Off the Page: Melissa Johns


Melissa Johns is an artist and illustrator from Northeast Victoria who creates using recycled papers on canvas and paper. Her passion is children’s artwork and education particularly in regards to environmental awareness. Melissa’s works range from naïve and whimsical to contemporary, all with a vintage feel due to the recycled teabags used in every piece.

Melissa illustrated the recent picture book release,Tabitha and the Raincloud,  written by Devon Sillett. It’s a beautiful story of resilience and optimism for anyone who has ever had a day when nothing seems to go right. I was fascinated by Melissa’s creative process and was interested in finding out more about how she works.

Where do you write/illustrate? My illustrating is done in my creative corner at home, which is a re-purposed dining area. It is a large whimsy area with lots of inspo surrounding me, as well as a lot of clutter due to all of the recycled items I collect to use in my illustrations/artworks.

Melissa, please describe your process.

I create my pieces using Recycled T E A B A G S and other recyclables. I chose these mediums as I wanted to work with sustainable materials that would lend my work a certain whimsical feel. In 2015 I began my journey of creating pieces using the teabag fabric on canvases as part of a collage, along with other recyclables; coffee cups, serviettes, gift bags, coffee filters etc. My process involves painting and drawing on each individual piece of teabag fabric (i.e. every colour represents a different collaged piece of fabric), which I then collage onto a canvas. My process is a lengthy one, with pieces taking anywhere from one to five weeks to complete. Other mediums I use in this process are charcoal, pastels and watercolours, with acrylic base on occasion.

I begin with sketching out the spread layout then tracing patterns onto the different recycled papers and tea bags, then cutting and collaging them onto the canvas or paper. Once everything is in place then I go to town on adding in all the little features and details.

What do you do when you aren’t creating books? I work on other wall art pieces (all using recycled teabags, serviettes and papers) either by commission or to sell in the two art galleries I supply to, one of which I’m also the Director of. I also am a wife and mother to twin 13-year-old boys…so that never gets old!

Tabitha and the Raincloud is about those days when things seem to go wrong from the moment you wake up. When Tabitha wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, she finds a big raincloud next to her taking up most of the space. She tells it to go away, but it won’t budge. Things get worse. At breakfast, the cloud rains all over her scrambled eggs. At school, she tries to draw a giraffe, but the raincloud distracts her and her art teacher compliments her on her dinosaur Aaagh! By lunchtime, Tabitha is so stormy that none of her friends want to sit next to her. Tabitha realises she needs to change her attitude. It’s not the raincloud that’s making her day unpleasant, but how she’s choosing to react to it. So, Tabitha fetches her umbrella, raincoat and boots from her locker and starts dancing in the rain. It’s not long before her friends join her and they’re all having fun together This is a story of resilience, choices, optimism and perseverance. It’s a gentle reminder that we all have raincloudy days but we’ll get through them. And sometimes, we can bring the sunshine out a little bit faster if we remember to dance in the rain.

The book is available here.

Visit Melissa on Facebook here.



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