I'm thrilled to be able to introduce you to one of my favorite online artists and a woman who deals with daily challenges that not too many of us have to face. So sit back, pour a cup of coffee or tea, and enjoy this visit with Melanie Pruitt.
FK: Good morning, Melanie. What’s your morning “cuppa” – Coffee? Tea?
I used to be a morning coffee drinker, and afternoon tea drinker. These days though… it’s tea-tea-TEA! I love tea…I am even an official tea reviewer. I write reviews on all kinds of teas for “The Tea Review Blog” and I get paid in tea samples! You should see my collection and choices of tea. I drink it all day long.
FK: That's cool! I'll pour coffee for myself while you tell us about your online activities.
My name is Melanie – just like Melanie in “Gone With The Wind.” My website is http://thecreatorspalette.com/.
I have 2 Etsy shops: I opened the first in 2006 and the second in 2008. TheCreatorsPalette is my art – paintings, prints, notecards, ACEO’s. My second shop is TCPJewelry. I started that shop to sell the beaded medical ID bracelets that I started making for myself. I sell them as inexpensively as possible. I also make other jewelry like earrings, anklets, and bracelets.
I also have two blogs: TheCreatorsPalette at http://thecreatorspalette.blogspot.com/
and Melanie’s Journey, a more personal blog at http://melanie-journey.blogspot.com/.
Sometimes I list auctions on eBay and more often on ArtByUs. I also have a shop on 1000Markets (where the buyer can pay through Amazon instead of PayPal). http://www.1000markets.com/users/thecreatorspalette/.
Just this week, I entered my second ever Art Show. Last year I won an Honorable Mention award. Can’t wait to find out if it was just luck or if I win another award this year. (FK NOTE: She won second place!)
I used to be a very active person. I am a published author. I spoke at women’s retreats and conferences, taught preschool creative dance and pre-ballet classes, as well as taking adult ballet, and participating in the Nutcracker Ballet as a mother in the party scene. I played tennis, did a lot of gardening (I have more than 50 roses) and loved to read.
Sadly, all of that is no longer possible.
FK: I’m aware of why that is, and we’re going to talk about that important topic a little later. But first, where do you live? Tell me about your family.
I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest! I love it here! Yes, it rains a lot, but you cannot beat the gorgeous skies, the snow-covered volcanic mountains and the green that is everywhere! I grew up in California, as did my husband. Our parents lived six blocks from each other as we grew up! I’ve been married 26 years and no, we were not high school sweethearts. We met after high school. We had our first child and then moved up here for my husband to attend school. We are glad to have been able to stay here ever since!
I have 3 kids – 24, 20 and 17. They are the best kids I could ever wish for!
We also have a wonderful little lap dog named Taran. He’s named after a character in Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain series. He belongs to my son, but he’s my lapdog during the day. He’s a little Malt-Poo and as sweet as can be.
FK: How cute! Now for a more serious subject. Since I have been on Etsy I’m amazed when I come across yet another artist who perseveres with artwork in spite of dealing with a chronic and/or debilitating illness. And you are no exception. Tell us a little about your condition and how it affects your work. What techniques or methods have you developed to cope and to allow you to continue to work in spite of your illness?
I have ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) which not only causes fatigue (which is indescribable… it’s not “tiredness” like a normal person understands it) but it affects all kinds of things including my sleep, causes pain, and has affected my Autonomic Nervous system (ANS) causing something called POTS (high heart rate and low blood pressure when I’m standing) among other things. Basically, the ANS controls everything automatic, so any of those functions can be affected. For me the biggest issues are digestion and POTS, but many other symptoms come and go.
This is a huge and important topic to me because CFS has been ignored too long as “Yuppie Flu” but it’s finally being recognized as a real illness with biomarkers to prove it.
However, even though it has caused a total u-turn in my life, and I have days of grieving my losses, I also rejoice over the things I have gained through this illness. For one, I learned to paint. I have also met some of the most wonderful people online. Because of my illness, I spend a lot of time with my laptop and I just love the communities and people who have become a part of my life (like you, Felicia).
I do hope and pray for understanding, treatment and even a cure for ME/CFS. You’ll see in both my Etsy shops that I donate 10% of my proceeds to The Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease. They are on the cutting edge of research to understand and treat ME/CFS patients.
I’ll just add a couple more points. I have found several things very important to not only surviving this illness, but thriving in the midst of it. The first has been to hold true to my values. I believe in pursuing two basic values – Loving God with all my heart, and loving others. I’ve found that, though I feel some of my previous life has been stripped away, nothing can keep me from pursuing these basic life values.
