Melissa Scheu is a freelance artist living and working in Michigan who captured our attention from her very first post! From the very beginning of her participation on Doodle Addicts, her artwork has been well received and applauded by the community - and deservedly so. There are not a lot of words we feel are adequate to describe the expert skill and creativeness behind Melissa's work, and it's not often we find ourselves lost for words. Our best attempt would be that her work embodies all of the best things that are to be found through art: it captures your attention, it tells a story, it's unique, it's well-composed, it's fun, and it doesn't feel too serious (although it's incredibly detailed and technical).
The only way you wouldn't have come across Melissa's work on Doodle Addicts yet is if you've never looked at the trending page (and if you haven't, you definitely should). Besides that, we'd like to think the community is pretty familiar with her work and overall style! Some of our favorite work of hers has actually come in the form of the artwork she posts in response to our Weekly Drawing Prompts, it's always something that far exceeds our expectations and we can't help but smile whenever we see one. Aside from those submissions, it's hard for us to choose one specific piece of work that we prefer over the others. However, we do find her folklore work especially charming as well as her general graphite art. Whether you've been a fan of her work for months, or this is your first real look into it, we urge you to take a deeper dive by looking through her profile as well as hearing from the artist herself through the interview below!
Interview with Melissa Scheu
We’re so glad to have you as part of the Doodle Addicts community! Has art always been a passion of yours? What drew you to begin your journey as an artist?
Art has always been a major focus of my life, and since I was really small it has been the way I’ve felt most comfortable expressing myself and my feelings. When I was a kid, I usually preferred blank paper to coloring books, and I would sit making myself frustrated trying to draw scenes from books or documentaries, or out of my imagination. I was extremely curious and kind of high-strung and was the sort of kid who asked “why?” constantly, about everything! I think it grew into a need to observe things intensely and respond in some way.
Even across various mediums, your style is incredibly unique and distinguishable! It’s also one of our favorites. Can you tell us a bit about how it developed?
When I was young, I originally wanted to be an children’s book illustrator. However, I came from a place that was really preoccupied with realism to the exclusion of anything else. It wasn’t until a few years into studying art at a university level that I realized that I didn’t necessarily love strict realism. But I do love illustration! I think that my current art is definitely very informed by illustrations and illustrators I love like Tove Jansson, Maxfield Parrish and Maurice Sendak. I fell in love with color when I started working with oil paint in college, using the long drying time to experiment. You get plenty of time to stack different colors next to and on top of one another in a way that’s pretty forgiving, and can play around a lot with oil paint without having to commit. Once I was finished with school, however, constraints of space made full-scale painting more difficult, and I realized that although I had spent my years in school painting, I wanted to take what I learned about color and light and bring it back to drawing. A while ago now, when I left my job as a caterer and went back to pursuing art, I found myself going back to my roots in graphite drawing. Since then, I've completed a couple of paintings, but I'm more interested right now in playing with graphic elements that I can get from gouache or illustration markers.
Some of our favorite work of yours comes in the form of the folktale artwork you create. How has mythology played a role in your work?
It’s difficult for me to separate my interest in art from my interest in folktales, because it has always been those stories in particular that drove me to get out my sketchbook and respond in some way. I’m the sort of person who never stopped reading fairy tales, and when I studied art history, I was suddenly introduced to this treasure trove of artistic responses to myth. I have always found mythology relevant not because of its accuracy in its attempts to explain the world, but in the pictures it paints of people who are narrating. They are intrinsically human stories that show a full range of human experience: good, bad, ugly, and funny. A lot of my work attempts to express how nuanced mythologies actually are, rather than the simplistic parables most people think of them as. I love the strange side characters at the fringes of mythology, and sometimes think of myself as drawing their portraits!
When you are "stuck" in your creative process, what do you do to get you out of the funk?
This will be a difficult question to answer without feeling like a hypocrite, because I’ve had a couple of pretty recent, years-long funks where I hardly produced more than a doodle! But nowadays, I have a couple of tricks for creative struggles. If I have a drawing that I’m stuck on - trying to perfect but just can’t get “right” for some reason - sometimes I will put it in a folder that is essentially Time Out for Drawings. I will mark my calendar when to open it again, and I won’t look at it until that time. Then, with fresh eyes, I can look at the work more realistically. Also, the first page of my sketchbook always has rules, which gives me some kind of structure. For instance, I’m not allowed to remove a page until a drawing is finished, but I am allowed to cover it up however I’d like if there’s something that I just can’t stand looking at. This keeps me from getting rid of things I “hate” on a whim, and encourages me to build over mistakes.
What other things aside from art, inspire you?
I’m kind of a magpie person, so I tend to collect strange items, interests, and hobbies. There are index cards always stuffed into my notebooks and whatever I’m reading filled with notes and ideas. Many of my ideas come from the podcasts I listen to while I work, which is convenient! Programs like ‘99% Invisible’, ‘Stuff You Missed In History Class’, and ‘The Lonely Palette’ have all covered stories that have inspired pieces in my sketchbook. I’m also really fortunate to have grown up in a naturally beautiful area of lower Michigan where I still live. I can just look out my window and see a pastoral landscape, forest and meadow, full of wildlife. It’s difficult not to be inspired when there are places behind your house that look like a fantasy woodland!
Which artists on Doodle Addicts do you recommend everyone follow?
This is the most difficult question, because I have been inspired by so many of the artists who post here! Tricia Clark, Mariana Musa, Shaun Marmion, Gilles De Winne, and Rhea Daniel’s sketchbooks are amazing. I wish that Joer_B, who is master of the ballpoint pen, had taught my life drawing classes. Shann Larsson and David Terrill are the sort of painters that I aspire to be. I want to live in worlds dreamed up by Zom Osborne, Kevin Loftus, and Taro Baugnon. I want prints on everything designed by Sofija Kamasi. There are so many people I admire that I’ve found so far, I could go on, but that’s probably more than you need!