I’m excited to feature the work along with Q&A of In-Ah Mellor, a painter in North Vancouver, BC, Canada. I’m a big fan of her unique and diverse paintings because of their striking nature and the fact they work well in so many different interiors.
In-Ah was kind enough to take the time to answer a series of questions I had about her work, process and how she became the successful artist that she is.
Jon: How long have you been creating art?
Ever since I was little I loved drawing and painting, and especially creating stories and comics. My mother started her art career later in life and I loved watching her create paintings and sculptures.
I knew I wanted to be an artist but I also wanted to be able to make a living so when I stumbled across animation as a career I fully embraced it! I worked as a feature film animator in London, Amsterdam, and Vancouver for over 10 years and I absolutely loved it. When the pandemic hit I had transitioned to teaching animation, but switching to online lectures felt disconnected to me. That combined with two young children who demanded attention forced me to take a break from my work as an instructor. In an effort to keep some sanity during insane times, I turned to my long-lost passion for painting and drawing. It was an incredible way to keep my creativity and stop my mind from spiraling out of control. So far I have completed four series (available on in-ah.com) and published a children’s book called ‘Shapeless Lee’ which was written by Vega Powell and is available on Amazon and at United Strangers in Blueridge. I used many of my painting techniques to create the illustrations, like decalcomania where you apply paint to a surface and press another one against it to create unique textures.
Jon:What are your different methods?
In-Ah: Textures are the main focus at the beginning. I use Modeling paste and crackle paint to create depth and visual interest. I then use squeezy bottles to apply a design or line work on top of the textured background. Often I press two canvases together so the mirrored diptych is perfectly symmetrical. There is something soothing and calming in symmetry that I am slightly obsessed with. The colours I use are acrylics and metallic paint, paint pens and gold leaf.
Jon: What different types of paints/materials do you use?
In-Ah: My preferred medium is definitely acrylics. Either as high-pigment paint or paint pens mixed with metallics or a cracking agent. I love playing with modelling paste and glue to achieve a nice thick mixture that can be applied with a squeezy bottle and creates 3-dimensional lines or raised dots. Sometimes I layer acrylic ink on top to create more colour depth.
Jon: Are most of your pieces part of a series these days?
In-Ah: I usually like picking a ‘theme’ and exploring different interpretations to create a series. There is beauty in having several pieces that belong to each other and create a sort of dialogue when exhibited in the same space. When I start exploring a theme there are usually several ways to express it visually that naturally form a coherence.
Jon: How do you come up with your ideas?
In-Ah: My first series ‘OYSTER’ was initially inspired by oyster mushrooms and their beautiful shapes and organic flowing lines. It sent me along a path of discovering many other funghi and their amazing colours and huge diversity, not to mention the incredible medicinal potential they hold. I also love the fact that funghi creates a communication network for the whole forest. Many plants use the wide net of fungal roots to communicate with each other, which is such a beautiful way to share what they have built with other living flora around them. This openness and willingness to connect resonated a lot with me during the pandemic where there was such a huge lack thereof. Even now I feel that social ties, customs and abilities are still recovering from the forced isolation we all had to live through.
After this initial series, it evolved into other categories. ‘UCU’ (you see you) was inspired by Rohrschach images. Ink blots that are symmetrical and open to individual interpretation. You can see different things emerge depending on your unique way of letting the shapes and compositions form something familiar. The next series ‘MONOCHROME’ was a kind of gateway to my latest series ‘VENEER’ where I explore the different layers we are made of and how we try to uphold a perfect front that is usually full of cracks and small imperfections, which makes it all the more intriguing. You can still see all the flowing lines, organic shapes, and symmetry come through in this last collection. The cracks draw you in to look closer. For is it not what lies beneath that is usually the true beauty that intrigues us and forms real connections?
Jon: Can people buy a single piece from a series?
In-Ah: Absolutely. Although the sets themselves belong together (diptychs, triptychs, polyptychs). They can be framed as one or individually, depending on individual preference and what works best in the space it will live in.
Jon: Do you create custom work on commission? If so, what is that process?
In-Ah: Yes, I love commissioned work. The client can choose the style based on a series, and the colours or type of metallics. Sizes are variable and based on available canvases, or can be made custom upon request. There is usually an initial dialogue where we talk about what the client is envisioning and once we know where this adventure leads us it takes me 3-6 weeks to complete the work, depending on size and style. Framing is another thing I offer to take care of and finishes the artwork beautifully.
Do you have a new series planned for 2024? If so, care to share what it’s about?2024 will be all about my next children’s book series! I will be illustrating a bunch of gorgeous stories about life, death, and everything in, around, and about it.
In-Ah: For me, art has been such a part of my life that I cannot imagine it without it. It’s one of those things where you worry that saying ‘I’m compelled to do it, it completes me’ sends people into fits of projectile vomiting. It’s so corny, yet it is true in my case. I feel a strong need to make and create images every day. It is one of those things that when you find it and have the opportunity to lean into it and explore it, you know that you have found your ‘thing’. I am incredibly grateful that I am able to explore art and make it my job. Here’s a minimalist living room design in neutrals.