I Create Birmingham: Melissa Shultz-Jones

“Birmingham is a great place to be an artist. It’s an unassuming, unpretentious place. We’re not Atlanta and that’s awesome. It feels freer here.”

Name: Melissa Shultz-Jones
Occupation: Artist
Creative Industry: Visual Arts & Crafts

1. From looking at your website you experiment with a lot of different mediums; is there one that you are drawn to more than others?

I use watercolor and gouache a ton. I have kids so I don’t experiment with oils much these days. I picked up gouache about a year ago. I really like the way it reactivates on the paper; whereas watercolor is more of a permanent medium. I’ll put a layer of watercolor underneath and then put the gouache on top. It’s like painted chalk; temper paint for adults basically. You can get a lot of soft, pretty lines and transitions with gouache.

I’ve recently picked up acrylic paint because it dries fast. I use india ink a ton. I just love the dark, sooty warmth. I find ink really satisfying because you can play with textures and nuances. It draws me in to the piece when I see a really well done black and white. Sometimes color can be almost an assault.

2. Are there any particular artists that inspire you? Any Birmingham artists?

Tons! I grew up studying masters. As a kid I begged my mom to get this big coffee table book from the flea market. It had all these master paintings in it and I would just study that. I poured over a lot of Italian painters as a kid.

I also enjoy a lot of modern artists. I love the comic artist Sean Gordon Murphy in particular. I also love children’s book artists, screen printers, and so many others. It’s hard not to be inspired. So many people are doing wonderful things out there.

Birmingham is a great place to be an artist. It’s an unassuming, unpretentious place. We’re not Atlanta and that’s awesome. It feels freer here. You’ve got local artists like Paul Wilm and Clay Stembridge, for instance, who are doing great things.

3. How do you feel Art Crawl helps support you as an artist?

It really opened up a lot of different doors for me. Art Crawl came along at a time when I was just getting myself out there as an artist. It’s helped me grow as an artist and reconnect with other local artists. The Birmingham art community is more of a support group to me. We all support each other rather than compete.

I was chosen to be the featured artist for this month’s Art Crawl. They really help with promoting my art. My budget and business cards can only go so far.

4. What other support could you benefit from as a visual artist?

I would say to hire and buy local. I would love to be commissioned to do murals or have my art hang and help beautify the city. Any kind of work is great. I feel like most of us artists are pretty versatile. I guess just more opportunities to work.

5. Why do you think it’s important to integrate arts in education?

I was painting and drawing from as early as I can remember and I can’t imagine not having that outlet. Having arts and music and science available to young humans is important. It’s important to have that expression, that freedom to let it all out. We’re not all reading, writing, and arithmetic. Kids are so bombarded with the correct way to do things and they need free time to explore or to day dream. Whether that means with their hands on paper or with clay or music or acting or whatever; that time just needs to be available.