Artist Q&A – Melanie Peter


Melanie Peter



Q: What kind of art do you do?

A: I’m always changing. For 40 years I did portraits and images of people. I also did outdoor landscapes in the past of Central Florida, where I was raised. I did mostly pastel painting of landscapes and people. But around 2005 I gave up pastels because they were too hard to frame and store. I started doing oil paintings only. It took me a couple years to get used to them and not hate them. I have a love-and-hate relationship with oil paint because it has so many complications that pastels don’t have. I was spoiled, because when you make a mark with pastel, it stays the same color. But if you make a mark with oil paint, it can be overridden with another mark later or it can change color.


Q: What inspires you?

A: Light. My love of light and the way it changes the things around it. That has always fascinated me. The night paintings played into that. Depending on the color of the light it changes things. Human beings have always fascinated me, too.


Q: How does the Gainesville community contribute to your role as an artist?

A: Gainesville is a community of artists. I don’t think I have ever found a place where I felt so not alone as an artist. I feel supported by them. We keep each other growing as artistic individuals.


Q: Are there any common trends behind your work, or is each individual piece unique?

A: At the same time I was quitting portraiture, I started painting the Gainesville night paintings. I would drive around at night photographing wildly. Sometimes the cops would tail me. People would come out of the house and say, “May I help you?” I would say, “I’m just taking photos. I’m going to make art.” So I got thousands of photos, and I would bring them back to my studio, sort through them and find the ones that seemed to tell a story of some sort. I would then try to make paintings that a person could make up a story about. It grew into just paintings about anything that might have a story.


Q: How do you feel when you’re engaging in your art? What is going through your head?

A: When I’m painting — I’m not sure what happens. I’m completely somewhere else. I could just paint for hours. I don’t know anything except if it’s going right or wrong. So I’m always aware of how it’s going.


Q: Any advice to other aspiring/young artists/creative students out there?

A: My only advice is to work hard at it. If you don’t love it, you won’t work hard at it, and you wont make much of it. Ideally, find what you love to do more than anything, and do it as much as you can. You don’t get good at anything without long hours of work. It may not always feel like work, but it is work.