Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sketchbook Profile: Melanie Testa

Melanie Testa is a fiber and mixed media artist living in Brooklyn, New York with her Man and her Cat. She is the author of Inspired to Quilt by Interweave Press.

While in third grade I was asked to write an essay on what I wanted to be when I grew up. While I knew I was supposed to write about wanting to be a nurse, teacher, doctor or scientist, I could not and would not be able to fulfill that expectation. I wanted to be a bird, I still do. I may be too ungainly and settled into a human form to sprout wings and really get started in that long standing wish but I can still dream.  Read more...

Why do you keep a sketchbook and how often do you work in it?
Keeping a journal started in college, where I majored in Textile/Surface Design. I was given extra credit for doing so and really that is all I needed. At that point my journals were rips sheets from magazines, cut outs of paint chips from the hardware store to help in pinpointing color choices for fabric designs, and my first tentative steps into drawing and the study of plants-lots of textile design are centered around florals.

Now I work in a journal not every day but at the very least throughout the week. I keep several pages going at one time, working in a single book until it is complete. I work in a journal to keep my creative ideas flowing.

What's your preferred format (sketchbook size, type of paper, single sheet, spiral bound etc?) and preferred medium for using in your sketchbook? watercolor, pen, pencil, crayon, collage etc?
I love 140lb watercolor paper. I have begun making my own books this year and have fallen in love with a square format, though the book I am using right now is 5x8" when closed. I will go back and forth that way. When making your own books, you sort of want to and need to use up all the paper you purchase for the task. I work across the entire spread, I collage, paint, draw, whatever strikes my fancy. Gouache my favorite paint, is opaque watercolor. But I also use acrylic paints, transparent watercolor, colored pencils, whatever.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to keep a sketchbook but doesn't know how to begin?
Just do it. Creating and maintaining a practice will improve your skills, nothing and no one else can do this for you. Create the habit of messing pages up, drawing in, painting on top of, and collaging images into a journal. Turn the page and ignore what you have done if you don't like it (next month or year you might!). Before you know it you will begin to love your books and will not be able to live without them. I do not think there is 'natural talent', I think you either practice or you do not. Doctors maintain a practice, as do lawyers, take yourself seriously and create an Artist's Practice.

Anything else you'd like to add?
Ignore your inner critic and HAVE FUN!

Visit Melanie's blog here and check our her gallery of work here.
You can purchase Melanie's book "Inspired to Quilt" on Amazon here.


  1. Melanie, I'm always inspired by your work! Thanks for this interview, with lots of motivation and food for thought.

  2. I like your advise to ignore what you don't like. I must try that!

  3. Oh I just love the "Practice" idea. I practice art! I love that. That's so much easier to envision for a non-professional like me than "artist" is. From now on I think I will tell people I am an art practitioner!


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