studio visit: melissa townsend

Sitting with Melissa over cappuccinos and cinnamon buns, chatting about kids and life craziness, it is easy to feel like I have known Melissa forever. The truth is Melissa Townsend and I have run in similar paths for years and only recently gotten around to really chatting. So I decided to invite myself over to her lovely home, hang out with her and her adorable son, and drink her fancy coffee.

I know nothing of about you or your story. Did you study fine art or are you self-taught?

“I grew up in a small town on the West Coast. As a little girl I had lots of creative visions and daydreams. I found a wonderful way to open that world up when I took a watercolour class. It was an adult class and I was like, twelve. I painted a bird. It was really realistic. And I was like “I love this”. So I ordered some art supplies and took some more classes in the Summers. I eventually took Fine Arts at Vancouver Island University and then transferred to Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. I majored in drawing. But when I took a night course with Heather Sayeau four years ago, I found painting. I started to see in paint.”


“It begins with a song in my heart.”

I first heard about your work when A {my husband} came home from the PreShrunk Show at Argyle Fine Art. It may have been your first inclusion in the PreShrunk, still early on in your career. He was totally loving your wee owls. He made me go on-line to view them. So you started with owls early. Why owls?

“In general I like owls because of their representation of wisdom in our culture. I like that they thrive & see well in darkness and that they are skillful, due to their acute vision and hearing. Plus, they see full circle (circumspect). That’s seriously cool stuff. At the time I started painting, I was really looking to do a series that could keep this ‘wisdom’ meaning strong for as long as I wanted. Plus I was playing with paints and {painting owls) was all just a lot of fun.”


 What painters are you inspired by right now?

“Oh! Samantha French. Michelle Armas. Melissa Peck. I love what is happening right now in that sphere of painting, with those painters. I love the attitude and confidence in their styles. I love their freshness. And how they blog and have great websites and are out there in the design world. I really like design.”

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You recently did some live painting at a wedding. How did that all come together?

“Yeah. This couple had a vision of someone creating a work of art during their wedding. They asked me. They had this idea and really wanted me to do it. We met and clicked. It was a really special experience.”

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“I am all freedom, joy, and butterflies.”

When you begin a new series of paintings for a show or special request like the wedding, what is your creative process like?

“The preparation begins with a song in my heart. A feeling brews in my heart. And then I pay attention. I begin to recognize songs, books that relate to that feeling. It can just be a word. I feel the word and it just, resonates, in my soul. It always starts like that. Even with the owls. The owls do not just present in the form of an owl. It begins with a feeling.”

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So what was the feeling or song in your heart with your upcoming show Golden?

“It was a feeling of golden light. Like warm gold light in our hearts. Or that cozy fall gold. It was a feeling. And then my husband played me this song “Golden” and I was like “that is the word. Golden. That’s it.” So there is gold colour in every owl – in the eyes, in the breast.”


That seems like a theme for your work – light.

“That is what I am interested in. Light. Seeking light. There is enough darkness out there. I am all about light. I am all freedom, joy & butterflies.”


Melissa Townsend lives and works in Halifax, Nova Scotia. If you are in the area, you can check out her latest show, Golden, at Harvest Gallery in Wolfville, Nova Scotia which officially opens October 25th.


Thank you very much to Melissa and little V for the visit. Thank you to Yorke Photography for the wedding photographs.


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