Mel’s enthusiastic and dedicated approach shines through in how she interacts with clients. She collaborates closely with art directors, keeping them up to date on their projects while working quickly, accurately and on-brief. As well as the great outdoors, Mel is inspired by botanical illustrations, old calendars and Australian tea towels from the 1960s and 70s.
She studied Visual Arts at Queensland University of Technology before becoming a full-time freelance illustrator.
Mel has spent the last decade honing her etched-style line art and unique colour palette. She roughs out her images on paper, making plenty of notes along the way. Then she refines the piece by drawing intricate lines on her iPad Pro, working from carefully chosen references. She uses her own signature selection of around 30 colours.
Mel isn’t sure where the phrase ‘retro Australiana’ came from but it seems to have stuck and it accurately describes her style.
Question: What led you to become an illustrator? Mel: I’ve spent my life toggling between fine art and graphic design. A few years ago I realised that digital illustration was like a middle ground; It’s a great way to be in the commercial world but still get that artistic buzz on. Question: Do you have a childhood memory relating to drawing? Mel: I think I was a product of my mum’s passion for art and design. She was a school teacher and studied art, so she would shower me in coloured crayons and art supplies from a very early age. I had a start in life where creation was cherished and rewarded, lots of good memories.Question: Where do you live now and what drew you there? Mel: I live in Clear Mountain. Through my twenties I lived in Brisbane city, however the more time I spent there, the stronger the urge grew to return to an environment with lots of space, surrounded by trees, animals and a big ole veggie patch. Question: Describe your studio for us Mel: My studio is half my home, which is a 70’s wooden cabin. Artwork that inspires me is everywhere, along with my own artwork and little notes from people I’ve worked with. Everything is wooden or leather - even my keyboard is made of wood. It has a very warm, orangey, cosy feeling.Question: Do you have any studio pets? Mel: My two big derpy dogs and my four chickens are always wandering in and finding a cool spot on the ground in my studio.Question: Describe the view from your window Mel: Gum trees. There are so many that it almost turns into a magic eye if you stare outside for too long. Question: Who or What is your biggest inspiration? Mel: I’m always inspired by people who make the very tough (but ultimately simple), decision to freelance or ‘live the dream’ - whatever that may be. It’s such hard work, you have to inherently love what you do and also have such a great passion for it. That is admirable. Question: How do you get your ideas? Mel: I research. I collect images that inspire me mainly by screen-shotting them on my phone and putting them in a dedicated album. They’re generally not even of artwork, just everything that sparks a fire in my belly. Today I collected a 70’s image of someone’s mum wearing a great t shirt and ripped jeans and an etsy listing of a quilt with awesome colours. Question: What are your interests outside of illustration? Mel: I really love gardening and all things home. I enjoy resourcefulness; It keeps me on my toes to try and work out how to make things from scratch rather than buying it new. I make a lot of stuff. But I think my favourite thing to do is to sit down with a beverage and chat about ideas, hopefully with someone else present.Question: Tell us about a favourite project you’ve recently completed Mel: For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted my artwork on clothing and so recently I worked with my mum to create a beautiful A-frame shift dress featuring an all Australian flora and fauna illustration. We made 30 of them. I also recently illustrated some packaging for these amazing hand poured Christmas candles - they featured classic Christmas imagery mixed with Australian natives.Question: What would be your dream commission? Mel: I would love to work with an ethical fashion label to create a very fun textile illustration. I’d also love to illustrate a book with plants and/or animals.Question: How much of your work is hand drawn? Mel: When I started illustrating, all of my work was created with Prismacolours and sharpies. Since the ipad pro/procreate dream team, there just isn't much room for coloured pencils anymore. I'm not sad about this, it’s just the way I create now and it’s extremely rewarding and fun. It’s still ‘hand drawn’ it’s just a different surface. Not to mention, way easier to transfer into a digital file for printing. Question: If you were not an illustrator, what would you be? Mel: When I was studying art at QUT, I always found myself gravitating towards the fashion design kids. They seemed wild yet down to earth. I liked that. I think I’d be in the world of fashion, somewhere. Question: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? Mel: “Some of the best work has been born out of mistakes” and “dreams don't work unless you do.” Question: If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go? Mel: Two of my best mates are currently picking olives in Italy, I would go and join them. Question: If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money? Mel: If we’re talking about a Powerball five million, I’d pay off my home, give my friends and family enough to get out of their debts and invest the rest for my son’s future. Question: If you could travel back in time, who would be the one person you would want to meet and why? Mel: I’d head back to the 70’s and just observe.