Thrilled to finally announce the launch of the MELSAYS PODCAST!
My goal with this podcast is to bring to life the 5 Questions With interview series from this very website and to celebrate women. I want to give a platform and a voice to some of the most amazing women out there. Whether an athlete, an entrepreneur, an artist, a community leader or a woman with a remarkable journey. I hope that these women and their stories serve as inspiration for you the listener.
My very first episode is with mountain biker and artist, Micayla Gatto. I hope you’ll enjoy our chat!
The podcast is just one click away or you can also listen to it below. If you enjoyed our chat, make sure you subscribe to the MELSAYS PODCAST here -> iTunes and Google Play.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time watching my grandma paint. I was always fascinated by the different techniques she used, the vibrant colours, etc. So much so that she eventually offered to teach me and for me to take painting lessons. Though I’m not particularly gifted as an artist, I have always liked drawing, painting and expressing myself in a variety of creative ways. It’s inspiring to hear about women like Toronto’s Sarah Phelps, who have pursued their dreams of being an artist. I’m thrilled that she took time away from her paint brushes to answer a few of my questions in my latest 5 Questions With below.
1) What first got you interested in art?
I’ve been an artist my entire life. When I was younger, I focused on drawing portraits and had very little interest in painting. It wasn’t until about 6 years ago that I tried my hand in abstract painting, and haven’t looked back!
2) Why did you want to pursue abstract vs. other forms of art?
Abstract painting gives me the freedom of expression, to use my emotion and just go with the flow. When I create, I have no plan in place, and rarely know what the painting will look like in the end. The less I think about the outcome, the better the painting turns out!
3) What are some of the main messages you try to convey through your artwork?
My paintings have good energy and positive vibes. I want my pieces to inspire others and bring them pure happiness, joy, and inspiration. When I look at my own paintings, I always feel something (as opposed to seeing something). It is up to the viewer to determine the story behind the painting, and what it means to them.
4) What is it like to be an artist in a place like Toronto? Is there a supportive art scene here?
I believe that it isn’t the place that determines your success, it’s your motivation, drive, and perseverance. The Toronto art scene is decent and becoming more supportive. That said, it’s important to put yourself out there to get noticed, go after the opportunities that you desire, and to continuously network and connect with people worldwide if you want to move forward with your art career. I sell my art to people all across the board, from Toronto to Vancouver, Italy, Bermuda, Switzerland, Indiana, etc, so it’s not all about where you are located.
5) Where would you like to see your artwork take you one day?
Although I am currently successful in my art career, I want to push the boundaries, travel, and I’m determined to make it big as a well known artist! I have a plan in place and executing it as we speak!
I have a thing for tattoos and I have a whole lot of respect for tattoo artists. Jessica Mascitti Ellis is a tattoo artist based out of Brooklyn, New York. I found her work via Instagram a year ago and have been following her career ever since. Her black and white work and all of the portraits she does are simply stunning. She has a unique way of blending colors, her detail work is amazing and has a real talent for making every tattoo look so great on the skin. In my opinion, she’s one of the top female tattoo artists in the US right now. She currently tattoos at Graceland in Brooklyn and East Side Ink also located in Brooklyn. You can see some of the beautiful work she’s done here. Hope you’ll enjoy my 5 Questions With Jessica Mascitti Ellis:
1) When did you start tattooing? What made you want to become a tattoo artist?
In June of 2008 I started my first session on my first tattoo; a back piece by the incredibly talented Josh Lord. I fell in love with the method and ritual of the art of tattooing. I had never once felt beautiful until I adorned Josh’s beautiful work on my skin. I learned then that tattoos are magic.
At the time, I was a freelance animator as well as a bartender and I wasn’t entirely pleased with either vocation. One of my closest friends, Bethany, planted the seed. She suggested trying to get an apprenticeship at Josh Lord’s shop East Side Ink. I didn’t feel worthy enough to be a tattoo artist, let alone one that would learn under the legendary artists at East Side Ink, but I thought, fuck it, what do I have to lose?
I introduced my artwork to Josh along with my intentions, and to my surprise he wasn’t against the idea! A year later I was in the shop as both Josh Lord and Patrick Conlon’s apprentice.
2) What inspires your art?
My artistic roots stem from my love of animation and comic books. Their influence never left my hand. Despite my best efforts to “mature” my style, you can always see the residue of anime and American comic book art in every piece I do. My current inspiration however is Bollywood! All those saturated colors in every shot and scene! The beautiful women!! I can’t take it!!
3) How much has the perception women tattoo artists changed over the past couple of years?
I was lucky to come into tattooing at a time when ladies started to dominate the industry. Most of my tattoo idols are women, and I share those idols with my male colleagues. I know that my lady predecessors dealt with some serious bullshit from their male peers to pave the way for the next generation of lady tattooers, and I worship them even more for it.
4) What in your opinion makes a good tattoo?
