Melissa Smith is a talented local Doodle artist, the founder of the Coventry based “Feel Good Community”, and an inspirational social activist who endorses the importance of creativity to health and wellbeing. We have had the pleasure of interviewing her to find out more about her creative practice, and the wonderful, positive work that she does in the community to help her promote her cause.
How did you first get into Doodle Art?
My school days were when I first discovered my love for doodling. However, as I matured doodling became less frequent. I re-discovered my passion when I had a teaching role and was asked to deliver art to my students, many of whom believed they were not creative. I used doodle art as a way to help them explore their creativity and started to realise once again just how powerful it can be. When I became poorly in 2014 I was able to focus more on my doodles as I had more time on my hands. When I was recovering in hospital I picked up my pen to pass the time. I was amazed at how good it made me feel, how it helped me to refocus my mind away from my pain. I started creating quotes and pictures that I gave to those who were helping me. As I wasn’t working and money was tight Christmas and birthday presents had a creative twist. Most of my family and friends have been doodled in some way.
You can view my Stellar Story here with broader coverage of my work and tells my journey.
Was the skill all self-taught?
Very much so, YouTube and social media have helped me to develop and look into different styles. There is a wealth of information out there. I doodle most days and have become a firm believer that practise makes perfect and mistakes are all part of the learning process. My doodles have also been developed through a journey of self-discovery. Because of my illness I find it hard to attend meetings and events as often the pain becomes too much. I picked up my pen as a way to refocus my mind away from the pain and on what was being said. This helped me to regain my confidence as I could then use the information from my doodles to start conversations.
What inspires you to create your work?
Feeling good is the main catalyst for my work. Initially, it is self-centred as I use it as a tool to refocus my mind away from my pain and as a way to increase my wellbeing. More importantly I like to use my art as a way to inspire others to get creative in some way.
Are there any other Doodle Artists who you draw inspiration from?
Yes plenty! But I think local talent should get a shout out…
Spudragon who calls himself the accidental artist found the benefits of doodling when he became poorly. He doodles as a way to help him relieve his stress and anxiety. https://www.instagram.com/spudragon/
Sabina from Meraki Workshops inspires me as she uses doodling as an interactive experience for community workshops https://www.instagram.com/merakiworkshops/
Lucy Kenny came along to one of our ideas factories, I had admired her robots on the wall of Fargo Village for some time so was nice to meet the artist who doodled them https://www.instagram.com/lilustrations/
What tools do you use to create your work?
Pens, paper, watercolour and collage are what I use the most. However, I have just started to explore the digital side, I purchased a Wacom pen and Adobe Creative Cloud. I am very much a work in progress!
Do you create commissioned work?
For a long time I didn’t have the confidence to call myself an artist. I believed that as I didn’t have an art degree I was not able to call myself an artist. However people’s response to my creations has been extremely positive and I have started to receive requests for commissions. Instagram and word of mouth have been brilliant for this.
What motivated you to create the Feel Good Community?
The Feel Good community started life as a solution to get me focusing on the things I can do rather than the things I can’t since becoming poorly. We started by having Feel Good Walks in the park. These quickly developed into walks and creative activities over a brew and cake! Each event starts life at an Ideas Factory: an informal meet-up where people can come together and share their ideas, skills and resources as a solution to issues we face.
What types of activities do you do?
We have had a variety of events and workshops that all look at ways we can use creativity and community as a focus to increase wellbeing. We often make Feel Good random acts of kindness, mainly out of things we have lying at home and Feel Good gifts that are designed to give to the people who help us to remind them they are valued. We have run a couple of workshops where we make Feel Good rocks and Feel Good Monsters. These are perfect as we can create characters and discuss feelings and hopes. We recently ran a Makers Meet Up where folk came together to get creative making feel good messages for our festival
What have you got planned for the Feel Good Festival of Creativity at Fargo Village on Sat 11th November 2017?
At our Ideas Factory we had over 60 ideas generated and approximately 30 people pledge their support to help us develop The Feel Good Festival of Creativity. This is an opportunity for the community to come together to creatively explore different ways we can increase wellbeing. On the day we have several workshops and drop in sessions planned ranging from mosaic making, sewing, animation, doodling, drama, music, spoken word, random acts of kindness and making doodle books. The event is completely powered by the community with zero funding so the more people we can get involved the better the event will be! We are hoping it will be a catalyst for more events like this in the future.
Have you got any more events in the pipeline?
Our first Makers Meet-up was a success and we have received requests to hold more meet-ups. We will be organising more Feel Good in the Park events. More importantly we need to see what the community want so we will be organising more Ideas Factories
What are the future plans for the Feel Good Community?
It is my aim to turn Feel Good into a social enterprise. I recently received funding from Unltd to help develop a range of Feel Good products. The sale of these products will hopefully fund future events and create jobs for people who would like to get involved with the feel Good Movement.
How can people get involved?
We are always on the lookout for people to get involved either with our events, collaborations or help with organising. If anyone is interested please get in touch with me firstname.lastname@example.org
Like our page on FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/feelgoodcreatives/
Share and come to our event: http://bit.ly/FGCFestivalofCreativity
Follow along on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/feelgoodinsta/