Illustrations encourage self-love
It’s been a difficult year for many, but as Kate Chapman reports, artist Melissa Webb is taking comfort from knowing that her colourful wellbeing illustrations have given joy and support to people across the world.
Melissa launched Mellow Doodles back in 2016 after leaving her job as an art teacher to concentrate and nurture her own mental health and used the time to turn her personal difficulties into something positive – to help others and keep herself going.
Five years on and her cute and colourful illustrations coupled with self-care suggestions and positive messages feature on a range of stationery including calendars, planners, prints, colouring books and more which are available to order worldwide in the Mellow Doodles online shop.
Melissa has also collaborated on mental wellbeing campaigns with charities and companies including ITV and Time to Change.
“There’s still such a stigma attached to mental health issues. We can’t tell from looking at someone what’s going on in their life. It’s amazing, if you just start talking about something how many others will open up, engage and share their problems, people who wouldn’t normally talk about it,” says Melissa, who lives in Stamford.
“I started drawing some little illustrations just for myself – as creativity gives me so much pleasure and joy and then others started becoming interested in them.
“The wording I use encourages self-love – we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, I think people need to be a bit easier on themselves, lower their expectations of what they can achieve at the moment and accept that that is OK, not to fulfil all of their roles 100 per cent.
“We need to show ourselves the type of kindness that we readily show others and not be so hard on ourselves.
“I just want to do whatever I can to share what I have learnt and help others improve their own mental health and wellbeing.”
Melissa, who was born in London and moved to Lincolnshire when she was nine, has always loved drawing, writing and being creative.
“I always thought I would have to pick between the two. I was always writing when I was a little girl, I think I got that side of things from my grandad, who was a journalist and an author, he always encouraged my writing.
“My nanna was a sculptor and was very artistic – she was very encouraging too. I always tried hard at art at school, but I’m very lucky that I’ve been able to combine both passions in my work,” she adds.
After completing a creative advertising degree at the University of Lincoln, Melissa decided her heart wasn’t in the advertising world and instead she launched her own business selling portraits via Facebook.
“Then I put this pressure on myself that I needed to find a proper job and I was offered the opportunity to work in the art department at a secondary school,” says Melissa.
“I absolutely loved it, it lasted for a couple of years and then I moved to another school but teaching can be a stressful job and I found that my own mental health wasn’t great, so I decided I needed to take a break from it while I got better.
“Obviously I wasn’t earning anything, so I had to find something to bring in an income and that’s when I decided to go back to my own artwork.
“I was drawing a few portraits, but then I started doing a few small illustrations for myself, for joy really. They were just simple little pictures that were quite quick and easy, and people wanted to buy them. It just sort of developed from there as I started to get better.”
Melissa uses cheerful, pretty pastel colours – lots of pink, lemon and baby blue – to create her joyful illustrations, which were initially inspired by characters from director Tim Burton’s films.
Her portrait work was done in various paints and often proved messy, but Melissa’s Mellow Doodles illustrations are all done digitally on her iPad, which means she can work any place and anytime. She adds her positive messages and mottos in her own handwriting to give them a more personal feel and has seen her range of products grow over the years.
“I’m very interested in psychology and engaged in mental health and wellbeing and I was learning so much. I love researching how the brain works and I was reading, watching and listening to everything I could on the subject,” she says.
“I wanted to pass on what I was learning, the things that had an impact on me, to others and I combined this with my illustrations.”
Melissa uses social media to help spread the word about her work and now has customers all around the world. During the first lockdown of 2020 she was honoured to team up with ITV, illustrating items to support the mental health and wellbeing of its staff who were working from home.
She’s also illustrated pieces for the Time for Change mental health campaign, calling for an end to mental health discrimination, which has just come to an end.
“It’s been a tough time, but I hope my work has helped people. As for the future, I’m hoping to write a book about mental health and wellbeing based what I’ve learnt.
“I’m really pleased with how the Mellow Doodles range is going down with people, so I’m hoping to keep expanding and adding to what I’m already doing.
“I’d also like to get some more help here as I spend a lot of my time working on admin stuff and things behind the scenes, rather than concentrating on the illustration which is what I really enjoy.
“I want to be able to spend more of my time on the creative side, whether that’s making videos, writing or drawing.
“There’s lots to look forward to and I want to keep encouraging others to look after themselves and their mental wellbeing too.”