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artist profile melissa cole

A beauty that is hard to find by Jennifer LaRue The colors blend and flow,

hinting at much more than our three-dimensional world. When looking at Melissa Cole’s work, one cannot help but long to step into the colorful scenes and swap stories with her vibrant subjects. The pieces are done on board or canvas and represent the mixture of cultures and wildlife found in oceans, jungles or prairies. Beginning with large blocks and washes of color, she completes the pieces with a fine brush to create detailed designs. Cole paints passion. She is an artist, writer and wildlife photographer who took her experiences and began capturing them in acrylic paint in 1999. Before that, with a Bachelor of Science in zoology from Oregon State University, she traveled to far-flung locations. In the Peace Corps, it was the Dominican Republic, and as a whale guide, it was Mexico’s Cabo San Lucas, and St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. She also has traveled


Spokane CDA • September • 2013

to places including Africa, the Seychelles islands and Indonesia. Cole grew up in India, Hong Kong and London. When she was 14, her family settled in Oregon. Her father was a pilot, and her mother was artistic, painting realistic watercolors. While becoming an artist was not at the top of Cole’s list, capturing the beauty of the world was. Killer whales, dolphins, manatees, scales, wings, fur, saris and patterns from cultures around the world left imprints on Cole’s imagination. “I think you find creativity by allowing yourself to be emotionally touched by your surroundings and then transferring this to your chosen form of art,” she says. Cole has been married for 17 years to Brandon, an underwater photographer and avid traveler. They met in Cabo San Lucas when she was his guide. They settled here, where Brandon grew up, after they married and, eight years ago, moved into their Spokane Valley home where they both

have studios. In the late 1990s, Cole began carrying art supplies to document her travels. Her first subjects were manatees. “I took some cards that I made, featuring the manatees, to a shop in Key West,” she says, “and they bought them all.” She began to paint bigger and bigger, and her new career was born. “I had no background in marketing whatsoever. I just bought myself a few marketing books such as Art Marketing 101 and Making a Living as an Artist and studied.” She put together a portfolio and began to knock on doors. Persistent, confident and businesslike, which gallery owners appreciated, she was rarely turned down. Cole has exhibited her work in Alaska, Florida, California, Oregon, Idaho and Washington, and she has been commissioned to paint murals in places ranging from the Dominican Republic to River Park Square. Her detailed and colorful style led her to mosaic work and she studied the medium


Spokane Coeur d 'Alene Living Magazine Issue 97 Magazine of the inland Pacific Northwest.

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