between watercolors and acrylic. It has a wide range of opacity depending on how much water you use. It cna be very flat and opague if you use less water and really light and blendable like watercolors if you use more water.
AP: What is the relationship between technique and content in your work?
MC: I think the flow of my lines and the colors I use as well as the way they interact together is for the most part a reflection of the content. Words that come to mine when thinking of both: harmony, tranquility, peace and acceptance. Even if the content is depicting a conflict there is always a sense of peace and acceptance that travels through.
AP: In what direction would you like to see your work going over the next five years?
MC: I would love to grow my jewelry line. I envision incorporating more media, such as porcelain and resin with semi-precious metal and gemstones and somehow incorporate my painting more. I would also like to branch out and grow more as a brand.
AP: What forth coming projects and or exhibitions do you have scheduled for 2011?
MC: I just finished having an amazing show (TigerBunny) at Leanna Lin’s Wonderland in Eagle Rock. I invited a few of my artist friends to participate and it became a mini pop-up shop within Leanna’s cute boutique. I will be showing my jewelry at the POOL Tradeshow in Las Vegas in February.
AP: Take us on a guided tour through a day in your life as an artist.
MC: I love days I get to work on my art. A lot of trying to be a successful artist is being a smart business person. There’s a lot of time spent doing more administrative things so I find myself on the computer a lot. I also try and take some time to get moving—go for a walk or take a dance class. I am a total night owl & a homebody. Most of my creative work gets accomplished after the sun goes down. I love staying up late and painting or carving wax for my jewelry.
AP: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions.