Esperança Melo has lived in the village of Millbrook for 27 years. She works as an artist and exhibits her work locally at the Cavan Art Gallery. She is also a widely sought after, successful illustrator of children’s books. She was born in the Azores, then moved to Toronto, living there for many years before her move to Millbrook.
She graduated from Sheridan College’s International Animation Program. Her interest in attending was her desire to learn the process of making National Film Board animation, as well as becoming comfortable drawing from imagination, rather than from reference materials.
She was also a graphic design honours graduate from George Brown College.
Esperanza learned to draw by breaking the images into their geometric shapes. She remembers a particularly good teacher she had.
“She was able to really explain good drawing fundamentals, and also taught us how to do life drawing using grids. She had an unusual approach because she had been a medical student who had studied anatomy first, so we really learned how to structure the body.”
She has enjoyed demystifying art to children and has created papier mache sculptures for the Millbrook Library. With her partner, Bill Slavin, the well-known writer and illustrator, they worked on a mural for the town hall with children so that art became a part of the children’s lives. The children watched how to scale up an image with a grid and pretty soon they were using the techniques too.
“There is an uncertainty on how to respond to art works in a gallery. It is a foreign territory to a lot of people. By starting children out early in galleries, it tends to eliminate some of that uncertainty.”
There are Melo representative art works in paint and collage at the Cavan Art Gallery, including three series of Esperanza’s work: Time, Dreaming and Raven.
Esperanza has been working on the series called ‘Time” for many years. She finds it fascinating because we still identify with ourselves, even as we age and change. Time is a bridge between waking and sleeping, and the subject is an endless source of inspiration.
The impetus came when someone presented her with an antique clock which did not work and the inner mechanisms were removed and the parts became stamps which imprinted texture to her images.
Another series, “Ravens,” came into being because of the cleverness of both crows and ravens. They were so precocious, clever and mischievous. They are recognized as tricksters in First Nation mythology. They also remind people not to take themselves too seriously.
Esperança works in various art forms and media, including painting, collage and sculpting in papier-mâché. She has illustrated several children’s books, among them More Blueberries! and Love You More, by author Susan Musgrave. She co-illustrated, with Bill Slavin, the picture book Drumheller Dinosaur Dance, by author Robert Heidbreder, which was the recipient of the 2005 Blue Spruce Award in Ontario and the 2006 Chocolate Lily Award in B.C.
Esperanza Melo has illustrated many books and she credits her work as a visual artist with being a driving force behind the success of her illustrations.
“My painting informs my illustrating. I love colour and texture and I love telling stories in visual form. I am not a fast painter, and I take my time to create the work exactly as I want to see it. It helps me to recharge my batteries, to be playful and to experiment. I enjoy giving voice to my narrative, to being the visual storyteller.”
Esperanza Melo’s work can be seen at the Cavan Art Gallery daily.
By Valerie Kent