Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Interview with Melanie (The Creator's Palette)

The more I do these interviews, the more deeply I am honored by people's willingness to share their lives and, through their experiences, teach us how to live life with courage, creativity and grace. It is my great pleasure to bring you this interview with Melanie. I met her through the Visual Artists Street Team. She is the creative mind and spirit behind The Creator's Palette.

"When I was a little girl," Melanie tells me, "I was very active. My favorite thing was to be outside--twirling on the bars, learning to do cartwheels, roller skating, and riding my bike. As I got older, I did a lot of gymnastics, but never on a team. I did compete as a springboard diver for many years and I played tennis. My mom told me I would never be an artist. So--I never tried."

Melanie's life was characterized by activity. She obtained a degree in Early Childhood Education and taught a bit in the classroom before deciding to be a stay-at-home mom. "I was active in the kids' schools and taught my husband to play tennis with me." When her daughter had been taking ballet for 4 or 5 years, Melanie decided it was time to learn what all the terms meant. "I'd always loved ballet, so I began taking an adult ballet class. I also danced the part of a party parent in the Nutcracker (didn't really require much dancing) and eventually was cast as Clara's mother! What a thrill it was my second year as Clara's mother to have my own daughter dancing the part of Clara!"

Melanie was asked by the studio to develop and teach a preschool creative dance program. She trained and taught pre-ballet. During this time, she was also a published author in some prestigious magazines, had her own book in process and spoke at many women's conferences and retreats. "I had," she says, "a full and happy life."

But then came the whammy! "I was struck with a severe virus. From then on, I have slowly become more and more ill - dealing with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Dysautonomia. Both Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Dysautonomia cause severe weakness and fatigue and can have a profound effect on the daily activities of people with these conditions.

"My active life," Melanie continues, "came to a sudden halt! Yes, I had many pity parties, but I also soon began to seek out new things to fill my life. I watched a lot of PBS painting shows. I've always loved watercolor but had never tried painting." Melanie took an art class on basic drawing and color, but has never taken any other professional art classes. "I finally got up the courage to purchase a little paint and paper. I was disappointed. It looked horrible." Melanie checked out a few books from the library and switched to artist quality paints and paper. "As soon as I did--I was hooked!"

Melanie discovered ACEOs and began painting in this small, 2.5 inch by 3.5 inch, format. "What I sold my first ACEO on eBay, I was elated. I WAS an artist!"

"Now that I look back on my life," Melanie says, "I know I've always been an artist. It comes out of the soul. My art was expressed in the artistic dives I used in competition, in gymnastics, in dance, and now--it is expressed on paper!" Though Melanie's first love is and always will be watercolor, she has expanded to oil pastels and collage ACEOs. "Even if they one day find a cure for my illness, I will always be a painter!!! It is my love offering to God, my joy, and hopefully my way of encouraging others as they enjoy my creations!"

Melanie's caring and concern goes beyond her artwork and to social issues as well. "I care deeply about trafficked women in other countries - especially India. I feel deeply about the children who grow up in the red light districts and the women coerced into selling their bodies." It is difficult to document how many people--primarily women and children (though men are not excluded from being victimized by human traffickers)--are exploited throughout the world. There are powerfully complex economic and political forces at play that keep such activities from being accurately documented or eradicated. Particularly vulnerable are people from war-torn or devastatingly impoverished areas, though human trafficking and sexual exploitation occurs in every country throughout the world. "I wish even more for them (the victims of these atrocities) than just to find a way out," Melanie offers, "I wish for them to find hope, and a refreshed sense of self-worth, to really know who they are as an individual, and to experience genuine acceptance and love."

Hope plays an important role in Melanie's outlook on life. "When my days get tough, and they often do, I am mostly inspired by my HOPE. Hope that God loves me no matter what I accomplish today, what I look like or how I feel. Hope that nothing in this world can take away my two main purposes in life: to Love God with all my heart and to Love others. Hope that one day, I will be free of health issues and the real me will live in my real body! That's what keeps me going when life throws rocks at me!"

In the early days of dealing with her illness, Melanie found inspiration through the writings of Larry Crabb (Shattered Dreams), Joni Eareckson Tada and the beautiful paintings she learned to do with her teeth, and Laura Hillenbrand and her story of writing Seabiscuit in the midst of contracting Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

"As coined by Gary Thomas," Melanie continues, "I am a Sensate. I draw close to God and am moved and inspired by my senses! Smells, tastes, sounds and visual beauty are all important to me. I constantly have bouquets of roses in my house during the summer and candles burning the rest of the year. I LOVE music!!!!! It depends on what mood I'm in. I love a variety of music. I have a play list on my i-Tunes called "Relaxing and Painting" where I have mixed the best music to paint to. It includes piano music by Jim Brickman and Michael Allen Harrison, Enya, a few individual favorite movie soundtracks, and Solitudes - which are music and nature sounds mixed together. I also really enjoy Jack Johnson and there are times I have to go back to my long time, but always favorite, James Taylor. And I have favorite spiritual music, too. Some upbeat, some more quiet: David Crowder, Chris Tomlin, and Kathy Troccoli, for example. Many of these musicians have inspired specific art pieces with their music." In addition to music, Melanie adds "...nothing is more comforting to me than a perfectly made cup of tea!!!"

As to what shoes Melanie wears? "Slippers! Being chronically ill, I am home most of the time and spend the majority of my time in a recliner. Part of my illness causes my extremities to get very cold. Last Christmas, a friend gave me these wonderful down boots. I wore them all year. What a funny sight I was when it was hot: a tank top, shorts and my down booties!!! I've worn them so much that they are already worn through on the heels - just in one year! I love my down booties!!! But you'll also see in my picture, along with several pairs of slippers I wear around the house, I added my Adidas'. When I do get out, these are my favorite and represent the real me - active and competitive!"

You may find more information about Melanie's life and work at the following links:
The Creator's Palette Blog
The Creator's Palette Etsy Shop
The Creator's Palette Website
Melanie Pruitt
Melanie's Journey
Art Wanted
Image Kind
My Space
Zazzle

10% of all Proceeds from Melanie's work on Etsy is donated to The Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro Immune Disease.

For more information about Human Trafficking:
Trafficking Project
The CounterTraffickers: Rescuing the victims of the global sex trade
Sex Trade Economics
International Organization for Migration

3 comments:

Marionette said...

Janyce, Thanks again for such a wonderful article. I am learning so much about our fellow VAST members by reading your articles.

Melanie, I was truly touched by your story. I am so glad you found painting so you could continue being an artist! I sure hope that someday you can overcome your chronic fatigue.

With Much Aloha,
Marionette

Lily Pang said...

It is a wonderful article. Melanie, Wish you get better and better everyday.

Robin Maria Pedrero said...

Janyce thank you for this interview! I am deeply touched by your personal story Melanie. I too have a tender spot for those caught in human trafficing. I fund the International Justice Mission in this cause. I can not bring myself to create works depicting their fate but I needed to do something. I must research the writing of the new word you shared,sensate, because that is me to a T. God bless you today and always.
Robin