Melody Squires of Guilford, Vermont, is not scared of a challenge and she’s not afraid to try new things. As she says, “What inspires me in my art is to do something I think is hard to paint.”
But she’s also inspired for other reasons.
“I’m inspired by what my friends are doing with their lives and what they are going through, what they’re interested in.
I love to paint for my family and friends because they appreciate it so much.”
Squires’ love of putting colors on paper led her to figure out that she could paint with her headstick. She has cerebral palsy and her hands have limited use. The headstick, a rod in the front of a helmet, allows her to paint guided not by her hands, but by her head.
She explains “At first, I had no idea of how it would be. I wanted to see if I could do it. I found that I could do it the way I wanted to. My art really took off!”
Squires began painting some two decades ago at The Gathering Place, an adult care facility in Brattleboro, Vermont. Then she was introduced to Ross Smart, a southern Vermont artist who teaches at the River Valley School of Art, also in Brattleboro.
Says Squires, “Ross brought out the artist in me.”
Smart taught her how to paint on paper with oils, encouraging her to do all the steps of the process, including the pre-painting sketches. He taught her to use liquid graphite to create her sketch; then she paints over the sketch.
“I’m doing it all myself — every bit of my painting,” explains Squires.
She says her sketching has improved tremendously since she started learning with Smart.
Though Squires has not been printing notecards from her paintings for very long, it wasn’t long before she discovered that people loved them. Of course, who doesn’t love bright colors, a strong sense of style and playful renderings of picturesque scenes? But Squires also has a good sense of what’s trending.
“I like to think about things that people are into,” says Squires. “Like I just did a series on chickens because people are into them. I’m doing roosters now. People really went crazy over them at a craft fair that I did recently.”
Not surprising. Well-defined shapes and good color combinations make for artwork that attracts the eye. She has an astute sense of how to use primary colors, balancing their intensity with soft tints and tones much like George O’Keefe, an artist who she finds inspiring. But there’s an emotion there too. Her cards practically shout ‘Happy!’
Says Squires, “I love bright colors when I am doing art, like red, orange, pink, bright purple and so on. They make me happy.”
Those bold colors also express something about Squires herself. She brings to her artwork her own energy to surmount difficulties with a strong dose of optimism and a love of what she’s doing.
She says, “I never thought I would be an artist today and people would love my art. I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would be this, but I am.”
What future challenges is Squires looking forward to? She says though she’s scared to draw people, someday she will. Given Squires’ incredible drive to keep learning and creating, that’s probably going to happen. When someone has an artistic eye, and the desire to improve their skills, great art happens. Squires has both these gifts. By combining her native talents and eagerness to keep learning, she creates something unique.
She says, “I know nobody else who paints like I do.”
To see Squires’s artwork and notecards visit: www.facebook.com/melsart.squires.3.
Peg Lopata writes from Brattleboro, Vermont.