Melody Newcomb is a freelance illustrator living and working in Harlem, New York City, USA. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Melody lived in many places and her upbringing in a multicultural environment is reflected in her art. Working both in conventional and digital media, Melody creates distinctly lavish and detailed illustrations exhibiting her fascination with flora and fauna. Her clients include some of the biggest newspapers and publications and her work has been featured in prominent online blogs and art magazines. In our interview below, Melody tells us in detail about her art, inspirations and other stuff:
Hello Mandy, please tell us about yourself:
My name is Melody Newcomb and I’m a freelance illustrator. I live in Harlem in NYC, USA. I graduated almost two years ago from the School of Visual Arts with a BFA in Illustration. My hobbies and interests include movies, museums, galleries, and reading. I’m also fascinated with biology, nature and science. Watching the Planet Earth DVDs on repeat is always fun.
Once I decided to go to art school, I had already decided to become an artist. I don’t recommend anyone going to art school without their full intention being to use their degree because it’s a lot of money for nothing if not. Professionally I consider myself a novice, a newcomer. However I would not call my art a hobby, it’s how I make a living and how I intend to support myself. Working another part-time job to supplement that does not mean that your art becomes second best. I do work the occasional part-time job, and it’s difficult to maintain.
I would tell young artists to either find a job that fulfils them creatively or work a job that you don’t care about that you can leave behind because your art work is most important.
Soon after graduating I got my first job working for ‘The New York Times’, and I consider that a milestone since I felt instantly validated as a real working illustrator and since then continuing to work is something I consider a milestone in itself.
What is your artist’s statement? How does your art reflect your vision/personality?
My work is about engaging the senses – not only sight but also touch. I want them to be a visceral reaction that touches the audience on a nostalgic, and emotional level while also fulfilling my client’s commercial needs.
I think that nostalgia has a lot to do with my art. I’m influenced by the art that I grew up with and growing up in a multicultural home has led me to many different influences. That’s why I’m so open to modern and new ways of exploring. I’m also nostalgically tied to a traditional aspect of illustration; I love the tactile nature of creating art.
Illustration is recreating a story, prompt, or theme for a client through art. Entering the illustration department of SVA opened my eyes to Illustration as a profession, before that I had no idea that you could still make money as an artist commercially without the successes of the “fine art” world.
Illustration chose me really, it requires a specific temperament, I like working within constraints of a job. I use mostly traditional media- watercolor, ink, paint, and paper. However I apply these using unusual techniques or complete these works using Photoshop, which allows me to explore and push my art further.
Some of your artwork is very alluring with lavish use of colors and floral designs/embellishments, whereas, some of it is dark and edgy. What is your critical assessment of your art?
I try not to be so critical of my work. I want to pursue any and every avenue of creative thought and inspiration where they strike. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t but it makes it more interesting for me, and what is most important for me as an artist is to stay interested and engaged in what I’m doing. If I’m bored or I’m doing things mechanically then what’s the point?
It’s more important for me to listen to my inner voice than to worry about cohesiveness or what others may think of it. I know that eventually I’ll find my artistic vision but then again I could up and change completely. That’s life. Evolution.
Tell us about your favorite project or work of art, if any:
I love fast-paced jobs. Working for ‘The New York Times’ with a six hour turnaround can be so satisfying because there’s no time to agonize and rework the piece. It’s very much a ‘get it done’ and ‘let it go’ piece which can be such a relief in comparison to a longer project where you are allowed to labor over and sometimes over work a project and lose sight of your initial inspiration.
What do you think about contemporary art? How different or distinct do you feel is your style from that of other artists and what is the impact of Internet and social media on your work?
My work is certainly distinct in some ways from other contemporary artists, I think because I’m aware of what’s out there and I choose to follow my interests and try not to let outside influences change my work. Contemporary art is a broad term to me, there’s so much to consider. I’m drawn to explorations in traditional mediums. I admire where illustration is going but I can’t connect with it emotionally. Which I think separates me from other illustrators. I strive for that connection with my work (not to say that other illustrators don’t either) but I put precedence on that connection.
The internet has had its impact in that it’s allowed for greater accessibility, I believe that it hasn’t influenced illustration or art but it does affect the fame of the artist or rather perpetuates fame. I don’t measure my success by my followers, I put my work out there because it exists but it doesn’t determine my work for me.
What have been your biggest achievements? Also tell us about your awards, clients, next projects, inspirations and motivations:
I think one of my biggest achievements has been continuing to work. It’s easy to get discouraged and feel dejected when there’s not a lot of recognition or jobs but if it’s something you want, you can’t give up.
My clients include The New York Times, Bitch Media, Bust Magazine, and Time Out New York among others. I feel great doing work for magazines and newspapers that I read and admire. I would love in the near future to continue my editorial work as well as try my hand at publishers and books.
I’d also love to travel, meet artists abroad and find new sources of inspiration. A lot of my favorite artists are contemporary illustrators in their prime today. Some I’ve had as teachers and others as friends. It’s exciting for me to see all the projects they’re doing and how they’re taking their work to new levels. I take inspiration anywhere I can get it; you just have to be open to it. Inspiration is easy, it’s acting and carrying it out that’s hard and getting it done makes you a professional.
As far as awards go recognition is always motivation to keep working but you have to want it yourself to be able to maintain.
Learn the business of illustration if that’s what you want to do. The managerial side is just as important as the creative side. To work for yourself takes a lot of self-discipline which a lot of young people don’t have, so you have to really want this. Also don’t be so hard on yourself the first two years. Relax, make mistakes, learn from them. Let your art develop naturally; let your clients find you. Eventually you’ll find your voice, and your niche in the market.