Cape Town-born and Joburg-based artist Melissa Fontini left the world of advertising in 2015 to travel across Africa and Europe with her then boyfriend. It was on this adventure, that she began illustrating again for the first time in 13 years.
“We literally gave 75% of our belongings away.” She continues, “The road and the change in my lifestyle gave me time and I could express my experiences through drawings. I left everything behind for freedom and through that I became an artist.”
Her My Women in Colour series provides a lighthearted look at the female experience. “My topics are always related to women, probably because I am a woman. But in this day and age it is important to me to inspire, ask questions and not take yourself too seriously while doing it. I want my work to do all this in a light-hearted manner. We have enough shit to deal with from day-to-day.”
The body of work was inspired by her time spent on the road and features a wealth of women characters in the nude. “These illustrations tell the stories of my time on the road, my life and some of the amazing women I have around me.” There’s a touch of surreality to the images, which incorporate phantasmagoric elements.
Her hand-drawn approach allows her to create from just about anywhere with a lineup of tools, which include: ink, micron pens, brush pens, Koi pens, Copic markers and paint brushes.
“I only work traditionally. It suits my style, it suits me. Not having command-Z in my process is probably one of my favourite things. You learn how to work with mistakes – in reality nothing is ever a mistake, just a new direction.”
This week, Melissa and an artist friend, Celeste Theron, will be completing a mural at the African Beer Emporium in Pretoria. “The mural started as live project during a collab performance by Wêreld Records and The Horizon Choir Project, but unfortunately time wasn’t on our side – I cannot wait to see the full piece in all its glory.”
Independently, she is working on a new series that was inspired by the concept of collaborating. The project is a silent collaboration between herself and artists who she does not know and will probably never meet.