Every so often, we’re provided a glimpse into someone else’s world. It’s an enlightening experience for the person allowed privilege to inquire and observe. I happened to be the lucky gal to dig a little deeper into the layered world of local contemporary painter/artist, Melanie (Mel) Warsinske. Spending time with Melanie amongst her artwork not only educated me on the process and patience required for art, it also brought to the surface a few life lessons.
On a snowy spring morning, I walked my way to Melanie’s studio approximately three minutes from my home. I’m already taken with the natural beauty that surrounds her work space. The enormous pine trees bow with snow while birds chirp in an attempt to keep warm. The fact that her space is above a garage and laden with windows to engage the outside world, it seems certain some influence must come from nature.
I knock on the already unlatched door awaiting my arrival. “Come in,” she calls as I enter and am immediately greeted by a radiant smile surrounded by dozens of canvases—beauty in the making. Native American flute music lulls gently in the background as we exchange a little neighborly small talk before the interview begins. Melanie and I are neighbors, however we live the mountain type of life where neighbors are often waved to, occasionally a conversation ensues, but you always know they have your back. I felt honored that someone so close to me is a beloved member of our mountain community as well as a masterful artist.
Upon observing Melanie’s canvases, I immediately notice how her artwork embraces movement and layers, mirroring the life of her youth. Warsinske’s father was in the Air Force, therefore her family moved almost every three years, including overseas. For a shy young girl, this was a difficult undertaking. Warsinske learned to not only survive but thrive within the movement, as evidenced by her ethereal, abstract artwork. Her one constant of youth was the summers spent at her grandparents’ simple log cabin in the Montana wilderness. It was there she developed an affinity for nature and the peacefulness it brings.
Her penchant for art began in high school where her history teacher recognized her natural abilities and encouraged her to pursue her passion. Fortunately, her parents supported this decision and Melanie graduated from Texas Tech University with a major in Studio Art Painting and a minor in Ceramics. Over the years, Warsinske has played with many different types of textures from natural elements she would gather on her hikes or places she’s visited. Eclectic items such as a tiny bird’s nest, a beehive, pebbles or bark from a tree would be gently integrated and layered into her artwork. However, nothing stays static on her canvases; there is a fluidity that takes place through a deliberate layering process.
As the interview progresses, I’m more and more enthralled with her work and my questions come naturally. “How long does a typical piece take for you to complete?”
“Oh, about a month to two months, depending on deadlines for a show,” Melanie replies, with a sway of her long brown hair. She stands to show me several pieces that are in process. One, a completely white canvas, I notice is textured with an artist’s technique called molding paste, which is applied with a palette knife, and paint colors are added later. In this piece, the paste is applied and brings to life horses in motion; on others, the paste is abstract, thoughtful, yet playful. It’s obvious that painting with oil paints takes patience and a phenomenal comfort with the blending process and the many tools used to achieve the final effect.
The next canvases Melanie shows with enthusiasm are incomplete phases of work swathed with water-like, dreamy colors. They bring a calm to my senses. Each speaking its own story.
“Does each piece have an inspiration or story behind it? Do you start with an end in mind?” I can’t help but ask as I’m mesmerized by the power emanating off each canvas.
“No,” she says emphatically with a light laugh. “I don’t start with an end in mind, but I do allow what I’ve absorbed throughout my life guide me. It might be a place I’ve recently visited—a past experience that lives within me. I don’t know what will come out until it happens.” Warsinske is also commissioned to create pieces and gets excited to present the final piece, and one of her favorite compliments is that her artwork, “takes them on a journey.”
After years of working part time at different nonprofits, Warsinske retired in 2019 providing time to focus on her craft. Now, mornings are slow going with a brief meditation and a luxuriating cup of coffee. She makes it to her home studio by 10 am, turns on the calming music, which ignites her senses and decides which piece of art she’ll continue that day. It is her mission to “be loose” while creating and try not to “overthink things.” She doesn’t want to be “too conscious” when she works—she’d rather allow her paintings to “evolve organically.”
Watching artists come to life as they discuss their creative process is possibly one of life’s most inspirational and invigorating experiences. Warsinske is a genuine artist who expresses her kind soul in each of her works. In addition to showing her art at several galleries, Melanie is also an art teacher. She often tells her students, “Your painting is always an experiment with the abstract. When you stop experimenting, you’re not going to grow. Also, knowing what your tools do for you is important.” Essentially, Warsinske’s words of wisdom can be a metaphor for how we all should live—experiment, grow, use your tools—keep fluid.
Melanie Warsinske’s work is currently on display in the following galleries:
Mirada Fine Art Gallery – Just moved from Indian Hills to LoDo in Denver, CO
Faust Gallery – Santa Fe, NM
Walnut Gallery – Longmont, CO
Also, visit melaniewarsinske.com.