“Melanie Made Me Do It”…

I come from an artistic family. I grew up surrounded by pottery and paintings by my father, and fibre artistic works (weaving, knitting, needlework, quilting & more) by my mother. They were always making things. Our cupboards were filled with pottery.  Our floors covered with woven and hooked rugs. I wore handmade sweaters, hats, and scarves, and funky leg warmers (still have them).

Eventually we moved from Banff to Prince Edward Island where my family purchased land, built a house, and made our own shop, which resulted in me learning the world of sales early in life.

I also puttered, dabbled in my parent’s art. I would draw, make pinch pots, slab boxes, pendants, and I would help put on Mom’s warps and sand the bottoms of Dad’s pottery so it was smooth to touch. I tried knitting, but was abysmal. When it came to craft fair time, I would help load & unload the van, and watch my mother skillfully display their work. These observations served me well later in years!

My Dad taught as well. When he taught his drawing and painting classes I would sometimes sit in and partake. I would overhear some of his instruction and try to apply it. I liked it. I would get frustrated, but mostly I liked it. But I preferred drawing so I would do that more frequently by myself.

Free Standing Stone Sculpture
Free Standing Stone Sculpture

But… it’s funny.

My parents were always the artists in my mind. I wasn’t an artist. I didn’t feel I could own that title. They were very good at what they did, and I admired their singled passions.

Finally, years later, I thought I had discovered a similar passion in acting. And, yes… it most certainly is a passion but I still felt I also wanted something where I didn’t need an audience or a team. Writing, yes… a definite possibility, as I used to love doing that when I was a kid, too… And, when I show up to my blog, I am happy.


You know what?

Just last week, I dove back into the world of paint, encouraged by my painter friend, Melanie Kobayashi, and experienced a ripple of surprising excitement. Mel guided me into her studio, offered me paints, a massive piece of heavy paper, and ordered me to “load up your brush and don’t be scared!” I did what I was told, and soon was having a cathartic dance with the paint and canvas.

My inner critic showed up several times just to keep me humble and sweating. “Anyone can do that” “You’re cheating” “That’s doesn’t take talent” “Who do you think you are painting?” “Wow.. bad taste in colour”…I chased away it away many times.


I replaced my inner expulsions to “I’m just having fun”…. And some obscene chasing off remarks, similar to “buzz off”.

I succeeded in keeping going, and not succumbing to a perfectionist attitude. It was hard work in some ways, and on the other side it was deeply satisfying. And, because of the size of the work… oh, boy.. did my thighs ache the following days. But in the best way possible!

Would you like to see it? I hesitated to post my first attempt, my first abstract purge, but, what the heck!

It’s a wild one… I decided to call it “Mel Made Me Do It”….

Recent Abstract
Mel Made Me Do It! (5' x 40")


Detail of "Mel Made Me Do It"

Funny how one seemingly unrelated creative activity can open the doors to others. Some old plans for something have re-emerged since painting but… that’s for another time.

Where do you allow yourself to play, create, and open the channels?

Behind The Scenes of An Artist…

A few days ago I had the privilege of finally seeing where my dear friend, Mel Kobayashi, spends her passionate painterly moments. The visit was overdue.

Mel opened the door, blathered on and on about the mess, that it was a lot better than before and that she had been cleaning prior but she still needed to clean some more.

I had stopped listening a few moments earlier. Two massively stunning abstract pieces stopped me in my tracks making me catch my breath and hold my heart. I felt dizzy with attraction. Mel watched me, taken by my reaction. I wouldn’t blame her if she thought I was “acting” as that is a skill I possess, but, oh, no, my shivers were authentic.

I’d like to share her staggering work (in my opinion) with you, and a little more insight to the artist behind the scenes.

TJ: “When did you start painting?”
MO: “I started painting seriously about ten years ago, but I have always been
creating things. I’ve dabbled in just about everything, including
performance art, sculpture, and drawing. I think it’s important to refuel my
artistic process by working in a variety of media and techniques.”

TJ: “Do/did you have a mentor?”
MO: “I had an art teacher in high school, Mr. Bradley, who said that the passion behind love and war are the two strongest drivers in life. He thought I understood both (according to my artwork) and urged me to pursue studies in art, which I did at university in Toronto and Vancouver. And while they are not mentors per se, I also have people around me who have been incredibly supportive of my art, including you, Trilby! (Thank you, thank you!) Through them I have gained confidence in my work, a wonderful studio to work in, and sales among corporate clients.”

TJ: “Did you encounter any obstacles in developing your art?”
MO: “Fine art at SFU, where I went to school, is grounded in conceptual art. As a student I thought it was the coolest art ever! The idea in my mind was to
whack people over the head with our intellectual genius or, better yet, to
sneak up on them and insinuate our enlightened ideas into their minds. But
that art-making style profoundly inhibited my ability to create art for the
joy of it for a long, long time. In fact, it took me more than ten years to
feel not guilty for making pieces fueled by emotion rather than reason. Now
that I am once again in touch with my visceral creative process, ironically,
I also feel free to justify my work intellectually within an historical
context if needed.”

Red Border

TJ: “What do you love most about the action of painting?”
MO: “Painting makes me feel alive. My hair feels alive. My fingernails, my
earlobes, eyelashes, all alive. I feel absolutely free when I paint. It’s a
joy that’s hard to describe. There are no boundaries, no rights, no wrongs.

Instinct rules, at least in the initial stages. Colour, texture, form, movement combine to the point where time stands still. My studio is below ground, which I thought might be scary and claustrophobic at first, but I could be in the middle of Stanley Park or a busy construction pit for all the attention I pay to my surroundings during a session. I am lost in time when I am painting.”

Terrain Red Splotch

TJ: “What medium do you work in?”
MO: “Right now I paint. Paint is expressive – it can be flung, dripped, smeared,
brushed on, smattered, scratched out, washed away, and layered. It comes
transparent or opaque, thick or thin, glossy or flat. You can do a million
things with paint. I like acrylics: 1) they don’t smell and are perhaps less
harmful to the environment than oils, and; 2) they dry quickly, which is
convenient when using thick layers. Lately I’ve been painting on heavy
paper, which I buy in 10-meter rolls. Paper also behaves well on the floor.
It doesn’t shift around or bunch up like unstretched canvas would given my
studio setup.”

TJ: “What would you tell someone if they wanted to try painting?”
MO: “Go for it! I believe that everyone can paint. Don’t worry about training –
just do it. Of course, having foundations in drawing and colour theory may
help you achieve an envisioned effect more quickly, but sometimes the
fundamentals just muddy the path to genuine, heartfelt expression. Children
move from colour-and-form art, which I love, into controlled figurative art
as they grow, but I believe that adults can create very powerful work by
returning to their child-like state, by unlearning art rules. At least I
think this is true for abstract expressionism. I also believe in learning by
doing. Mistakes are good. Some of my favourite effects are comprised of
happy accidents that could not be learnt in any school. Having said that, at
art school, faculty and fellow students may open doors to alternative
art-making and opportunities to show your work.”

TJ: “Thank you Mel for allowing me to share your work and thoughts. I understand the private aspect of the creative process, and honour this moment.”

To see more of Mel Kobayashi’s artwork or to contact her, please visit her site.