Monday, December 7, 2009

A Creative Life: Schumacher Art

Melanie of Schumacher Art describes her life as artist and mom as crazy. All I can say is, well said! But yet, as crazy as her life (and all of ours!) might be...Melanie manages to find inspiration in her surroundings to create her whimsical and intricate paintings and designs. I also love that she finds time to donate artwork that she creates with her family to local nursing homes...inspirational! To see Melanie's work click here and read on for details about her life.

photos by Kim Pufahl (

Tell us how you got started, what is your background?
I worked as a graphic designer for 10 years before I had my daughter, Sophia. Then I freelanced until Anna was born. After Anna, it got difficult to answer phones, and be as "professional" as I wanted to be. So, I took more time to paint and turn my sketches/paintings into designs. Even with trying to meet the demands of the family (and there are many) I still desperately needed to create! I found that the creative process helped with isolation and depression I was experiencing being a new Mom. Sometimes I joke that I graduated from the "Google University." I google everything/anything that interests me, doing that, I find more things & I google them, and find more things, etc.

What inspires you?
I am inspired everyday, thank goodness! I love finding new artists that work "speaks" to me. Lately it has been: Surface/Fabric designers: Jenean Morrison, Tula Pink, Anna Maria Horner Painter/ Illustrators: Alex Beard, and Gina Tripplett, and Paper cut outs by Hans Christian Anderson. Also, baskets, quilts, stained glass windows, tattoos, and NATURE. Even everyday items like the shower drain, jelly jars etc. They just sneak up & whisper "Hey, I'd make a cool (whatever) on that painting."

How do you create the artwork/design?
Usually I start with a few things that I've seen that seem to "go" together. Right now I'm working on a few paintings of abstract flowers that were inspired by Paula Nadelstern's Kaleidescope Quilts, + crystal serving platers. Or friends and family will suggest things like the owl painting I'm working on. A friend mentioned "owls" might be a fun subject. So for the last year, I have looked at owl things, struggling with it, and one day it just "gelled". The subconcious is amazing that way.

Then I sketch- alot. And gather a variety of "templates". I've used baby toys, architects templates, dishes, etc. I LOVE tracing paper- I draw once & then transfer to "re-draw" a pattern. My girls are usually using about the same supplies, they love tracing paper & canvases - except the "Mommy paint" it doesn't come off things the way theirs does. .

After the drawing is on the canvas I paint a dark under painting using black, or other dark colors. Sometimes I even have to make the drawing a color by letter- writing on the canvas the color of colored dots to be applied on the top. Otherwise, it can get confusing . I then take the wrong end of a paintbrush, dipped in different colors of bright acrylics to apply hundreds of colorful dots.

What is your studio life you find it challenging being both mom and designer?
Crazy. Really, I wish it was more fluid, less chaotic. Some day I will have the luxury of a closed door policy, and when that time comes, I will be ready- I have torn out magazine pics of pristine creative studios. There isn't a "studio" right now- I set up shop in the kitchen. And, even as I type this I am wearing an ice cream bucket on my head, wearing 5 band-aids (that was what was keeping them occupied, so I could write this) and trying desperately to keep my train of thought over the demands for corn casserole, fighting over the doll, my local jazz radio station, and the dog barking- see not very pretty. But, I have found that a few moments here of work and a few minutes there really do add up to getting things done. I keep canvases, pencils, sketches, laptop right in the kitchen. So they are ready when I (or the girls) need them.

What is a typical day-in-your-life like?
Did I say that it was crazy? It is. But fun. We are up early. My husband was born on a dairy farm, and that work ethic is unbelievable. So he is up early to go to work in the city, and comes home to farm at night. We eat breakfast/coffee together, then I send an email here, unload dishes, sketch this, play ponies, get snacks, paint under painting. It is that dance that goes on all day, trying to get it all done, my art needs/desires and the needs/desires of my family and relationships. Isn't that the universal struggle of all Moms- to take care of others AND herself!

I write a list in the morning of things- life & art related - that I can cross off, that keeps me on track. I also have 3 ring notebooks that I use like vision boards. That helps to keep me focused of ultimate goals. I have also started a "color file"- pages from magazines that just have cool color combos and large references of things in case I need them.

Any fun "Make" projects that you've created with your family?
My girls, mother-in-law & I put together bags of crayons, stickers and drawing pads together and deliver them to the local hospitals children's patients. We also give the girls artwork to a local nursing home. We have even recruited some of the girls' friends (other toddlers, of my Momma friends) to come with us and color/donate art work to the nursing home.

Sophia and Anna also LOVED screen printing. I had the screen made with the image that we would use, all ready before I asked for their help, but they mixed colors & squegeed the inks. Very fun.


Anonymous said...

Melanie you are an inspiration to creative moms everywhere. You are not only being creative you are living creatively. I love that you have a studio in your kitchen and involve your girls in your art life. To find ways for them to reach out and share their art with nursing homes and provide art gift bags to children in hospitals is incredible. You are an amazing mom and an amazing artist!

ShelliGib said...

I went to school with Melanie. Spent many late nights finishing our design projects together. She's wonderful and I'm so happy to see her work featured on your blog!

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