Featured Artist Christie Mellor
Christie Mellor presents a series of figurative paintings that share dark stories, drama and mystery. Visit her website to learn more about her work.
I was a working actor for years in Los Angeles doing guest spots, commercials and voice-over work. I wrote a few scripts with my husband by night as we raised our kids by day. Then I wrote a book—The Three-Martini Playdate—which ended up getting published and being a bestseller.
I wrote four more books, and a few more scripts, with a writer friend. I sang Depression-era and original songs with my band Doozy. I never considered myself an “artist,” because drawing was just something I did on the side. At some point I had an idea to paint a series of portraits on found drawers and boxes, acrylic portraits I called “Your Bartender,” incorporating bartending tools, ephemera and keepsakes.
I was a little intimidated by painting, having had no formal training. But at this point I’m too old and impatient to spend another ten years doing studies and sketches, which I know is a terrible attitude! If I have a picture in my head, I want to paint it.
So, I start painting and figure it out as I go. I’ve picked up tips along the way from artists I admire. The internet can be helpful.
When our youngest son left for college, we decided to move from our Los Angeles house of twenty-four years to a 550 square foot New York apartment; so of course, that’s when I decided I had to teach myself to paint in oils—when my studio went from a huge, light-filled room to an 8 x 10 kitchen. Painting in a tiny New York apartment kitchen really drives home the point that if you want to paint, you can paint anywhere.
I started a series I called “Paintings at the End of the World,” and I think everything I paint now is part of that series. I look at my paintings like they’re pages from some giant picture book of allegories and dark fairy tales. I generally start with a face, because I love painting faces. Faces caught in the middle of a drama or mystery. I have a story to tell you, but I can only tell it in pictures. What I love about oils is the ease with which I can change faces and expressions—repaint and redo—just like writing is always better after many rewrites.
A lot of my friends think I’ve painted myself in the faces I paint. If that’s true, it’s not intentional, but sometimes their expressions mirror my state of mind. I know I’ve accidentally painted my mother at least twice.
I’m inspired by John Singer Sargent, Max Beckmann, Alice Neel, Lucien Freud, Balthus, Maira Kalman, Bruce Gilden photographs, too many artists to name. Dorothea Tanning, wow. Neo Rauch is dreamy.
When I get a portrait commission, I don’t necessarily think it’s because they want a picture of themselves, but maybe because they want to live in one of my paintings.