I happened across Melissa's art (I can't remember if it was on Twitter or Instagram), and I absolutely adored her work. Then I started interacting with her, and I absolutely adore her too!🥰 She's such a wonderfully bright, chipper person, always cheering people on, and her work just speaks to me in a unique way. It's so gritty and raw, and just tears your skin open to make you feel all the things. I decided to dabble around with painting after admiring her work for a while (Including the items I bought), and she was super helpful with the tons of questions I asked! If you aren't already following her, please do, and support her awesomeness.
1. Have you always felt the pull toward darker subject material with your art, or did that slowly develop over time?
In general, I’ve always been drawn to the weird, unusual, odd things of life. Growing up I always had a sketchbook with me and I would constantly ask for drawing books. As a kid I drew popular cartoon characters and animals, and then as I got older I enjoyed drawing self-portraits and teen angsty things that definitely had a darker feel to them.
I never quite “fit” in one place, and it feels like that’s reflected in my work :D I fought this for a long time, but now it’s something I love and embrace. I’ve also had some mental health struggles in life, and through therapy and art I’ve learned that embracing the creativity of darker subject matter helps pull it out of me. It’s truly cathartic and healing for me, and as a viewer of art, I find it healing seeing true emotion expressed in others' work. Those are definitely the pieces I’m drawn to from a collecting perspective.
When I decided to FINALLY make art my career, I wanted desperately to make darker, surreal figures, but I told myself I wasn’t skilled enough. The first year of my art business (2020, the perfect year to start a business, right! HA :D), I made conceptual, abstract art.
I learned so much about color theory, brushes, networking, and the marketing side of being an artist that I never realized would be such a huge part of my life. I enjoyed the pieces I created, but it didn’t feel enough. I wanted more substance, more emotion.
I finally stopped standing in my own way and painted “Death Of Me” and “Lost”, and I’ve never looked back. I decided I’m going to make the art I want to create, and if one person resonates with the message, then that’s enough. And in regards to the skills, I never want to be stagnant. I always want to learn and improve my art, and the only way to do that is challenging myself.
2. What are your favorite mediums to work with? Do you have any that you don't like to use or have had bad experiences with? (I just see myself staining an entire carpet and the walls)
Oil paints have my heart and soul. They’re absolutely my go to medium. With that being said, how I started painting and how I learned to paint was with acrylics. I used acrylic paint solely for the first 2 years of being a professional artist. When I first started painting, I did some splatter patterns on the pieces. I share my studio with my washer and dryer (which honestly, is a great set up, because when I have to package larger boxes, the washer and dryer are perfect ergonomic height, but I digress!), and there’s still splatter evidence of acrylic paint on the walls, and washer and dryer!
In present day, all my pieces are made with oils, however I still use acrylics for painting the wooden coasters. It’s fun to go back to my roots so to speak, from time to time
Last year a friend of mine asked me to make a colored pencil piece for her; other then in school, I hadn’t done much colored pencil work, but I told her I’d happily do the piece for her. And to justify my purchase of professional grade colored pencils, I made and sold a few colored pencil pieces after that. To be honest, I have such respect for colored pencil artists because I found it to be a tricky medium! It requires planning and precision, whereas with paint I can easily change my mind with how a piece should go, and paint can always be painted over.
Whereas with colored pencils, light layers is key, and if you push too hard or have too many layers down, the waxy consistency can’t really be changed or drawn over. I don’t do colored pencil work anymore, but my kiddos were thrilled to take over mom’s “fancy pencils :D “
3. What creatures and creepy crawlies scare you?
Hands down, 100 percent, snakes. They’ve always given me the heeby-jeebies! I’m not sure what it is….growing up, I had a chinese water dragon and two leopard geckos. I love reptiles, and I loved my lizards. I think it’s the lack of legs with snakes…..and I feel like they look and you and want to bite! And eat you…..and how are you supposed to stop them?!
4. How do you describe your work to people who have never seen it?
Spooky with a dash of whimsy! It’s a dark, surreal, figurative style, with some anatomy art thrown in there! It’s emotion driven, genuine, authentic, and real. It’ll take you on a journey, and help you process emotions you may not have known that you had.
5. What recommendations would you have for someone who wants to dive into painting? (Pretend we haven't already had this conversation when I was getting ready to start lol.)
To go ahead and start! Don’t be afraid to “make mistakes” or “waste paint”. The awesome thing about paint is that if something isn’t working or looking right, you can paint over it and fix it.
Layers are going to be your best friend! Really working on building layers as you go will help bring more depth and richness to your piece.
I also recommend starting with acrylic paint. I think that acrylic is more user friendly for someone learning how paint behaves, mixing colors, etc.
Learn all you can about color theory! Color theory is my painting bible, and once you start playing with it and understanding it, I feel like there’s nothing you can’t create. There’s a lot of YouTube videos that teach about color theory (ie. complementary colors and how they work together, the primary colors, mixing colors, etc.).