Second, I have found that I must allow myself days of grief. Though it is similar to losing a loved one, it’s also a continuous process of losing, grieving, moving on, losing again, grieving, moving on. But I can’t move on if I don’t allow myself the space to grieve. So I have private times in my hot tub where I let the tears flow. I have grumpy days. I have days that anything can bring tears to my eyes.
But I also have to look at this as a new stage of life! It’s not necessarily a journey I expected to travel. But when I view it as one more stage of life, I know I can find positive aspects to it. Finding these keeps me going.
Lastly, you might want to read my recent blog post “Enchanted Forest – A Gift in the Midst of CFS.” It highlights the process I went through to create, what I consider one of my best paintings yet while only being able to paint 10-20 minutes at a time!
FK: Melanie, I read it when you first posted it, and I was stunned at your dedication and perseverance - and the painting is gorgeous! It has made me stop and think when I complain about small stuff. Your watercolors are absolutely beautiful. Do you work in other media?
Watercolor is definitely my favorite media to work in. I think it’s the flow and movement of the pigment and water – the mixing and “dance” that intrigues me and engages the “active” side of me. I also like it because it’s easy to clean up, easy to set up – which I really need with my illness.
In fact, for that reason I don’t work in acrylics anymore – though I used to do a lot of tole painting. I have never used oils, though I’d love to some day if my health allows me to face the clean up and mess that it requires.
I have played around with collage and even a bit of digital collage, which was fun. And I have a nice little set of oil pastels that I occasionally play with.
One unusual side of my watercolors is that I also paint on watercolor canvas. This is more challenging in some ways – as the paint can be washed right off the canvas. It has to be sealed with spray varnish once the painting is done. But I love the look I can get on these specially made watercolor canvases.
FK: Do you have a “quiet place” when you need a break from creating (due to your illness or otherwise) – somewhere you go to rest, refresh, meditate?
I have several spots around my house if I just need a few minutes’ break – in my hot tub surrounded by trees and deep northwest green, or a walk through my rose garden (I have over 50 roses).
My very favorite “quiet place” is not that quiet … but it really quiets my soul! It’s a drive in my little convertible Miata that my husband bought me this year. I’ve driven it with the top down in rain, in snow and, of course, my favorite is in the sun! I have a great stereo with a variety of playlists – from moody piano music to jazz to loud boppin’ music! For me… it’s like a butterfly finally getting out of its cocoon and stretching its wings. I may not be able to do all the active things I want anymore, but I “fly” in my little red car with the top down!
FK: That’s wonderful – good for you! What part of being an artist is the most gratifying to you, and what do you dislike the most?
To me, the most gratifying aspect of being an artist is when my art moves someone’s heart. I was showing art at an outdoor market last summer when a woman viewing one of my pieces got tears in her eyes. I felt fulfilled, even though she didn’t buy the painting!
The part of watercolor painting that I dislike most is the middle stage. I almost always hit an “ugly” stage, and I have to keep my mind’s eye on the outcome I have planned and that I know will eventually become evident – even as I work on something that makes me cringe.
FK: What do you do when you’re not being an artist? What activities do you enjoy?
I spend a lot of time online. I meet friends on Facebook. I keep in touch with church friends whom I don’t see often because my illness often keeps me home. I have groups of art friends, groups of CFS friends, and even family on Facebook. I also use Twitter a lot, and have met a bunch of great people there. I surf, I sign up for giveaways on blogs, I read as much as I can about the current CFS research.
But on my bad days, I watch Netflix movies! I often stream them straight to my computer as well as getting them in the mail. I love documentaries and have watched a lot of them.
FK: Melanie, it has been my great pleasure to visit with you. I have enjoyed hearing about you and your art, and I feel I have been educated about an illness that affects a lot of people but, as you pointed out, is so often misunderstood and misdiagnosed. Thank you so much!
FK: Now, tell us about your giveaway.
I would like to offer a $20 gift certificate and FREE shipping for any product or combination of products in either of my Etsy shops. I will also honor the $20 as a discount if the winner desires to purchase something larger and will still include FREE shipping for anything purchased when using the gift certificate.
FK: That’s a wonderful gift!
You have several opportunities to enter your comments:
First entry: Visit either of her shops, come back here, and enter a comment about your favorite pieces.
Second entry: Enter a comment if you signed up to follow one or both of Melanie’s blogs (or comment that you already follow)
Third entry: Enter a comment that you signed up to follow my blog (or comment that you already follow)
Fourth entry: Enter a comment that you signed up to become both Melanie's (http://facebook.com/artbymelanie)
and my (www.facebook.com/anotherbrightidea) Facebook fan (or comment that you are already a fan).
A maximum of four entries per person will be accepted.
I will use random number generator to pick a winner after 12 noon on
Thursday, April 29.