Could you please introduce yourself and share any hidden talents or something most wouldn’t know about you?
My name is Mel Stringer and I’m an Australian artist currently based in Saint Louis, Missouri. My hidden talent is that I have made bedroom pop / folk music under a handful of names over the years. I’m a bit shy about it but I hope to debut my new music under the name Golden Puppy sometime soon.
Where do you see yourself and your art headed in the next few years?
I’d like to embark on creating larger scale paintings and creating more wearable art. Also being a part of more art expos, conventions and exhibitions.
What are you working on at the moment? Any big plans coming up?
This weekend my husband and I are headed to DeathRay Illustration and Print expo in Fayettevile, Arkansas. They contacted me earlier in the year to be a guest artist which I was totally pumped about.
Have you been met with any challenges as an artist along the way? (Personally or professionally)
Sometimes it’s hard when you get trolls who disagree with seeing body positive art. Thankfully I don’t get too much attention from trolls, but it still sucks. I’ve had an online presence since around 2004 so it gets easier every time.
Also when I moved from Australia to the USA, it took a little while to settle and feel like myself again artistically. I think I’ve been that way after every big life change or moving of house / relocating. I knew what was happening so I just trusted the process but it was still somewhat challenging.
Can you please share a little about how you go into creating artwork?
For digital works, I usually create a sketch in a notepad or moleskine. I then photograph it and upload it to Procreate on my iPad. Then I put a transparent layer over the top of the sketch and draw the final linework, adding color and shading afterward. My other favorite medium is using acrylic paint on wood panels. I usually start with a pencil sketch right onto the wood and then start painting layers over it. Block colors first and then the defining linework. I enjoy traditional for it’s therapeutic effects while I’m working. And for digital, I enjoy the freedom of endless possibilities and how fast I can create something,
Do you tend to create from personal experience or from observing the experiences of others?
I create diary comics regularly so they are obviously from my own experience. Sometimes I do things or go places that I want to reflect on later in my comics.
What’s it like being a woman in the creative industry? Do you find that it has its challenges at times?
When I first started it felt like a boy’s club. I knew there were female artists out there making cool stuff but it only started to feel less like that when Instagram started getting popular.
What’s your favourite part about your body and why?
I like that it can carry me places, I love how it looks, I enjoy the things I can create with my hands.
What’s your idea of empowerment?
Doing things I want to do without fear.
What message do you have for those who are struggling with body confidence/self-love/weight or appearance issues? – What’s helped you in the past?
I realise everyone comes from a different upbringing, different circumstances and many other variables that shape their way of thinking, feeling and existing.
One piece of advice doesn’t fit all and learning, re-learning and discovering self love is different for each individual. Also, I believe the root of the problem when it comes to these issues is things like not enough body diversity and representation in popular media. The internet and self publishing has been great for representing lots of different body types.
If I had to give one piece of advice though, I would say surround yourself with supportive, likeminded people. And unfollow, unfriend and disassociate with people who make you feel bad about yourself and your body.
Praise You isn’t just about raising awareness for eating disorders and celebrating body positivity – it’s also shining the light on female support in the creative community, in saying that, what does inclusivity and its importance mean to you?
Without support, it’s a lonely road. Providing support and inclusivity can help change the course of someone’s life for the better.
What inspires your style of art? What are the best ways you've found that have refined your practice?
My experiences inspire me. Being in visually and conceptually inspiring places is great for me too. Whether it’s big cities, small towns, history, pop culture, cultures, travelling, experiencing art galleries, book stores and expos/handmade markets/cons.
Your work is very female/body inspired – have you ever struggled with those inspiration and references affecting your body image perception? Do you think social media has played a positive or negative role in your perception?
Social media has been great in inspiring me positively. I see so many bodies out there that I was taught shouldn’t be shown in the media. I see women expressing themselves displaying their stretch marks, period blood, body hair, no makeup faces, dark patches, all skin tones, prosthetics, medical health, mental health… It’s so inspiring seeing them bare it all. It gives others a chance to see parts of themselves in a new light. Parts of themselves they may have hated before because they felt alone and different.
Do you have any mantras or words to live by?
Try to be a good person. Stay humble. Don’t let people walk all over you.
What advice what you give your 18-year-old self if you could?
Focus on yourself. You come first. Be more selfish. Say “no” more. Stick up for yourself.
How do you keep up your creative momentum? Where do you look to for the drive to create?
I chose art to be my full time job after doing newspaper layout for a bunch of years. The drive to create is 50% I LOVE ART and 50% I DONT WANT TO WORK FOR ANYONE ELSE. Everyday I am inspired. It rules. I just cross my fingers and start sketching and designing.
How has your work and practice developed over time?
More organised. Less messy. I’m talking about my workspace and my art here. There is more productivity and more focus on creating things that can sustain me and my living. Even though it’s my job, it’s exciting and I love waking up every day to think of what I can make next.
What or who have been some of your main creative influences?
Pretty much everyone I follow on Instagram has been a great influence to me. May that be photos they share of their process, their organisational skills, their finished works, their everyday lives. It’s inspiring to experience their process and passion for their work and lives and I’m grateful I get to see it.
Who’s work are you currently loving right now and why?
Oh Caroool is such a productive and creative person. She’s in Japan at the moment so she’s been influenced by alot of their culture. Loving her color palette, themes and the fact that she takes beautiful photos with her partner. Also she was doing a mystery Japan goodies box for her Patrons for awhile which I think is so sweet.
Where have been your favourite places to travel and have those places influenced your work?
Japan, Bali and Thailand were all great. Recently my husband and I did a roadtrip toward the east coast of the USA and back. Every place we stopped was inspiring to me. A couple of places that really stood out though was Joshua Tree and Seattle.
As you’ve gotten older – how has your perception of your body and confidence changed?
Yes. I’ve become more aware of different bodies and people and have tried to put some of those observations into my work.
When drawing female figures and personalities – do you take your own body into account?
Almost exclusively. Sometimes people get irritated with that.
Social media has been on a pretty interesting journey over the past few years - where do you see it now as opposed to two years ago?
Two years ago I was in a similar place. Things kind of slowed down a tad when I made the decision to actually stay in the USA. Immigration stuff took up alot of my energy and made me feel quite heavy. But as time has gone on, I’ve probably become more open about myself and my life. Sharing things I may not have been confident enough to share before and I like that.
Do you think there should be more talk on body image specifically in the creative industry and what do you think is missing when it is in the spotlight?
Less talk, more action I say. What’s missing is artists not being afraid to represent all kinds of people in their work.
www.patreon.com/melstringer / www.melstringershop.etsy.com