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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: Colors With Impact

Melody Allen

With a degree in advertising design, Melody Allen thought she would make her career in graphic art. She was right – almost. Art was in her future, just not in the way she originally thought. So Allen took up pastels instead, eventually showing her work and winning awards in juried shows.

“I’ve always been drawn to the look of pastels,” Allen says. “I love and admire the work of Degas and Mary Cassatt. I had a little taste of that when I was in college, so I wanted to explore it some more. I took some classes at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, enjoyed it, and I just continued.”

A conversation with Melody Allen

Allen started her career as a graphic designer in advertising in the 1980s.

“At that time, everything was done by hand rather than on the computer,” she says. “In the early 1990s, when I started a family, I decided to stay home for a couple of years. During that time, things switched over to the computer. Went I went back to work I didn't want to sit behind a computer. I wanted to work with my hands more.”

Credit Jaaken Page-Wood
Melody Allen

Allen graphic design behind and turned to teaching children’s art classes at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, beginning in 1994. She's still doing that and occasionally teaches adult pastel classes too.

Allen admits to some regret that she did not go back to learn more about computerized design because she uses a computer to create postcards and other materials promoting her work in pastels.

Her first art show was in 2003, where she sold many of her works. That encouraged her to continue on that path. She has since participated in many juried group and solo shows. Her work will appear at Friendship Village in Kalamazoo in May and June. That show will be open to the public.

“I’m currently working on pieces for two group shows,” she says. “One is for the Great Lakes Pastel Society, of which I am a member. That’s juried, so hopefully I’ll get in. I’m also going to be in a group show at the Carnegie Center in Three Rivers in June. That’s going to have a water theme called 'Reflecting on Water,' and it will be open to different media.”

Pastels are pure pigments held together with a binding agent and contain little or no chalk, Allen explains.

"I love working with pastels,” Allen says. “It has the rich colors of paint. But because it is a dry medium, there is no mixing of pigments before applying and there is no drying time between layers. I can draw lines of pure pigment and I can layer individual colors or physically blend them together."

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

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Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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