A composition that moves with the wearers anatomy and compliments the muscle structure is what creates a beautiful tattoo. Even the smallest tattoo should glide over the body like a silk scarf.
5) What have been some of the most memorable pieces you’ve done thus far in your career?
The pieces that I revisit are those that have accidentally evolved my style. It’s always the ones that force you out of your comfort zone that are most memorable.
Langley Foxis a not only a beautiful model but she is also an incredibly talented artist. For the past couple of years, I’ve been following her career via social media. She modelled for some of my favorite designers including Toronto’s Beaufille and has the raddest personal style – she’s always wearing Pamela Love jewels and has coolest combination of rock n’ roll and bohemian clothes. I love her Instagram feed because it is where she often publishes some of her latest artwork. I think all of her sketches are stunning, so much so that this past spring, I got one of her flower drawings tattooed on my arm (you can see it here) by my favorite tattoo artist Dr. Woo. I am extremely touched that this hardworking artist took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions. Here’s my 5 Questions With Langley Fox:
1) When did you start making art? Do you recall the first drawing that really marked you and made you think this was something you wanted to pursue?
I have always drawn since I was able to hold a pencil, like most kids I believe. I know that as a child I drew star people everywhere because it was something I was good at, I don’t think I thought they were remarkable or anything but I enjoyed making them. I decided I definitely wanted to be an artist the moment I realized you could make a “grown up” career out of it, which was around kindergarten.
2) What inspires your art?
I get inspired by all sorts of things, such as visual imagery, conversations with friends and family, nature, dreams… Really any life experience can stem an idea.
3) In addition to being an artist, you are also a model. How do these two careers influence each other?
In my opinion these careers are almost complete opposites. Drawing stimulates the introvert in me and keeps me focused and creative, whereas modeling forces me to be an extrovert, be spontaneous, and go with the flow. Obviously I feel much safer as an artist but modeling has pushed me out of my comfort zone which I think is important to do in ones life. I now feel like they somehow balance each other out and I’m inspired by both.
4) Can you talk to us about your style evolution from your teens until now? How has working as a model, traveling and shooting with different brands and designers influenced your style?
I have always approached dressing as another creative outlet; my body is just another canvas for me that I get to have fun with from one day to the next. It really isn’t about designer names or brands (not that I don’t love some of them), it’s more about having fun and dressing like a different character. My mind state on the matter really hasn’t changed since I was a kid, just the quality of clothes and skills to put them together.
5) What have been some of your most memorable moments thus far in your career?
The artist commissions I have completed, such as Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton! For modeling it has been working with Michel Comte and his team, they are true artists themselves and I am honored to add to their vision.
I first heard of the southern California artist Skye Walker a few years ago. I believe I found his website through a Liquid Salt mag post. I was immediately drawn to his art because of the beautiful ocean and nature themes. The mural Skye is standing in front of on the above photo was the first piece I saw of his and absolutely fell in love with it. Yes, I may have a little bias for redheads but his art really spoke to me, it made me feel peaceful. Over the years, I’ve followed his journey and am stoked on all the success he’s been getting as of late. I can’t wait to go back to Leucadia in a few weeks to see this amazing mural in person! I hope you will be as inspired as I am when you read the interview below. Here are my 5 Questions With Skye Walker:
1) When did you start making art? Do you recall the first drawing that really marked you and made you think this was what you wanted to do for a living?
I always say that I picked up a crayon and started drawing and never stopped, but that is pretty true. I was always drawing, doodling and escaping into fun worlds with my art as a kid. Hundreds of hours of drawing in my room and loving every minute of it. I remember the moment I wanted to be an artist for life and for a career. We were living in Gardnerville, Nevada at the time and I was 8 years old. I had drawn some cartoons of Garfield the cat that I thought were awesome, so I sent them to Garfield’s creator, Jim Davis. A few weeks later I got a letter from Mr. Davis (or his secretary) but he signed it, and it said he received the drawings and he liked them a lot! My jaw hit the floor and I was blown away that he liked my art enough to write a letter back. So from that moment on I decided to be an artist for life and if I could, for a career. I remember the exact moment I had that realization too, sitting at the breakfast table.
2) What inspires your art? Your art revolves a lot around ocean and nature themes, why is that?
Growing up If I wasn’t drawing, I was outside playing. We lived in quite a few places growing up like California, Nevada, Spain, Hawaii, Colorado and Oregon. My sister and I were introduced to nature and camping and being in our natural surroundings by our parents. So, naturally, I gravitated to things like surfing, snowboarding and biking. Luckily we didn’t have iPhones, computers or the internet then. We never got a Nintendo (even though I wanted one) but I’m glad I didn’t get it.
