Mel Schwarz


All artwork featured copyright of Mel Schwarz
At Supanova in Melbourne, I was absolutely entranced by the illustrations of Sydney based artist, Mel Schwarz.  The detail and imagination in the prints she had on display was astonishing.  I had to buy some and when you see them you’ll understand why. 

Mel will be at Supanova Sydney!!
Tell us a little bit about yourself please?
Well, not sure what to say really. I think of myself as a happy, slightly quirky human. I have an adorable little family and crazy dog-Polly Ester, we all live in a little shoebox sized terrace in Darlinghurst, and I keep my sanity by putting my head into my art.
Were you always interested in drawing / art? 
Oh absolutely! Ever since I could hold a pencil, I have drawn.  All my report cards at school said “if Melanie would put as much effort into her school work as she did her art, she would do very well” I was always a bit of an insular kid, so drawing was my safe place and my way to escape the happenings around me.
Do you recall how your interest in art / drawing originated?
Nope, it was just always there. I don’t remember life without it.
Did you have any formal art training?
I recently did a life drawing class for a term because I thought, I have never had art class except after school as a little kid, and I could probably learn something new.  I have just kind of figured it out by myself through practice and experimentation with different pencils and techniques. 

How did you develop your skills as an artist?
Through trial and error, many torn out sheets of paper and grunts of desperation.  There is something about pain and torment that does really great things for art.
What motivates you to draw?
Well throughout my life it’s been many different things. At the moment it’s escapism from the chaos of having a young family in an itsy bitsy living space. It gives me back my sanity so I can carry on being a decent human.
What advice would you have for young artists seeking to earn their living via their art – either as book illustrators or elsewhere?
Dude, don’t ask me. I am still trying to make a living from what I do. I can only gather that a combination of talent and guts will do the trick – oh and real confidence in your work.  As many an artist will know, believing that your work is really good can be quite a hard thing to do.
Regarding your art, do you have a favourite medium to work with?
Yes absolutely.  PENCIL.  Lead pencil.  I love it! There is something dark and romantic about it. Like an old black and white photo, it possesses an element that cannot be found in colour.  I think it also suits my style of illustration, it’s dark and a little bit twisted.
Do you have a favourite place to work?
I have a little cafe (or sort of hole in the wall) around the corner from me. They make an awesome cuppa joe, It’s a little bit dark and the music is a mix of bossanova and smoky jazz. If the weather permits, I will take my bean bag into Hyde Park with a coffee and vegemite sandwich and sit there until I have to pick the kids up from school.
How much of your artwork is drawn / painted digitally?  If you use this medium has it changed your work process?
I am technologically challenged, so there is NO digital in any of my pictures. I love the feel of the wood pencil in my fingers, the lead stains you get and the smell from an eraser. I am too much of a purist to venture into digital (and also a bit terrified).
Bernard the Gurnard book illustration
On your website you write that you have done illustrations for children’s books, set design, costume design and even tattoo designs.  Do you have a favourite type of art project?
Any project is a good project, although I do like having free reign to be as weird and wonderful as possible.
Can you describe the process you go through when working on an illustration commission from start to finish? 
If it’s a commission piece, I get all the info and any inspiration from the client and I start with a brief sketch. When the client is happy I then refine it and complete it. I tend not to have much to do with the client after the brief sketch has been approved because all my stuff is free hand, it’s hard to undo mistakes, so if the client gets too involved it can get too hard to keep re-doing a piece.

Are you currently working on another project? Can you tell us about it? 
Absolutely!!!!!  I am working on an adult’s fantasy colouring in book. I have just finished my 6th page, only another 10 or so to go.  My husband kept telling me I should do it, but of course you never really listen to the people the closest to you because they are always the most biased.  I had a good ole facebook friend tell me the same thing just 3 weeks ago, so I thought, “Oh yeah, sure, why not?” Many people are really excited about it which is really cool and I have had a couple people request a particular picture (which I will do) so I have loads to draw.  The book will have just about the same level of detail as my illustrations (bar the shading of course, that’s for you to do) and there will be dragons, giants, fairies, elephants and other strange beings, so WATCH THIS SPACE.
Thanks so much.

Find Mel on: