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Art & Life with Melissa Balkon

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Balkon.

Melissa, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I’m originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I graduated from Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. I moved out to Arizona in 2014 and found work as a Graphic Designer. I’ve been working as a designer ever since—working at a printer, then a small agency, and am currently self-employed at my own studio, called Strong Design Studios (www.strongdesign.co).

Clearly, design is a very client-focused form of art—in fact, I wouldn’t really call design art at all. Design is highly strategic, and I feel it falls more in line with marketing, communication and product development. A couple of years ago, I was really longing to make art again. I had been wanting to learn to paint with watercolor but just couldn’t seem to start. In the meantime, I actually stumbled on something artistic that was more related to design—illustrating and printing foil art prints. I have been making and selling those prints via my Etsy site (www.strongdesigngoods.co) and local events for a little over two years now. However, this year I finally got back around to that original goal of learning watercolor.

In February of this year, I started a 100-day project to paint some sort of botanical every day for 100 days. Miraculously, I managed to finish it without a single missed day! This project has really helped keep me accountable to my goal of learning watercolor and becoming a watercolor artist. I’m told developing your style as an artist can take years, so I’m trying to stay patient, but I’m excited that I can already see my work taking on small elements that point to a distinctive style. It is exciting to think about where the work might go!

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
Currently, I create a couple of different kinds of art. I still maintain the line of foiled art prints. I am incredibly passionate about our great state of Arizona, and that shows in these file prints, as most of them are Arizona-themed. However, more recently I’ve been starting to develop pieces in watercolor. I am still very inspired by Arizona and create many watercolor pieces around that theme. However, as a result of my 100-day botanical-painting project, I’ve developed a fascination with the beauty and miracle of flowers and other plants that are very prevalent in my work.

I sell some of my original pieces of art via Instagram (www.instagram.com/mbalkon) and develop others into art prints, cards, and other products that are available in my shop (www.strongdesigngoods.co).

Throughout everything, I have an underlying desire to create work that enhances people’s love for where they live. Be that through a demonstration of their pride in calling Arizona home, or through a timeless floral piece that they will love to hang in their home or gift to a friend.

What responsibility, if any, do you think artists have to use their art to help alleviate problems faced by others? Has your art been affected by issues you’ve concerned about?
I feel very driven in my artwork to make work that enhances people’s love for where they live. We live in a very transient, volatile time, which means security of home is more important than ever, and I’m honored to get to play a role in helping people create homes that can be a refuge in our chaotic world.

I also think in complex, scary times, it can be very important to be thankful for the little things. To literally stop and smell the roses… And while you’re stopping, consider what a miracle that rose is—how perfectly it’s petals spin out from its base, how vibrant the color is, and how that flower changes in such amazing ways from hour-to-hour and day-to-day. In particular, my recent floral work has taught me that creation is magical, and it can enrich our lives if we take the time to observe it.

Finally, I do think the role of art is changing. The other day, someone mentioned to me that as technology continues to evolve, they believe artists will become more in demand for their ability to create something that is a truly personal, creative experience. This is a fascinating perspective that carries quite a bit of truth!

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
People can support my work in several different ways:

First, just a simple follow on Instagram is awesome! I love having a community around my work because feedback really helps propel me forward and gain inspiration for future work. Encouraging words are particularly helpful for those moments every artist has when they are feeling stuck or uninspired. Instagram is a really wonderful forum for all of these things!

Second, you can make a purchase! People can currently purchase prints and other items from my Etsy store (www.strongdesigngoods.co) and originals via Instagram. I also have a small selection of pieces at Small Goods Market on Grand Ave. in Phoenix, and will also be selling my work this November at Local Trade’s Early Bird Maker’s Market on November 17, 2018, from 8 am– 3 pm at the Town & Country Shops. Admission is free, and it should be a really fun event!

Finally, I am always looking for collaborations with brands or other artists and creatives. Something I would love to consider in the future is creating artwork for use on products and other surfaces, so if you’re a local company looking for artists, and my aesthetic seems fitting for your product, please reach out—I’d love to chat!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Chad Banning

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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