Melissa Donne on Letting Nature Inspire You

by | Jul 14, 2023

Melissa Donne is an illustrator from the South Coast of England.  Known for her bold use of colour and pattern, she designs with joyful outcomes in mind and an objective to create playful art that will brighten any space.

How did your creative journey come to life?

I started on my creative journey after college and studied Fashion Design at University. However I actually decided to pursue a more academic route after studying creative courses and took a Masters degree in Film Theory. This led to a couple of years working on a PhD looking at the relationship between the Fashion and Film industries. It was fascinating work, however I dreamt of returning to my creative roots. After having my son, followed by a brief stint in teaching, I knew I had to restart my creative journey.  I bought an Ipad and the app Procreate and started to draw, approximately 3.5 years ago. I instantly fell in love and started designing art prints and began selling them on Etsy. 

What inspires you on a day-to-day basis?

I’m hugely inspired by colour and pattern.  I see it all around me and everywhere I go! I can’t walk down the street anymore without spotting things that inspire my art – from a colourful front door, to shop signage and architecture! I am also heavily inspired by nature and flora specifically. I love visiting botanical gardens and even just buying a new bunch of flowers can inspire a new piece of art.  I love being outdoors and wandering around my hometown, or being close to the sea is also really good for inspiration.

What does a typical day in your week look like?

I wake very early, but my working day never starts until after the school run is over and I have some solitude.  I find it hard to work consistent, structured hours so I might work for a couple of hours in the morning, responding to emails, posting on social media and processing orders for example. Then I break for an hour or so, take a walk and listen to music, before starting to draw in the afternoon.  I usually do a bit of everything in one day, rather than dedicating certain days to certain tasks, so a day for me is very varied, which is just how I like it.  I try not to plan ahead too much either – the main thing I have learnt in this line of work is that no two days are the same, and you never know what is going to land in your inbox! 

Other things I tend to do in my day is some printing, to ensure I always have a good amount of stock to hand for my product business, admin (not my favourite thing to do, but oh so important!) and also research – perhaps around a new commission, or for inspiration for a new print.  I try not to work too late, and make sure I have family time which is really important to me.  However, occasionally I will draw late into the evening though if I’m particularly inspired or on a roll.  Drawing never feels like work though as it’s such a passion – switching off is never easy in this respect but I try and maintain as much balance in my life as possible.

Tell us about some career highlights so far!

I’ve been really lucky to work on some amazing collaborations with brands, including Passion Planner in the US and also a featured artist collection for Casetify.  Seeing my work on products is such a pleasure –  for example you can find my work currently on a needlepoint kit, umbrella, tech accessories and stationary. I have also recently illustrated my first book cover, a cookbook, which has just been published in the UK. It’s a very proud moment for me.

What was the inspiration behind the patterns in your wallpaper collection?

My starting point for the collection with Otto Studio was, as it often is, bold colour combinations. Colour palettes usually come to me first and I often build my patterns around these.  So I envisaged quite a dreamy, pastel vibe and wanted to add in a few darker and bolder colour palettes also, but generally the mood was delicate and ethereal. I wanted to include some retro style florals, but also some bright and playful fruit wallpaper which would have a big impact and fun aesthetic. All my designs have an abstract feel, to different degrees, the floral shapes are reminiscent of certain flowers but are largely abstract in nature and intended to look a bit different. The fruit has an abstract feel in relation to the colour choices – such as blue leaves on the lemons, and a dash of hot pink on the cherries.

Which people or books have had the most influence on your creative growth?

I love sourcing and reading vintage botanical encyclopedias for inspiration, looking at the often very intricate details and thinking about how I can create something fresh and original with these in mind. I am also inspired heavily by a number of artists – specifically Georgia O’ Keefe,  Matisse, William Morris and art movements such as the Bauhaus and Impressionism.

What advice would you give to anyone starting out as a creative?

 I would definitely teach myself (and others) to absolutely not be afraid of making mistakes! I have made so many but it has undoubtedly allowed me to experiment and try out different things. Experimentation is so important and helps us to keep learning. Building an identity as an artist takes time, it’s not an overnight sensation, but the process of experimentation is by far the most satisfying and rewarding part of growing as a creative.

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