Today’s #inspirations4aspirations interview guest is @menagerie_melissa
I first met my friend Melissa Larimer in a painting class at the University of West Florida. She is not only a talented artist but also extremely nice. I always enjoy chatting with her. I say in all sincerity she is one of the coolest people I know (and for the record, I wrote that even before our interview).
The hand-lettering for this piece is inspired by typography on the 1896 sheet music titled “The Interfering Parrot Song” from the very dated musical, The Geisha. With her background in theatre I shall call this “Melissa and the coat of many feathers” (Joseph eat your heart out).
Melissa Larimer: in her own words
I grew up here in Navarre, Florida. I lived on the Navarre beach island until I was four and then we moved to the mainland suburbs.
I have two birds (little blue one is Shepherd and Pikachu the yellow cockatiel one that’s all over social media), two betta fish, and my new kitten Aria. My brother has a cat named Milky Way and a goofy sun conure named Solaire (the bigger orange and yellow bird that makes an occasional appearance on social media).
I work as a vet tech (veterinary nurse) at Animal Medical Center in Gulf Breeze. The vet who owns the clinic is also the vet that services the Gulf Breeze Zoo. It was a really chaotic day yesterday, but in the midst of it all I got to help x-ray a South African crane, which was really awesome.
I have been obsessed with drawing/painting/making things since I could hold a pencil. It was just a beloved, stress-relieving hobby until I was not accepted into UWF’s theatre program and I had to choose another major. It ended up being a blessing in disguise. I soon knew God had put me in the right place as I met so many wonderful people in the art department and discovered how passionate I really was about art.
Theatre helped me come out of my shell a lot, as well as just taught me how to be more expressive and open-minded in general. Not to mention, it really helped me click with performance art when I first encountered it in my art classes. It inspired me to try it out myself at the Pop Up exhibitions. Theatre also introduced me to fellow artists who were theatre majors, one of whom is my close friend and mentor (@alysindigoart). She taught me so much about acrylic and watercolor techniques and how they can apply to stage painting, which in itself is really awesome!
While I was still doing theatre, a theatre friend of mine donated several pairs of Little Mermaid painted shoes to my brother’s high school musical production of The Little Mermaid and theatre fundraiser. I wanted to give it a try myself as I saw endless possibilities for affordable personalized shoes (I refused to pay $100 for custom Vans). Plus, it’s a really personal way to express your artistic side in your everyday look, as well as an awesome advertising venue for commissions. I’ve received so many compliments on my ocean shoes, and ended up getting two commissions out of them. They’re also just fun to paint.
I aspire to create art that brings joy and sparks to people’s imaginations. I love getting that feeling when I’m viewing a favorite piece. There was a painting at the Pensacola Museum of Art by a South American artist depicting the creation of life based on the religious beliefs of the artist’s culture. I had to look at it for 10 minutes for an assignment, but I could have stared at it for hours because there was so much going on, not in a cluttered way, but in a pleasing and intriguing way.
1 Why do you create?
I create because I have a huge imagination and if I don’t let it out on a paper or canvas, I’ll probably go insane (haha). Plus it’s just really satisfying seeing the beautiful results of hours of hard work.
2 When life gets you down what inspires you to get back up?
My loved ones. My mom gets the brunt of my rants and tears, and she always finds things to say that make the pain go away. She’s always there when I fall down so I can learn to pick myself back up.
My pets also comfort me and remind me how truly blessed I am, that God never gives us more than we can handle. He gives us things like our animals to help us cope and counter the obstacles He sets before us.
3 You are very open about your spirituality. How do your beliefs influence your art?
I owe being able to make art, major in it in college, and the friendships/connections I made over these past few years to God. He put me in the art department for a reason and I’m a new person because of it.
When I incorporate religious themes into my pieces, I feel a special presence in my heart. It’s the same feeling I get when I sing in my church choir, bend my head to pray, and hug a loved one. The only name I could give that feeling is pure love. I’ve been told that God blesses us with special abilities to share with the world and glorify Him. And I believe art is mine.
4 As a vet tech you are exposed to lots of animals (not to mention your own menagerie). How does nature and animals inspire you creatively?
I’m really bad at drawing/painting animals (yet I see them every day, lol). So they don’t inspire me directly. But being in the presence of animals, especially my own, brings me happiness, peace, and tranquility. And that is a great stimulus for my creativity.
Pikachu, my cockatiel, in particular is my little helper when it comes to art. She loves to climb down to my wrist and grab the paintbrush or pencil out of my hand, like “Let me try, Mom!”
As far as nature, it’s the same kind of feeling, except that the inspiration is more direct. I’m particularly drawn to the beauty, sounds, colors, and animals of the ocean and beach. The world underwater is so unique and aesthetically pleasing, and I love learning about sea life. Octopuses in particular are a bit of a current fixation. I’m in the process of an octopus painting, hopefully the first of a series I want to call “The adventures of Bartholomew the Octopus”!
Many thanks to my inspiration and aspiration, Melissa Larimer.
I’m John Lhotka, wishing you a nice day, and all that jazz.