Featured Artist, Shannon Mello
Artist, specializing in Encaustics
Owner of Shannon Mello Arts
Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA
A message from the artist…
I’ve been creating art my whole life. I have worked with countless media, however, it wasn’t until working with encaustics that I felt I had finally found my niche. With encaustics, you need to absolutely surrender to imperfection. It is essentially painting with melted beeswax, and then fusing (or melting) the layers to the previous layer. You never know the results you will have, and each piece is one of a kind. You will notice the drifting-like effects with some of the colors in the paintings. This effect comes from the fusing process, which is a wild card each and every time.
I am inspired by nature and everything in it. I have two amazing children and a husband who also share my love of the outdoors. We emphasize the arts in our family and inspire our children to take risks and create with whatever is available, from pine cones to canvas. During the day I am a local middle school art teacher. By night, after the kids are sleeping, I hop myself up on coffee and create.
I hope this artwork inspires you to take risks and find your own means of creation. Maybe it’s visually, mentally, spiritually, or physically. Maybe it’s with pine cones. Whatever you do, do it with love.
Shannon Mello Encaustic Artist
Interview with Shannon
Who is Shannon Mello? Tell us about your background, where you grew up and your life as a creative.
I grew up in a very small town called Marine City in the lovely state of Michigan. Art had always been a part of my life, as my mother was an artist for a living. Through high school and college I would often assist her with painting murals in homes and businesses as a side gig. I went to college at Western Michigan University and took many art classes but my degree had been in Business Management, hoping to maybe own my own business one day. After graduating, I moved to Colorado where I had enrolled in the Master of Arts in Teaching program through Colorado College. I became an art teacher and have been teaching art at the middle school level. Until Covid. I am currently homeschooling our two young children, placing my energy with them and my art. It has been a wild ride and I’m loving every minute of it.
Where did you art story begin?
At a very young age we were always creating. We watched our mother who used to paint names on the backs of boats. After that she moved on to furniture and murals.
Where did you learn your craft?
My mother, but also mostly self-taught. My style is very different from hers. When I try things, I tend to go all-in. I could not tell you how many different materials I have used. I consider myself a lifelong learner, taking classes whenever I can. I learned encaustics, however, from a wonderful local artist who was introducing the medium to local art teachers.
Tell us about your art business, Shannon Mello Arts. How did you get started and what has it brought into your life?
Shannon Mello Arts became solidified during Covid. I honestly did not think it would be possible to make a living selling art. This perspective has since changed and I am going to do everything I can to succeed now that I see it may be possible.
Tell us more about how nature influences your work aesthetic. How do your ideas formulate before you begin to physically create your work?
The shapes in nature are some of my biggest inspirations. I tend to do very organic, flowing shapes and lines. Sometimes, however, it may be a color combination that I think of. This happens in the most unusual times, where I’ll need to write down my idea before it escapes me. Which happens very quickly.
When starting to work with encaustics in your studio to make a new artwork, what is your process? Take us step by step.
Before I begin a piece, I will check my sketchbook journal. My encaustics are done on cradled birch panels, which I tend to pick out whichever size I’m feeling at the time. Encaustic is a mixture of beeswax and damar resin which comes from trees. I keep this mixture on my art table melted in a pot, similar to a crock pot. I use a brush to apply a thin layer of medium to the wood panel. The wax hardens very quickly. From here, I will use a torch to carefully melt the layer I just applied with a brush. Repeat this step maybe four more times with clear medium, and then I begin to add color. The encaustic paints consist of encaustic medium and pigments. One of my favorite things about encaustic is the fact that you can add so many other materials within the layers of wax. I embed oil paints, pastels, charcoal, paper, ink, and even minerals such as mica.
What are some of the best parts about creating art?
I can communicate what is in my mind for something others can see. My husband is an amazing speaker. He is articulate and to the point. I wish I had this gift. Sometimes creatives tend to be random and abstract. That’s exactly what I am. Want to know what I’m thinking? Look at my art.
Where does your inspiration come from?
The natural world.
How has art played a role in your life?
It has played a role for my entire life so far. Whether it is teaching middle schoolers, or creating my own. Now, since starting my own business as an artist, I feel it will have an even bigger role. The best is yet to come.
What new projects or collections are you working on right now?
I am working on incorporating more natural materials directly into my work. Whether it be iron flakes, mica, dirt. I want my landscapes to reflect what is actually found in them.
Tell us about your artist commission work. What artworks can you create and tell us how that process works.
I have had some amazing commissions lately. I try to emphasize that artists have a specific style, and familiarize the potential client with my work. I am finishing up a very large commission right now, and it has been one of my favorites. The client knows my style, gave me color samples of her room and pretty much said “have at it”. That type of situation cannot be beat.
What are some standout points/people in your life that guided you to where you are now in your artistic life?
Honestly, the people I have met along the way. My friends and family have endless encouragement. It’s a salt and peppering of good fortune from so many people in my life. My sister, Holly, is one of my biggest cheerleaders. She’s not afraid to give me constructive feedback which is so refreshing, because it seems sometimes that most people tell you what they think you want to hear.
What is your favorite art tool to use when creating?
Good old pencil. I’m a doodler. I doodle in meetings, when I’m on the phone, or when I’m waiting for something. Pencils are always around and they are the prelude of something greater.
Posted December 2020