It goes without saying we are in a highly visual time. Everywhere we turn, we are being beckoned to give our attention to something outside of ourselves. Consumption on a never-ending cycle can be exhausting, but ever so often, something catches your attention that makes it worth your while.
With Abeille Creations owner Melissa A. Mitchell, there is always something worth seeing. With colorful authority, she paints a picture of not only passion but purpose with effortless strokes of authenticity. Between her striking and one-of-a-kind pieces on canvas and her wearable art that are guaranteed conversation starters, the Miami native is not only an artist who's perfect for an image-driven society but also one that society truly needs. She is one whose mission is bigger than the profit and whose vision is clearer than ever.
Iman Milner: How would you define yourself?
Melissa A. Mitchell: Most people know my artistic background. 2014, I started painting by mistake, and it became my whole life's calling. Outside of that, I am really just a master manifestor, and I use art as my medium. I always say I traded my pulpit for a paintbrush because I am the daughter of two pastors. I never saw ministry as my thing because I never wanted to be traditional in any way. I've always been colorful and pretty loud. It was natural that I became the artistic entity that I am today. I am an artistic powerhouse, but my true purpose is to motivate people to be great.
Iman Milner: You've had a lot of success as a visual artist; how do you stay hungry for the next level?
Melissa A. Mitchell: Not being a destination addict. It's really learning how to be content. Instead of always wanting more, I stay in a state of gratitude. Hunger for me is staying open and staying present, not putting too much on how things have to work out—and not feeling bad about dormancy.
Sometimes, you're not ready for the exposure you want. Be patient and make sure you're in the place for all the things you've been praying for. Embrace where you are, and don't overdo it.
Iman Milner: How do you release the urge to compare your journey to other people in your field?
Melissa A. Mitchell: When you're more concerned with blessing other people, you'll be blessed in return. For me, my journey has been one of staying even-keeled, and when you do that, there's no time to compare. I try to stay present and focused on what's happening in my career; when you do that, things move faster than you think.
Iman Milner: What keeps you grounded?
Melissa A. Mitchell: Last year this time, I had my biggest art show, to date, at the mayor's office. March 11th was supposed to be my show. I just knew this was about to my year, I was expecting to make 50k, and everything got canceled. What that taught me, above staying grounded, is to be humble. To be a planner. And to not base my value on what I can create for consumption. I began to paint for my own sanity. It was bigger than making a sale. I needed to paint to stay still for a while. I was allowing outside entities to dictate who I was.
I began to think about my legacy: How do I want to be remembered? Why am I doing this? My why became more important to me, and that is what keeps me grounded. Knowing my purpose is bigger than selling my work.
Iman Milner: What is your advice for visual artists who want to broaden their reach in a highly visual market?
Melissa A. Mitchell: Content is king. Even when you're doing nothing, you need to be doing something—content, content, content. People want to hear you talk; they want to see your personality. Bring people into your real life and show them who you are. Telling your real-life story builds organic relationships, and now they want to help you reach your artistic goals.
And only create things that feel authentic. People can feel when you're real, and they respond to that. You have to sell you, the artist, not the actual art. People want to feel like they're buying part of the journey.
Iman Milner: You create art and apparel. How do you honor trends and still stay true to what you want to do?
Melissa A. Mitchell: What's interesting about my story is that I am in Atlanta, and it's so oversaturated with creators. I wasn't really selling art that often. But I am a fashionista, and people always asked me where I got something that I was wearing. I started thinking I was a walking billboard for brands that were not mine.
I got the idea to start wearing my art, and that really made my art sell more. I'm sending people to my site for a head wrap, and they're seeing the artwork that matches it. Everything comes back to the canvas so, I know that people like what I do. I feel like I set my own trends. I create things that are different than what's out there, and people like that.
Iman Milner: Now that we're coming out of a year where people had to try new ways to promote whatever they do, what's next for the brand?
Melissa A. Mitchell: I enjoyed the pivot because it taught me that life doesn't have to change, and I saw the true tenacity of my gift. I am sure that I can be an artist whether I'm making money or not. My goal is to have more home decor and have my own line of rugs in a high-end store.
More textile designs where I can collaborate with brands who want to produce them. I want to step more into a designer role rather than having to do it all myself. Collaboration is a huge goal for me moving forward, just being able to say, "Here is what I am doing, let's see how it matches up with what you're doing," and taking it from there.