By Lisa Deaderick The San Diego Union-Tribune
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Artist Kelly Mello is the author of the book "Becoming," which is based on her own creative visions of female empowerment.
While art has always been a part of Kelly Mellos' life, she started drawing from her high chair and got her first easel at 4 years old, the town where she grew up in northern Wisconsin didn't offer much in the way of thinking about a career as an artist.
She went to school and majored in business, but was sure to take classes in art history and going to art museums. After 13 years working in business, she started dreaming about her first love: living her life as a professional, full-time artist.
"After college, while working in the business world, I took drawing classes in whatever city I was in: New Orleans, Milwaukee, San Diego," she says. "It was not until 2007 ... that I began to dream again about becoming a professional artist. I made the leap in 2008 and have never looked back."
She began training at Watts Atelier of the Arts in Encinitas, where she soon began teaching, and now creates commissioned portraits, shows her non-commissioned work in shows, and completed her first book, "Becoming," based on her own creative visions of female empowerment.
Mellos, 43, is a fine artist, author and speaker who lives in Vista with her husband, Nick. She took some time to talk about her work, her book, and how she really enjoys the time her work gives her to be alone.
Q: How would you describe the kind of art you create?
A: I create contemporary representational art, grounded in the skill and traditions of the atelier (workshop or studio) movement of 19th-century France. I paint portrait, figurative, landscape and still-life paintings that are built upon solid, freehand drawing, and end up moving a bit toward impressionism. I also create portrait and figurative drawings. Both my paintings and drawings are made from life and/or from compositions compiled from various photos, sketches and color notes.
Q: What led you to this form of visual art?
A: I always say that I am naturally attracted to the most difficult work! Currently, I work in oils and am working on peace in the Middle East (for real, through a wonderful organization called Hands of Peace). Well, we all know how difficult the peace work is, but what many don't know is that oil painting is seen as the most difficult medium, one that takes at least 10 years to get a handle on, and I found this to be true. I do find, though, that doing the most difficult work is always the most beautiful, rich and rewarding.
Q: What inspires you in your work?
A: I am deeply moved by the beauty that exists all around us and within us. I am enormously grateful each day to capture this beauty and to create connection and meaning through it.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT VISTA ... North County, is rich with beauty. With all of the different ecosystems and terrain, it is a wonderful place to plein air paint. The hiking is equally rewarding, and the beaches are stunning. There are several spiritual centers that open for public meditation and contemplation, and it is also nice to see the cultural scene continuing to grow. In addition, there is a music scene worth noting, including Summergrass in Vista.
Q: What are you trying to express through your art?
A: My aim is to create work that is both beautiful and shows insight into the life force of my subjects. When a viewer makes this kind of connection with my work, I think it results in a deep reverence for not only my subjects, but for all of humanity, as well as the natural world.
Q: You also lead workshops? What can you tell us about these?
A: I create workshops for various groups, including companies, nonprofits, schools and private groups. My mission is to channel the power of art to break down barriers, teach risk-taking, bring people together and push audience members to reach their creative potential. The workshops are uniquely designed by me, based on the goals of the client. For example, I did a workshop for a large company that was looking to inspire their employees, all who were creating in a different medium. I came out dancing on the stage, moved the audience through a lecture on the universal principals of design, pulled a random audience member up on stage to paint her portrait, and ended in a creative visualization exercise. All of this was coordinated to music, so it was very special.
Q: Tell us about your book, "Becoming." What is it about?
A: "Becoming" is a book both written and illustrated by me, featuring 47 original oil paintings, based on simple images that came to me through creative visualizations. The visions are both whimsical and childlike, and contain deeper philosophical themes. They feature an empowered female character who bravely forages her way on a journey of self that brings up themes of belonging, connection, a search for meaning, loss, and a simultaneous growing comfort with the creative process.
Q: On the web page for your book, you mention that "cultivating our creative potential" is a requirement. Why do you think creativity is so important to humanity?
A: When people learn to tap into their innate potential to create, they are in alignment with the natural workings of the universe. This alignment results in the greatest human fulfillment, as well as peace in the world. When we learn to live in this very natural and empowered place, we not only become the people we are meant to be, but we offer gifts to the world that allow for harmony and progression.
Q: When you think about cultivating your own creative potential, what has that looked like for you in practice?
A: I have been meditating daily for almost 12 years. This meditation practice has taught me the deepest form of listening, how to get quiet and tap into the source of all things. This is where my ideas come from, as well as the kindness and compassion that I'd like to give to the world. I understand what is true and authentic for me and what my gifts are that I can offer the world.
Q: What has your work taught you about yourself?
A: I have learned to trust myself, my own gifts and instincts, and to know what opportunities/directions are right for me. I have learned to trust in my inner voice, knowing that it is leading me toward growth. I understand where to put my energy.
Q: What is the best advice you've ever received?
A: I was told by an artist in Santa Fe that if I took the path of art, I would have no regrets as it is the journey itself that is so enriching. I have found this to be so true.
Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?
A: I am mostly alone during the day! The more public part of what I do, along with much of the service work I am involved in, requires another part of myself. Public speaking, leading meetings, running my business, and communicating what I am making or the power of art to the world, all pushes me in a way that is very different. And I can be very expressive and love to laugh. However, most of my days are filled with the quiet artistic work that I love, and my ideal day is in the studio, alone.
Q: Describe your ideal San Diego weekend.
A: The weekend would be filled with my interests: meditation, art, music, nature and giving back. Perhaps I would start the weekend with a meditation practice with my Sangha (a Buddhist monastic community), then head to the San Diego Museum of Art, followed by a walk around Balboa Park. I would enjoy a dinner downtown, either with my husband or a friend, followed by a performance by the San Diego Symphony. The following day might be spent engaged in a service project, then sketching at the ocean and watching the sunset, or boogie boarding, if the water is warm enough.