We’re kicking off a new feature here on the blog called “Artist Thursday” where I introduce an artist whose work and life inspires me. I hope you will enjoy the sprinkles of magic they share with the world.
So without further ado, let me introduce you to Melissa Townsend. I stumbled upon her Instagram feed (@melissatownsendart) one day where she shares glimpses of her adorable and artful life in Halifax, Canada. She moved there from Alberta to get her fine arts degree and today she lives there with her filmmaker and entertainer husband. She recently left a full time graphic design job to be with their 15-month old son and focus on her art. I was instantly smitten by her whimsical and ‘hopeful’ art.
Your owls and close ups of animals are full of attitude. As soon as I think I have a favorite, you create a new one that I fall for even harder. Where do these come from?
Painting the owl is enjoyable for me. I think it’s because I liken owls to people, there are billions of people with all sorts of personality and character, quirks, insight and stories. So it’s easy to keep painting this subject because of how I relate owls to people, family members, friends etc. Names can also inspire me to create a character or owl. I love the meaning behind names. I find that some part of us always becomes the meaning of our names, whether we notice or not. Basically I just love creating characters and I don’t see this ending anytime soon.
What is the common thread across your painting series – from the raw yet hopeful “Finding Home” series to the more romantic owls that are just bursting with color and character?
I think the common thread behind all of my work is this constant drum of “don’t give up, dream big dreams, love one another, hold on to your promises, hope not lost.” It’s like I feel this heartbeat or breath going into the work I do – all very vital things we need to have in us to live, constant, subtle always there. For me there is always an evolution happening, whether it is felt or seen in my work I can’t say, but I must work that momentum out at my own pace. I don’t want to rush it. I still have more work to do with the “Finding Home” series (see Day Pass above and The Celebration below). It’s still in there, waiting to be developed.
Now that you are a mother, when do you find time to paint with a 15-month old son?
At art school I would usually wait for the ‘perfect magical inspiration’ moment to hit me before I could work on any art projects. Now that I’m busy with a toddler, art deadlines, shows, and life in general, when I have time to work the inspiration must flow immediately. If I’m lacking inspiration I take a quick walk, it clears my head and usually helps get the creative flow moving. With things being quite busy I paint during naps and into the night as often as possible. But what most often happens is that my parents and my husband’s parents take my little guy whenever they can to help me out. Bless their hearts. It’s wonderful!
Leaving my graphic design job was an important step for me. We must allow ourselves time and space for personal growth, character building, and a pushing forward momentum in order to see the dreams in our hearts start to bloom. I believe that seeing our dreams come alive’ is a very real tangible thing. And I think it has a lot to do with not letting go of a promise held within. For me, ‘going for it’ as an artist has been mostly about working hard and not giving up.
Did having a child influence your art?
I’m sure that having a child will influence my work. I expect that it will start to show soon, somehow. My work is pretty playful and childlike already, but I’m sure I will start to see some shifts.
Did moving across from West to East Canada influenced your art, and if so, how?
Moving across the country has been an incredible gift; the east coast has wonderfully influenced my entire life and Halifax has truly been the perfect place for me to settle, grow, learn and emerge as a person and as an artist. Halifax – the small city with a big creative heartbeat – I’m so in love with this city. Its slightly slower pace has given me time to catch that extra breath that I needed to get started as an artist.
How do you fill up on your creative juices? What inspires you?
So many different things. Excitement and hope, if you can imagine the feeling being tangible. Dreaming crazy big dreams and journeying through faith kinda go together for me. Interior design, beautiful photography, other artist’s work, pattern, colour, fabric, the sky, the plains of Alberta (and now the coast of Nova Scotia), a special moment, somebody’s story, music and knowing that I’m doing what my heart desires. When I work hard, it inspires me to want to work harder. I guess to sum it up, all of life inspires me and I never know when inspiration will hit.
What are you currently working on?
I am gearing up for a show this October which will feature more owls and animals. My hope is that in each show and individual painting, the viewer will always see something new and fresh in the work. I can’t share anything about this new work yet, you’ll have to wait and see what comes this autumn. And of course for a little extra fun I usually have a few commissions on the go.
My current commissions are landscapes; I love the challenge and freedom in doing these! The ‘painting in progress’ that you can see on Instagram, is one of the landscape commissions and I will be certain to post a photo once it is finished and given to my clients. The painting is based off of my client’s honeymoon in Italy. When they asked me for a painting I immediately saw (in my mind’s eye) what I wanted for them. Now I just need to make it work! Ha! And Dagny, she has just arrived in California, soaking up the sun, meeting new people, exploring new places and ideas. A client wanted to give her as a gift.
Melissa is represented at three galleries in Nova Scotia: The Argyle Fine Art Gallery and Harvest Gallery, and her next show is in October in Halifax, Canada. She accepts commissions but there is a wait list so contact her ahead of time. Visit her website to see her full body of work.