Menlo grocery shoppers beware: You just might become an inspiration for one of Deborah Melmon’s illustrations. But we’re guessing that few would think that’s a bad thing once they see the results.
The Menlo Park resident explains that her artwork has always been whimsical. So much so that she gradually started to develop a style that lent itself to children’s art. “Some of my first jobs were for the children’s educational market,” she says. “I designed large murals for the children’s discovery rooms at the California Science Museum and did the artwork for the Legoland ad campaign when they opened in San Diego.”
But her heart has always been with picture books. “I’ve collected them for years, and the artwork is just so incredible and inspiring,” Melmon says. “The best part is the storytelling aspect. Using your imagination to bring someone else’s words to life. I love to add the fun details that keeps the reader seeing new things every time they look at the pictures. There couldn’t be a better job in the world.”
Melmon is currently working on three books. One is a chapter book for young readers about a dog, another is a picture book about two girls at summer camp, and she’s collaborating with a neighbor on a story about a boy who takes a plane ride and finds an elephant sitting next to him in the aisle seat. Besides children’s books, Melmon also licenses her artwork on greeting cards, gift wrap, fabric and garden sculpture and figurines.
Melmon draws upon just about anything and everything for inspriration. “I love to just observe people, kids, animals,” she says. “Simple things like a trip to the grocery store and seeing a cute little girl with a backpack and red cowboy boots will help me create a character. I like to travel – discovering art from other cultures is very stimulating. And I draw inspiration from other artists. Sometimes it’s just a color palette, or a texture or expressive line work.”
Then there’s her dog Gracie. She and other canines serve as constant inspiration for Melmon. “My favorite, hands down, are dogs,” she says. “That’s probably because I’m such a dog lover and have always had them in my life. They really are quite expressive animals. Even if the job I’m working on doesn’t call for animals, I always try to slip a dog in there somewhere.”
The Academy of Arts graduate migrated to Menlo Park from Mill Valley in 1984 when she got married. “I’ve watched Menlo Park change from a sleepy little downtown to a vibrant, energetic city,” she says. “I love being able to walk to downtown from my house. The fact that you can shop, go to a movie, eat, without ever getting into your car is a big plus. And I love that some of the oldies are still hanging in. Ann’s Coffee Shop is one of my favorites.”
Photo of Deborah Melmon and Gracie by Chris Gulker.
Illustration by Deborah Melmon (c) 2010. Used with permission.