Artist: Kreh Mellick
Medium: Drawing + Painting
Tea cups filled with water, brushes and gouache. Scraps of paper. Bits of drawings. Plants.
This is the scene in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, where Kreh Mellick is tucked away, hard at work in her studio putting stories onto paper. Kreh’s drawings have a vibrancy and movement about them that are engaging, organic and full of life. She’s able to see things from a different perspective - to capture a moment in time and blend reality with imagination.
With a degree in illustration and concentration in drawing, Kreh, in her early thirties, has already accomplished what most hope to accomplish in a lifetime - a unique and confident identity. She’s found her stride and set a good pace. Kreh’s work has been showcased at national and international exhibitions and is included in the Library of Congress. Her most recent publication feature is in New American Paintings, Issue #118, which hit newsstands this July. In Western North Carolina, you can find her work gracing the walls of Blue Spiral 1, in downtown Asheville and at The Penland Gallery, in Penland, North Carolina.
Kreh is unlike anyone we’ve met… she is curious, introspective, thoughtful, and kind. Take a glimpse below into the story, inspiration, and studio practice of Kreh Mellick.
Q. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I grew up in rural New Jersey on a dirt road, with a menagerie of animals. I lived in a fantasy world that has been hard to shake. My most beloved childhood myth was that the barn owl, that roosted in the nearby silo, brought my birthday cake every year.
I went to school at Maine College of art for Illustration and Drawing and then to Penland School of Crafts where I currently live with my sweetheart. I am inspired by the many women in my life and family and the stories that come from knowing them.
Q. What made you decide to pursue art as a career? how did you define the type of art you would create?
From a young age, I seemed to know I wanted to be an artist. It was a place I always received encouragement. Drawing has always been the most direct and accessible to me. I remember taking a stack of paper and pens/pencils and just sitting and drawing from a young age and finding that to be be very therapeutic and intuitive.
One memory in particular - I was driving home with my mum and she was wearing a white dress with black polka dots. I remember feeling that she was so beautiful in that dress and I was struck with the urge to draw her portrait. I couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6. So, I sat her down on a chair in the kitchen with the full confidence that I could draw her just as I saw her and grew so frustrated that I could not represent how beautiful she felt to me.
I think rather than deter me from being an artist, it lit some fire to be able to capture that feeling. Of course the intent has changed. I wish I had not been so hard on my young self...because now the thing I love so much about drawing and art is seeing the artist’s hand. I love flaws and unique rendering of familiar things.
Q. What have been the biggest obstacles, or most difficult aspects of being a full time working artist?
Everyday I am trying to speak better about myself and my own work. I think being shy and not very outspoken may cost me some opportunities and just being conscious of that. I suppose as an artist I chose to express my feelings and ideas through visual means because it is not particularly easy to express in words. That being my foundation it is a real challenge to promote my work and articulate what it is about.
Q. What memorable responses have you had to your work?
I think anytime someone is able to create their own narrative about the figures or the environments found in my drawings, and I get to hear that interpretation, that makes me very happy. That is a huge part of my intent, that the viewer is able to discover a story of their own.
Q. What is the most valuable lesson(s) you've learned in life or your journey as an artist?
To always keep working, even if there is no idea. Sit down and make a mark.
Q. Where do you go for inspiration or trends? Any go-to blogs, websites, shops, or Instagram feeds, etc?
I have loved Instagram, I get to follow great artists and see images they make from day to day. In particular Nathaniel Russell, Alina Vergnano, Malin Gabriella Nordin, among others. I have also been loving the Freunden Von Freunden blog I like seeing inside peoples' homes and studios for inspiration - seeing a bit of how a person's mind works.
Truly, I get so much inspiration from my sweet friend and artist Dana Fehsenfeld. Just in conversation about things we like or through collaboration and having her perspective lights such a fire under me. My mom has a very strong aesthetic sensibility. She also has no qualms in telling me exactly how she feels about work..and though it drives me mad..she is usually right and I value that.
Q. What's the best advice you've ever received?
That spelling your goals out loud and sharing them with peers and loved ones is so valuable and really allows you to see those goals through. I have found this to be true.
Q. What is your dream project?
I want to illustrate children’s books as beautifully as Maurice Sendak and that capture children’s imaginations as much as Roald Dahl. I want to paint on walls all over the world with kids from all over the world. I would love to make a illustrated catalogue of a museum's collection of traditional pottery or ceramics.
Q. Any favorite Asheville / Penland artists, designers, makers, shops, restaurants, bars, etc. right now?
Yes, this is a very broad question! Oh yes!! At the very top of that list, of course are the ladies of 7 Ton Letterpress, because at the base of all of these ladies is an artist. They have worked so hard to turn their making into a beautifully realized profession and collaboration. Also, Karie Reinertson and Rob Maddox of Shelter Collective, another great collaboration of making and minds and heart. I feel overwhelmed by this question because I know so many inspiring makers and minds in Asheville.
It is so easy to take for granted the fruits of this region..but our community is so special.
Favorite asheville restaurant I have to say.. The Admiral + Homegrown.
Whenever I have any extra cash my favorite thing to do is hit the antique malls and scavenge for lovely objects: animal figurines, tea cups, and chairs.
Q. And, one from left field. If you were a drink, what drink would you be and why?
I think at this point I have turned into a cup of coffee for all that I drink. A delicious latte with honey.