Melissa May

Artist Statement

l am completely self-taught as an artist and I love to paint animals as it is a way to facilitate a long-forgotten connection with the world around us. These creatures are separate individuals and my hope is to capture the unique qualities of each animal and shine a light on the spirit of the species they represent. An animal portrait allows me to impose my own interpretation of what I am seeing as I might change the colour, shape, surroundings or lighting of the subject.

I find nature so inspiring, it’s complexity, ingenuity, organization and perfection. Inspiration comes from all the little things, like the way the light is hitting the face, a concentrated look, or emotional quality, which gives a window into life you can never truly know. We consider ourselves superior or more worthy yet we continue to devastate nature and without regard, so my art is expressing my appreciation for the complexity of the natural world in all its beauty.

Each piece begins with a reference photograph so that I can concentrate on the process, which, tends to be organic, and shows every stroke of hair or fur in the animal’s coat and bringing life and authenticity to the subject. I begin with a rough sketch, and add a base layer of paint, adding layers showing shadows and apply more layers until the fine details are applied. I prefer acrylic paint for this reason, it is quick drying and allows fast application of layers.

I am amazed with the variety of hues and textures of each subject, for example one tiger I paint can be a completely different colour pallet from another, with a wide variety of colour that one would not consider typical for a tiger. It truly thrills me for each and every painting I am working on.

My hope for the viewer of my work, is to be struck by the animal, the beauty and fragility of the natural world, and the wild, unrestricted displays it offers. I generally do not follow a rigid discipline of application or technique rather it spontaneously evolves as I paint each subject. My natural instinct takes over and I always mix my small selection of paints to create a wide variety of colour, allowing the painting to take shape gradually. My paintings simply develop a life of their own.

Artist Biography

Melissa’s wildlife portraiture offers a connection that is both intimate and emotional with a wide variety of beautiful animals. She is completely self-taught and prides herself on her realism, generally placing the subject against a neutral background in order to highlight the details of colour and light. She pays particular attention to the eyes as she feels they are the windows of the soul and can bring the piece to life.

She prefers to use acrylic paints as they provide beautiful and lasting results due to the fast-dry time. This quick drying quality allows her to add multiple layers, giving the animal an authentic presence by showing every stroke of hair or fur in the animal’s coat. She has the unique ability to combine her two passions – the wildlife she paints and the joy of creative exploration.

Melissa lives and works in Quispamsis, New Brunswick. She enjoyed a childhood living in a country setting, close to nature, this combined with a talent for drawing has set her on a path of creativity. She did not embark on her career as a wildlife artist until 2018, having worked for many years as a home décor and improvement shop owner.

As well as being shortlisted for the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020, Melissa was selected to exhibit her work in 2019 at the Jane Goodall Foundation in Vienna, Austria where Dr. Jane Goodall herself lectured in an intimate evening in honor of her 85th birthday.

Her artwork is included in numerous private art collections in England, Austria and throughout Canada.