Melina van Wyk (m_illustrate) is a digital artist with a passion for the whimsical and unexpected.
She calls Brightwater, Nelson her home, although she grew up in South Africa. Her fondest childhood memories are of carefree bush walks with a pet warthog, two horses, numerous dogs, and a cat in tow. Nature and her creatures were never far then and continue to be where she finds happiness.
Her digital art features loveable unique creatures, some cute, some quirky, but all with an attitude created to brighten someone else’s day.
Recently we caught up with Melina, and she was kind enough to answer a few questions about her life and art.
Melina van Wyk, the artist of m_illustrate, is a digital artist from Nelson, New Zealand.
How did you get started with your artwork?
My son (11) was diagnosed with Autism/ADHD at 5. It remains an incredibly emotional and challenging journey. As a parent, it is easy to lose perspective and forget “to put your oxygen mask on first before you try and save the rest of the family.”
I struggled with peri and postnatal depression, and it took me several years before I recognised the need to set aside time for me to be me.
Drawing saved my life and is how I meditate. I love that something that gives me a few hours of calm and mindfulness, in turn, brings a smile to someone else.
What is your background?
I have a Performing Arts qualification from South Africa. I have had great fun working in theatre, film, and television before immigrating to New Zealand.
'Pip Loves Peonies' art print by Melina van Wyk depicts an adorable hamster named Pip in a Peony air balloon by Nelson Digital Artist Melina van Wyk.
Did you always want to be an artist?
Oh no, I never had any confidence. I always considered myself a Jack of all Trades & a Master of None. This view has been so damaging. A wise person recently shared something that forever changed the way I view the world. He said, “I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them. I think you’ve got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.”
Do you have a role model from whom you take inspiration when making your art
My identical twin, Marina de Wit, is a very talented fine art nature photographer. It was one of her incredible floral photographs that finally clicked things into place for me and inspired me to pursue my dream to illustrate. We learn together and bounce ideas off each other as we go.
Who are your biggest influences?
I adore Beatrix Potter and Helen Craig (Angelina Ballerina Illustrator).
Melina van Wyk, a New Zealand digital artist, created this 'Leucadendron Safari Sunset' art print. This is a lovely botanical art printed t shirt features Leucadendrons, which are Protea plant cousins.
What inspires you?
A love for nature runs in my family, and to quote Lorraine Anderson: “Nature has been for me, for as long as I remember, a source of solace, inspiration, adventure, and delight; a home, a teacher, a companion.”
And fellow artists.
I have lived in Nelson for almost three years and continue to meet new wonderful creatives and artists. Tamsin Baxendale, Nicola Reif, Nicole Russell, Roz Speirs, Kate Cowan, Fleur Woods, and John Jepson, to name but a few, continue to inspire me with their beautiful work and their willingness to share their experiences and insight.
What do you want your art to convey to your audience?
My son and his ongoing battles inspired my art. I started drawing to remind him and others that we are all created to celebrate our uniqueness and that we’re capable of achieving extraordinary things.
What are you known for?
My art often features loveable critters, some cute, others with attitude.
You may find a cheeky Kea proudly showing off his skateboard, a little bird wearing a crown, a frog with a top hat riding a penny-farthing bicycle, or a piglet with a flower wreath on top of its head.
Melina van Wyk, a digital artist from New Zealand, created the 'Bessie' art print. 'Bessie' is a whimsical digital illustration of a lovely hamster named Bessie on her way to the salon.
What media do you use with your artwork?
I love traditional art, however full-time employment, and two beautiful children (7 and 11), means I am forever juggling to-do lists and “emergencies.” Digital art gives me the convenience to create beautiful illustrations, notwithstanding my time constraints. My iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, ProCreate, and I are inseparable. The best part about working with my digital medium is the ‘undo’ and ‘re-do buttons.
Where do you have artwork displayed?
I am exhibiting with the Art Group Nelson at Wall 2 Wall Art Gallery in Bridge Street, Nelson.
Three fun facts about Melina
- I can’t tell direction – don’t mention North, South, East, or West – whaaat!!! Oh, and if you turn me around, I’m instantly lost. My helicopter pilot-husband has given up on my non-existing sense of direction.
- My favourite colour is green!!!! And there is a specific shade of pink and orange - next to each other; they are pure magic to my soul.
- If you could be any animal in the world I'd be a cat in my house.
Do you have any advise for someone who wants to make art their full-time job?
"You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you." ~ Maya Angelou
Do you have any advise for aspiring artists?
Give back; use your gift to make others’ lives better. Be generous with your knowledge and hard-earned learnings.
I am passionate about promoting both mental health and autism awareness. I have a series of drawings where any profit from the sales are donated to Autism NZ.
One aspect of my art that remains very close to my heart is where I create and donate personalised illustrations for families with children on the autism spectrum. People with autism have a unique view of the world – captured so well by the Māori word for autism ”Takiwātanga” which means in his/her own time and space.
I want to do more of these – it is so rewarding and such a blessing to give something back to parents and caregivers of special-needs children.
My work has never been about making money; instead, it has allowed me to connect with people and causes I genuinely care about.