It takes a long time for an artist to find her voice. Years of trial and error, experimentation, formal education and method contribute to a developed sense of personal style. Oftentimes she finds things don’t turn out quite the way she expects, but sometimes the path she ends up on is the best yet.
Right after high school, Melanie Crosgrove attended art school in Los Angeles hoping to gain technical training in graphic design and illustration. Instead, her introduction to independent life and unforeseen academic pressure drove her to drop out. She faced disobliging school counselors who refused to allow her to drop certain classes and she failed the ones in which she couldn’t afford the required materials. It became difficult to focus on school and as a result, she slipped into a dark place. “Issues like migraines, anxiety and ADD attributed greatly to my loss of confidence as an artist,” she admits. “I couldn’t concentrate long enough to get a job and also keep up in school.”
Melanie moved around a bit before eventually returning to the nest, defeated but not ready to surrender. In the course of self-searching, she began to sharpen her talents independently, improved her portfolio and posted her work online to get feedback from other artists. This years-long process was essential to improving her craft and building confidence lost. “I’ve learned I need to practice my skills constantly,” she says. “If not on paper then in the back of my mind. Otherwise I quickly lose momentum.”
In 2011, the then-24-year-old artist became interested in stencil art and began designing, cutting and spray painting her own pieces. She was revitalized by this new medium, delighted by her ability to use layers of colors and shapes to bring another dimension onto a dual-range canvas. She describes her style as “often simple, colorful and clean.” The total turnaround time from a sketch to a finished, intricately cut 3-5 layered stencil is around 5-10 hours.
With the help of family and friends, Melanie started displaying and selling her work at the Canoga Park Artwalk, hosted by 11:11 in the spring of 2011. Since then, she’s been a regular at various art walks, shows, galleries and community events. Despite making just enough money for more art supplies and entrance fees for future shows, she found showing her work in a physical space very intimate and rewarding. Getting involved with her local art community has helped her network, gain recognition and get live feedback on her pieces. “It’s so refreshing to meet more artists and see what else is out there,” she says.
Freelance projects, local gallery shows and art trades keep Melanie busy. “I really enjoy the art trades,” she says. “Going to an event and swapping pieces with an artist I admire is just awesome! Being out in the art world has helped me gain commissions for custom work like logos, paintings, and tattoo designs.”
Staying inspired takes some work. Melanie often switches between artistic media (acrylic painting and freehand spray painting, mostly) to keep from slipping into counterproductive patterns. She also draws motivation from a quote by George M. Adams: “We cannot waste time. We can only waste ourselves.” She stresses the importance of perspective when an artist is overwhelmed. “Breathe,” she says. “Everything is practice and nothing is a waste.”
After a long and painful search, it seems that Melanie’s path to self-discovery is closing in on its destination.