So being in nature inspired a lot of my art, as well as figure drawing and the human form. I do mix the elements of nature with the human body a lot. Usually the female figure represents mother earth and her interaction with our surroundings whether it’s subtle or more prominent. I think if I had grown up in an urban setting my art would certainly reflect those themes. But they reflect nature, the oceans, mountains, skies and trees- but I certainly try to present them in different ways and I’m always trying to evolve my style and themes.
3) As years go by, how do you push yourself to keep growing as an artist?
This is a great question. Just as we all have to keep growing and pushing ourselves as humans as we strive to survive and adapt, artists have to do the same with their art. Case in point, I was working in the Outdoor Sports industry as an Art Director and was pretty burnt out with the same old graphic design projects. But that job security was hard to leave, until I was let go along with 35 other people when the economy hit the fan. While this was frustrating, it freed me from the confines of that job artistically and let me focus on my own art and projects… but it really opened things up for me to return to doing large scale murals.
I had done a lot of murals in high school and in college, but I didn’t see a career in it at all. It was fun, but a lot of work. Flash forward 9 years and my artist friend Alex Krastev referred Whole Foods to me as they were building a new store in my town of Encinitas. They contacted me about doing murals and that kick started a fire for me to focus on murals. Since then I have completed about 23+ murals from San Diego to LA to Denver to Austin and back again.
Murals allow me to push myself as an artist all the time. To figure out spacial issues with large scale art that I can’t do on a small scale or on the computer. It’s also like solving a problem each time too, what paints will be best, what colors, how do I reach those heights, how do I get the scale I need and host of other issues… but I love it because it’s always challenging and it’s always pushing me artistically to create new ideas to work with the space that’s given to me.
So if my friend hadn’t referred me to Whole Foods, I would probably still be doing smaller scale paintings and graphic design (which I still do) and not thinking of murals. But since that happened, it opened my eyes to new horizons with art. Murals are an amazing way to bring art to the public eye and change the image of a neighborhood. But the best part about it is that it’s never easy and it forces me to push myself artistically every time. It’s easy to sit at a computer and research ideas, new ways of thinking and such… but getting out and thinking on your feet and creating with your hands does wonders for my thought process and gets me out of my comfort zone. That’s when the real creativity begins.
4) You’ve had the chance to create murals and work on special projects with a lot of renowned clients from Whole Foods to Rip Curl and Nike, what have been some of your most memorable projects to date?
My first real job out of college was at Rip Curl as their graphic designer for apparel. This was memorable because I’d never designed a t-shirt before, so I had to fake it until I figured it out. But that job was rad, made some great friends, went to Australia twice and surfed my brains out. Also designed a couple thousand t-shirts and other graphics, really helped me cut my teeth on some fast paced graphic design work.
I’d have to say lately though, the mural jobs & projects all have such memorable situations and experiences, it’s awesome. I had an assistant in Austin, Texas who turned out to be an ex-convict with crazy stories. Did a mural in Denver in between a blizzard praying the paint would stick to the wall, it went from 60 degrees to 7 then to 40 and back again. Since the murals are so big, everything that’s involved to create them is so much bigger which makes it all very memorable.
I just finished a mural for The Hub, Hillcrest Marketplace in San Diego and a woman walked up and said: “This is so wonderful, you’ve lifted the spirit of this whole neighborhood!”. I was very touched by that, she truly meant what she said and that made me feel like what I was doing was good and important. Ten minutes later a car sped by and a guy yelled: “Looks terrible!”. The Yin & Yang of it all, which makes creating murals so memorable. I can’t get those experiences in my home office!
5) For those who don’t know, you are also a surfer. Where are some of your favorite places to go surf?
Ah yes, surfing. A real love in my life. There is nothing quite like it and I don’t know where I’d be without it. I love taking surf trips whenever I can and experiencing new places and waves. I surf my local breaks pretty often and I try to get up and down the coast a bit to get out of the neighborhood and surf some different spots. I’ve learned as I get older that my favorite place to surf is wherever I am at that moment, whether it’s 2 foot slop or 6 feet and glassy. Just being in the ocean is wonderful.
Many of you have been asking about my new Dr. Woo tattoo that I got at Shamrock Social Club in Hollywood two weeks ago. It has finally healed so I’m thrilled to post some pics of it. I decided to get a peony for my mom that was inspired by artwork from Langley Fox. I had the opportunity to first get tattooed by Dr. Woo in June of last year. He is hands down the raddest tattoo artist I’ve ever met. I was so thrilled that he found time in his schedule to make this super significant tattoo happen for me. Growing up my mother had peony bushes all around the house. They would always bloom right around my birthday and her birthday (we’re only a few days apart!) in June. She would always put some bouquets around the house, in my bedroom or would give us some to bring to our school teachers. Every year, without fail, this beautiful flower came out right in time for our birthdays. I’ve always associated this flower with my mom. So instead of getting her name tattooed, I wanted to get something just as beautiful as she is and that would remind me constantly of my hero. Thanks so much Brian for gifting me this beautiful piece of art, I’m forever grateful! I love you mom!