Melanie M Brannan knew at an early age she loved art. Even in elementary school her crayon drawings drew the attention of classmates and sometimes the objection of her teachers for not following exact instructions. Mel and her two siblings were raised in Louisiana by a single mother who was a school teacher. “I don’t know how she actually had the funds to send all of us to college, but somehow she did,” Mel said. “I really admire my mother. She always said, ‘hard work pays off’.” At the age of 10, her mother gave her a small box of oil paints. The set didn’t come with a paint brush so Mel created her first painting on discarded wooden panel with toothpicks. From that painting on, she knew found her place. In high school, Melanie won her first two best of shows in art competitions.
Melanie received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Louisiana Tech University in Advertising and Graphic Design. She desperately wanted to change her major from design to fine art but her painting professor convinced her of staying with design, saying she would return to it one day. And, that is exactly what happened, years later.
Melanie opened her own graphic design firm in Dallas, Texas which she had for 25 years. Her client list included national and international accounts including Neiman Marcus, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Southwest Airlines, and Mobil Oil Corporation. “It was a great run, having my own business. I had the best clients in Dallas, working with nationally known writers, printers, photographers and illustrators, producing work that garnered solid results for my clients while making a great living. I loved the pressure of creating great work, deadlines and budgets. And, I loved working with my clients.” In 2008, the economy started a downward spiral resulting in many businesses having to retool, including Melanie’s.
In 2009, Mel closed the design firm and returned to painting. She starting working with a client who was building a home in Highland Park and wanted a few commission pieces. For four years, they would meet weekly discussing art, reviewing comps and delivering the final pieces. Melanie painted 27 pieces for that home. She calls it her own private gallery. Those paintings were the springboard to her new career, learning techniques and what acrylicss were capable of.
While starting this new career as a fine artist, Melanie taught classes to adults and children. She discovered how much she loved to teach, the techniques, the history of art and the masters. Melanie stated,” Teaching has brought so much to my own paintings. When you are teaching Matisse, van Gogh or Kandinsky, you have to know their story, their techniques and palettes. You have a deeper understanding of connections between art movements, artists and their communities. Even the history of culture and politics. It has brought another of level of understanding to my painting. I will forever be a student of art.” In 2017, Golden Artist Colors invited her to become a Certified Educator for their acrylic paints (there are 200 educators worldwide). Melanie stated, “It was without a doubt the greatest week of my life, in New Orleans with artists from all over the world. We learned all the paints, gels, pastes, mediums. I was blown away with each project, learning what was possible with the paints. With the new knowledge of the products and techniques it caused my style to explode. I’m still learning what these paints are capable of.” Since the "pandamnit” as she calls it, Mel also teaches online, now having clients nationwide through the Pacific Arts League in Palo Alto. She also teaches yearly workshops in Santa Fe.
Melanie considers her major influences to be Matisse (his color palette), van Gogh (his life and struggles), Kandinsky (his synesthesia) , Marc (his camouflage in WWI) and O’Keeffe (her simplified subject matter). Impressionism and Expressionism are her favorite art movements.
Melanie’s work have been accepted into many national juried competitions. She has had five solo exhibitions from 2018 - 2021 at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts, Lincoln Experience Center, and Addison Convention Center. In 2021, Melanie exhibited “A Celebration of Friendship”, a solo exhibition at the Eisemann dedicated to her friend Maryann Wegloski who at the time was diagnosed with cancer. Twenty four paintings were created in seven weeks about their friendship. Proceeds went to AIM at Melanoma Foundation, total funds raised was $12,000. Melanie said, “Maryann’s show will always be my greatest show, it brought her such great joy during the darkest of days. I was honored to be able to paint for her, she never got to see her show in person as she passed away just as it was installed. It touched the hearts of so many, seeing the paintings and reading the stories. I believe it helped many people through a very difficult time of losing Maryann.” In 2021, Melanie participated with 12 other artists for the Santa Fe Humane Society “Barkin Ball” by paintings a 4x4’ paintings of Bea the Rotteweiller for their “Driving Change Through Art.”
Clients respond to Melanie paintings with:
“Your work is beautiful. It inspires peace. And the thought 'I wish I was wherever this is’.”
“Beautiful...it is a painting that evokes emotion. You can't just look at it without feeling something.”
“I'm looking out the window of my spaceship and admiring the beauty of the universe. That's where you took me Melanie!”
“It makes me feel like I’m I a dream.”
Melanie states, “I have so many paintings inside of me. I'm going to be painting for very long time. No time for retirement. Sometimes I don’t even remember how I painted some of my pieces. They just happen in such a state of peace. I wish everyone could experience that state.”
Mel is inspired by compassion, truth, and respect. And music, she can see the tone in Keith Urban’s voice, the value in Finneas’ and Eric Church’s lyrics are “A whole different color.” Melanie has a very nice case synesthesia. She also is hyper sensitive as many artist are. “I think that’s one reason you can see so much emotion in my paintings. I truly feel the colors and strokes as they go down.” As for her greater purpose in life, “I want to be able to use my talent for the good. I want to do more solo shows with a purpose and stories. I’m presently working on “Women with Power and Compassion”. This exhibition will be in my PopRocks style, hopefully I’ll be able to find a great gallery willing to host this one.”
Melanie recently resides in Dallas, TX with her rescues, a dog and three sibling cats. Her spare time is spent in Santa Fe.