When starting out, you can start with buying a crimson red, medium yellow, phthalo blue, white, and black paint tubes, because with the primary colors you can mix any other colors that you may need. And for creating a dark color (almost black, but not quite as saturated), mix your red, blue, and yellow together.I still use black from time to time, but I save it for fine details or if it needs to be like “BAM! Black detail :) “
6. What kind of environment do you prefer to work in? Peace and quiet, or background noise?
I listen to podcasts while I work! It helps to turn off my inner critic, and it creates a nice balance of envisioning the story I’m listening to, while painting without having to really “think” or get hung up on anything. My favorite podcasts at the moment are “Dark History” with Bailey Sarian, “Office Ladies”, “The School Of Greatness” with Lewis Howes, “Dark Art Society” with Chet Zar, “Breaking Bread” with Tom Papa, your podcast of course “The Ghoulish Gallery”, “The Week In Art”, “A Healthy Push” with Shannon Jackson, “The Inspiration Place” with Miriam Schulman, and Alex Harvey’s “Money” Podcast……I didn’t realize that I listen to this many, HA! But it all works out, because I also listen to podcasts while I get ready for the day, and some upload episodes once a month, once a week, etc. It’s a pretty wide variety, ranging from dark stories, dark art, business, comedy, self care, and mental health :)
(💖Awwwww thanks for listening to The Ghoulish Gallery, and for the shoutout!)
7. What was the most difficult part of building an online presence?
Ooooh, it’s hard to pin point one specific thing. One of the most difficult things is that it doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time, and it’s still something I’m very much working on.
And also, quality is so much more important than quantity. I started my business in 2020, and I’ve learned that I’d so much rather have real relationships and conversations vs. a huge following without any substance, if that makes sense? Don’t get me wrong, I’m more than happy to have a crap-ton of people in my corner, I just want it to be real people who get it; not trolls or bots, things like that.
One more important thing on this topic that I want to leave you with, I read in “The War Of Art” by Steven Pressfield. I’m going to botch this explanation, so bear with me! If you’re worried about people judging you and how you do things, trolling your ways of creativity or how you show up online; a true professional would not take the time to do this, because they’re investing in their own craft. A true professional in their field and work won’t take the time to comment and judge on how you’re doing things, because they would be focused on their own work. So, when you receive trolling and judging comments, keep in mind it’s 100% a reflection on themselves, and their words hold no value because they’re not a professional in their field.
Hope this helps! :)
8. Are there other horror-related events/activities you enjoy partaking in?
I freaking love Halloween! I love decorating the house, helping my kiddos plan costumes, trick or treating, the atmosphere, carving pumpkins, going to pumpkin patches, all of it! I enjoy writing psychological thriller stuff, I currently have a short story on my blog based on one of my pieces “Alluring Darkness”, if that’s your thing! I’m slowly working on developing a short story book based on the pieces of work.
I love a good haunted house and haunted hayride, my kiddos are still young and not into that kind of thing so I’ve had to take a break from these in the past years, but I still love them!
Reading is another one of my favorite things in life, and I enjoy reading psychological thrillers, and watching them! To this day “Shutter Island” is one of my favorite films, and it shook me to the core the first time I watched it. That feeling hasn’t left me!
I also enjoy watching YouTube videos of historical and abandoned places! Bros of Decay have an awesome YouTube channel of exploring different abandoned sites around the world. And if you love spooky vintage stuff, Christine McConnel is a freaking genius in this area!
9. If you found yourself in a horror movie, do you think you'd be more the fight, or flight type?
I think I’d tend to flight, even though it would not be very fast! In general, I think my “fight” mode could only be activated if it was life or death, or protecting my kiddos. Otherwise, I don’t have much of a “fight” bone in my body. I don’t squish bugs, I just let them live, but if the kiddos or hubby (he’s not a fan of spiders!) are creeped out by something, I’ll pick it up and put it outside.
10. What are some of the most helpful things the community can do to support small businesses like yours?
Interacting with me and building a relationship with me would be awesome! I know it sounds weird, but I’m an introverted oddball and would love to have friends that are into the same stuff as me! Sharing our offers and works on social media, and subscribing to my YouTube channel are awesome and free ways to help!
Joining my email club would be a dream come true for me! It’s completely free, and by joining my email club you get first access to new collections and exclusive discounts
And of course, by purchasing the artwork would be another great way to keep weird, dark art in the world :)
You can collect the artwork, join my email club, and read my blog all on my website www.mezmerizingstudios.com ! Along with Original Paintings, I also offer Fine Art Prints, Bookmarks, Stickers, Mystery Packs, Bundles, and Art Subscription Options
Subscribe to my YouTube Channel! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfN6pkY-SiLHttsPjqdAqOw @mezmerizingstudios
Go follow Melissa in alllllll the places!
Facebook: Mezmerizing Studios: Melissa Rohwer Art
All photos courtesy of Melissa herself! <3