Jen: After studying to become an artist, how did you decide to concentrate on animal portraits?
Melyssa: Ever since I was a kid, I've always wanted to be a vet. In fact, my original plan was to major in Zoology in undergrad and go immediately on to vet school (and get out of Ohio once and for all). Miami University (of Ohio) was the only in state school I applied to and my high school art teacher persuaded me to send them a portfolio of my artwork. I got a call from them one day offering me a full-tuition scholarship to major in art and my parents pretty much told me, "You're going to Miami and you're going to major in art." I think I'm probably one of the only art students out there whose parents were excited about their major! I guess that's kind of a long-winded prelude to answering your question. I paint animals now because they've always been a major part of my life and painting them is kind of a bridge in between the two worlds (art and zoology) for me.
Jen: How do you balance your "day" job with your portrait business?
Melyssa: My day job right now consists of going to school five days a week (I went back to get that Zoology degree I always wanted) and working at a vet clinic as a tech a few hours a week. It gets pretty stressful, so painting is a great way to unwind and turn off my brain for a few hours. You can always tell when I haven't had time to paint because my class notes become less about recording the lecture and more about doodling. I'm also really bad at finishing things if I don't have a deadline looming over my head. I hardly ever finish a painting that I do for myself, but if I'm painting for somebody else, and they've given me the money, and I've told them "I'll have this to you in 6 weeks," then I'm committed to getting it done and doing it right. I need that kind of pressure.
Jen: What is your favorite medium to work with? Why?
Melyssa: I paint mostly with acrylics now, because they're so easy to clean up and there's no need to keep a jar of dirty turpentine around, but oils are my absolute favorite medium. They have a luminosity that you just can't get with anything else. And that smell... mmmm.
Jen: What is a Ninnerfish? Tell us the story behind your shop name. :)
Melyssa: I honestly have no idea what a ninnerfish is. For some reason, my little sister started calling me that back when we were kids (I call her "Loafy"). She even commandeered the SportsCenter theme song for me, singing "ninnerfish. ninnerfish." when their intro comes on. I told her jokingly a few years ago that if I ever got my own business, I'd name it Ninnerfish. I had to keep the promise. It kind of suits me.
Jen: How did you discover Etsy?
Melyssa: I belong to an internet group of artists that trades ATCs (artist trading cards) and one of the members mentioned Etsy. I'd had my own website before, but was only making sales sporadically, and Ebay scares me, so it seemed like a great fit. I listed a painting I'd had laying around for awhile and it sold the first night. That's how I got hooked. Oh, Etsy, my drug of choice!
To see more of Melyssa's work, visit her Etsy shop: