I look forward to seeing Melanie Roach's work pop up on my Instagram feed, and can always tell it's her art based on the marks and palette. Even if there is a common thread running through her work, in terms of marks or colors -- there is a world of difference from each piece to the next, all so unique and varied. When I see her work together, the progression seems to grow like a Fibonacci sequence. It's beautiful and I think we'll be seeing more of Melanie on the internet, since everyone I know is a fan of hers (and rightly so). Thank you for sharing your art and life with us today! We're so happy to have you.
Tell us about yourself. How old are your child? Where can we find you?
My name is Melanie and I live in Tasmania, a small island state 240km south of mainland Australia, with my 5 year old son Cairo (also known as 'little bear') and my partner Michael.
In addition to being a stay-at-home mum up until Cairo commenced kindergarten, I am now also a teacher aide and disability support worker, the latter of which is both an overwhelming yet wholly gratifying position.
I am now working on a series of small scale, minimalist, mixed media pieces on watercolor paper - a series borne from a deep affinity with the wild. Tasmania is a state rich in natural wonders, so inspiration is in abundance. A mountain, waterfall or beach is never far away, no matter where you find yourself positioned in the state. When I hit a creative slump I look to the world outside my studio for that little spark that will see me with brush in hand once again.
You can find me:
How has your approach to painting, your processes, medium, or your inspiration changed since having your son?
My love of the arts began during my teen years when I took up creative writing. Writing really resonated with me and I vowed to one day write and publish a book of off-beat poetry or essays on the everyday. When I fell in love, my writing evolved into travel stories as my partner and I drove our way around Australia for 7 months. When we returned Cairo came along and the time to write evaporated. Painting however, has stuck with me off and on over the years, but I never thought it was something I was good enough at, to pursue it further.
Now painting consumes any spare moment I have, and I feel it is those creative sessions spent with Cairo in earlier years, that has taught me to answer the call of my own heart. As Cairo loves to sing and dance, we listen to music, dance around the lounge room and fossick for treasures in the wild. He has forced me to let go and move freely into new experiences and seek opportunities for further growth.
Now I am embracing new mediums and experimenting with different surfaces with a freedom unknown to me before.
Is it easy or difficult for you to find/make time to create? Did you have to give anything up? Do you have advice on what works for you?
Yes and no. My passion for painting and creating only resurfaced (after a considerable absence) when Cairo began kindergarten in 2015. It was during those quiet moments after school drop off that I realized I needed to find myself again, to rediscover what it is that drives me forward, what fuels my heart and ignites my mind with ideas. I had no clue that this search, this self-discovery mission would result in me visiting my local art store and returning home with a bundle of crisp papers and fresh tubes of paint.
When school resumes this year Cairo will attend five days a week, which opens up my art schedule considerably. I hope to use my non-working hours to find a healthy balance that enables me to continue chasing and realizing my dreams, in addition to completing all of those chores that never quite go away! Although in saying that, many of my ideas rise to the surface when I am elbow deep in dish water or pushing the vacuum cleaner around the carpet. Perhaps chores aren't so bad after all?? As I tell Cairo on a daily basis 'Inspiration is all around us.'
How does being an artist make you a better parent to your son? What do you hope they take away from seeing you as an artist doing something that fulfills you?
Since Cairo was born I have tried to remain in the 'now.' Children grow up so darn fast, so I have become increasingly aware of how fleeting and how precious these moments in time truly are. This realization, coupled with the knowledge that Cairo is strongly influenced by how I conduct myself, ensures I stay conscious of being a positive role model. And for me being a positive role model is finding what makes me happy and going for it. Since starting to paint again, I feel I am not only much happier in myself, but have found or discovered the additional resources (ie. patience!) I need to support Cairo through various stages of development.
In seeing me follow my dreams, I hope Cairo will continue to formulate and chase those of his own.
Where do you paint or create? What are your favorite things about your workspace and what would you improve? Do you ever create art with your kids?
Our little slice of paradise is positioned in the heart of a typical suburban neighborhood, so whilst space in limited, I have managed to transform the third bedroom of our home into a quaint studio space. My easel may be squashed between the wall and my timber work table, and my freshly painted works may find themselves beneath said work table or wherever I can find an unused flat surface, but this is my haven, a space imbued with hope and wonder and a room with a generously sized window overlooking flowers and mineral green plant life. Shelves house various jewels collected from nature and artwork sourced from those artists who inspire me, many of whom are mothers and artists just like myself.
It is also a space Cairo can use and source art supplies from, when he wishes. I have tried to set up a little work space for him in the past, however he seems to prefer the solitude of his bedroom when he wishes to draw, paint or construct something, Whether its decorating terracotta pots with paint pens, constructing Boxtrolls from plastic wrappers and milk cartons, or assembling collages from scraps of paper, we always have a boredom buster on the go.
Do you have any tips to streamline / delegate / outsource household and childcare activities so that you can focus more time on your art? Has your lifestyle changed in any major ways?
Honesty is the best policy right? I have to admit, like most people I am very time poor and find it difficult to commit to activities and fulfill some of my housewife duties at times (mainly vacuuming!!),so I opt to meet friends outside of the house so they will remain blissfully unaware of the crumb war I am fighting beneath the dining room table. And don't get me started on the toy situation! Toy boxes are an absolute must – everything gets piled in at the end of the day, the lid never quite closing as it once used to.
Time-management, lists and a well-kept diary have been and will remain my savior. Appointments, shifts, swimming lessons and BBQ's are all noted, leaving me time to pre-plan creative sessions and supply runs.
We have recently adopted a tag-team approach to parenting. Taking turns to make cardboard sculptures with Cairo or complete one of his many jigsaw puzzles, has been an absolute blessing during those darling moments when creativity strikes. Suddenly I will have to down the watering can, the laundry basket or the spray and wipe and head into my studio to jot down an idea or make a mark on paper. Cairo is now attune to these sudden sparks of inspiration and will quietly appear by my side, uttering that same hopeful question - 'Are you painting mummy?,' which invariably leads to question number 2 - 'Can I help myself to something from the food cupboard?' He certainly uses my arty time to his advantage sometimes!
For my family it's all about compromise and just going with the flow when all else fails.
Do you have any big goals or dreams for your art that you’d like to share? What would be your dream project?
Though my head is in constant 'idea' mode, in reality I have very simple desires when it comes to my art and my hopes for the future. I just want to keep creating, to keep finding those precious snippets of time and drive that keep me popping into my little studio when my boys aren't looking. Whether it's a mere 5 minutes or a luscious 30 minute stretch in the early morning, I want to keep adding shark fin marks, unrestrained scribbles, pops of color and hints of pizzazz to my works. I want to continue to buy tubes of glorious paint, reams of textured watercolor paper and Neocolor II crayons and I want my artwork to continue to evolve as I grapple with new techniques, processes and mediums.
My dream project for 2016 is to have my own website, something to showcase the little treasures I create. But, most importantly, more than anything else in the world, I want to inspire my son to live, feel and speak from the heart, just as he inspires me to do the same.