Melissa Julie Anne Hicks was born in Hammersmith, London in 1991. She was influenced early on by an appreciation for nature, Japanese animation and Role-Playing Games, and story-telling art of all kinds.
She completed her Art A-level at Bexley Grammar School and started working as a Freelance Artist during her first year of sixth form college, in 2009. Her first commission was a colourful, expressionist, beach-scape acrylic painting for her secondary school German teacher.
She graduated from the University of Kent with a BA in English and American Literature and Creative Writing in July 2013, then with an MA in Creative Writing in September 2014. During this time, she was Resident Illustrator for online writing group Plus Ten Craft and had her artwork published in Box[Ed.] creative writing magazine. She also continued to take on a variety of commissions, including theatre props for university societies, videogame concept art for an independent game developer, and personal paintings (and even the odd bar sign) for friends and acquaintances.
After university, she set up her first official website and Etsy shop. She also began to pursue a career in teaching and assisting in the classroom. She volunteered for the educational charity City Year in Spring of 2016 and from the summer of 2016 until 2018 she worked as an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) Teacher in Guadarrama, Spain. It was here that she participated in her first art fayre and discovered a love for oil painting.
She currently works as a Teaching Assistant in the Special Educational Needs department of a school in Chelsea. She continues to regularly submit to competitions and challenges such as The International Postcard Competition held annually by the Surface Gallery in Nottingham and Jake Parker’s Inktober. You can also find her in attendance at life drawing classes in London, continuing to find her style and refine her craft!
What style of art do you do?
I always struggle with this question for a couple of reasons. Partly to blame is the experience of doing Art & Design at school, and partly to blame are my own idealistic ideas about art!
At the secondary school I went to, the format of the course was that you’d be given a word - something like “water” or “time” or “change” - for you to interpret however you like and head in a certain direction with it, drawing inspiration from other pre-existing artists along the way. This would form the basis of your art project, during which the pieces you create have to follow a very specific order. First you do an Artist Copy replicating a relevant artist’s style. Then comes the Artist Response, where you make an original piece but, again, in the aforementioned artist’s style. And finally, you create your Final Pieces, which take or leave whichever aspects of that artist’s style agreed with you! I think the ultimate aim was for us to develop our own personal style from doing this a number of times, but I really liked the idea of understanding other styles and adopting them temporarily for a particular effect, or as if to create a piece that the artist might have done in some alternate reality. It's always an interesting challenge to try to learn and adhere to the rules of someone else's world. Back then, we also had to write pages in our sketchbooks analyzing the artist’s style and artistic choices – which was really an exercise in understanding the rules within which we would have to create our pieces. Of course, I often didn’t replicate other artistic movement’s styles very faithfully - it's pretty hard! But this project format definitely helps you deal with the wonderful problem that has greeted every artist or writer there ever was: The Blank Page.
The best thing about Art, is that you can do whatever you want with it. Of course, how much practice you’ve had with your chosen medium and style will determine how much the execution and final product deviate from the idea you had in your head; but I do believe that anyone with enough practice, patience and time, can make anything they want. The problem with limitless possibilities is, you often have no idea where to start, which sometimes means you don’t start at all! But for me, starting with a prompt or concept and introducing limitations, has always been a great diving board from which to launch into original ideas.
That’s why I’d say the style of my art meanders a lot. Though I skip the Artist Copy phase of those school art projects, I still experiment with and draw inspiration from a lot of the styles I’ve seen and studied.
So who or what inspires you?
The Ukiyo-e and serial manga prints of Hokusai and Harunobu, the illuminated manuscripts of the Lindisfarne Gospels, Paul Klee and Pablo Picasso, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Indian miniature painting, Chinese perspective paintings, Yayoi Kusama, Alphonse Mucha, the illustrations of Scott C., David Hockney, Cubism, Aztec art, totem poles and tribal masks, gothic Christian architecture, stylised cartography, French Impressionism, El Greco, Romanticism and German romantic painting to name a few. My other two main inspirations are writing and videogames (J-RPGs more than anything else.)
But something that’s common to almost all of these things is Story. I love pictures that tell a story, whether it’s a busy marketplace, where you can see each person trying to achieve their own personal happiness by different means, or a portrait with subtle details that tell you the sitter’s backstory. And story-telling art that has a lot of detail also gives you the joy of discovering something new every time you come back to it. I love stepping into another culture, time or reality through the aesthetic of its art. So I hope to do the same with my own artwork.
That’s a lot of different sources. Is there anything that consistently comes up in your art?
If I had to sum up what I usually try to do in a phrase, it would be Subjective Re-imaginings (which sounds pretty pretentious- let me explain XD.) Sometimes this means making fantasy art; I love doing thought-experiments, world building and making concept art. The first big art project that I ever worked on when I was a kid was a catalog of the mutated creatures that came ot populate a post-apocalyptic Earth after it was hit by a catastrophic comet strike that inexplicably rendered the planet into the shape of a mushroom (don't ask.) Other times, I like to take on the challenge of portraying something that’s difficult to depict. Representing pinnacle moments in Christian history through still-life compositions or expressing depression and loneliness through abstract paintings and collage. I never do photorealism - mainly because it's really hard and I am often some combination of lazy and impatient - but also because even when it comes to portraiture, I want it to be something a bit different from the reality, that someone else couldn’t re-create. Them from my perspective. Whatever I’m painting or drawing, I want it to be my own, and so hopefully, a new take on something people have seen or felt before; getting them to think about it in a new way and telling them a new story about it.