This Article Was Originally Written by Dominique Fluker for Forbes
Melissa Mitchell has taken the art scene in Atlanta by storm. Since founding her own business, Abeille Creations in 2016, she has created 500 large-scale art pieces, 40 murals and has been featured in Vogue and Essence Magazines. As a self-taught artist, Mitchell has a love for vibrant colors, unique shapes and bold dark lines. Recently she’s brought her art pieces to life by turning her favorite paintings into unique head wraps, home décor and specialty textiles.
From Lupita Nyong’o rocking an Abeille Creations head wrap to being a featured artist for Shea Moisture at Tina Knowles and Richard Lawson’s 2018 WACO Theater Wearable Art Gala, Mitchell is destined for unspeakable greatness and visibility. Aside from her art and designs being impressive, Mitchell’s drive and self-awareness also captivates her consumers and audiences. She paints from the heart and guides her creations from an otherworldly purpose.
Mitchell and I had an in-depth conversation about what drives her to create, finding her purpose and how she’s inspiring millennial creatives to go after their dreams.
Dominique Fluker: Share your artistic entrepreneur journey. As a self-taught artist and designer, what inspired you to start painting?
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Melissa Mitchell: In 2014, when Atlanta experienced the worst snow storm in decades, and we were all “frozen” in our homes. I was becoming restless in the house, the electricity was going on and off, and I needed something to fill my time. I literally heard God’s voice say, “paint!” I laughed it off, and heard God’s voice again. I figured it was a direct command, so I got to work. I went to the garage and basement where I had some old arts and craft supplies, and began to doddle and paint inside the lines. I chronicled my “snowmageddon” tales on social media. Someone immediately messaged me on Instagram, requesting my art.
While I first took art seriously in 2014, I honestly believe my artistic journey began when I was born. I was always the child found with crayons all poured out of the box and had an affinity for colors. I never really knew how God would do it, but I knew he would use me in a special way. Art was God’s way of reminding me that I was chosen for something bigger.
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Art became my refuge and my healer. When I lost my dad in 2010, the world grew very dark for me. I honestly didn’t have the answers as to why a perfectly healthy man would be on the phone with me one minute and the next he would be would suffer a massive stroke, and given hours to live. I harbored that sadness and confusion for years, and asked God to help me heal and he gave me art.
When people ask what inspires me to create, I tell them it’s my way of telling God thank you. I want to thank him for not forgetting about me. I want to thank him for using me. I want to show the world that you can always begin a new life inside the one you have. For me, my gift is bigger than art, it is meant to motivate and heal others. I told God that I needed to be bigger than four walls, I wanted to inspire the masses in a unique way.
Dominique Fluker: Your business is named Abeille Creations. Can you explain the origin of the name?
Melissa Mitchell: When thinking of a name for my company, I wanted something with international appeal, but still pay homage to the woman my parents created me to be. When looking at various names and meanings, I kept coming back to my own name. I thought using “Melissa” wasn’t ambiguous enough, so I searched for words/names that paralleled the meaning of my name.
Melissa means “honey bee” in Greek. Before I was born, my father had a dream of a little girl in a yellow dress over and over again. At this time, my dad was studying the productivity of Bees, and was even taking bee pollen as an energy supplement. When it came to naming me, my father insisted that I be named after one of the hardest working insects, who happened to be referred to as Queen. That is how I ended up with the name Melissa. And I was born with a love for bright colors and have always been known as a hard worker.
In order to keep with my honoring my parents naming me, I found the word “Abeille” in a French dictionary and said, “This is it.” Abeille means bee in French. I never wanted to limit what I could do with the name of my company, so I labeled it “Creations”, to cover the wide range of things I would soon create.
Melissa Mitchell PHOTO COURTESY OF ANDREW PATTERSON
Dominique Fluker: Since February 2014, you’ve created over 500 original pieces, painted over 40 murals and have been featured in Essence Magazine, Huffington Post and Vogue. What drives you to create?
Melissa Mitchell: For me, creating is something I know I was born to do. Before my father passed, he always stressed to me the importance of leaving an impact on the world. My mom has always told me “You are special, you are meant to do something great on this earth. You won’t leave here until you do it.”
Creating is merely my way of being remembered. I want my place in this earth to be solidified. I want people to know my work, but most importantly to know the God who made it all possible. With every new victory, I make sure it is evident of my motivation and my source. When generations come and go, my legacy will be one of motivation and creation. Art is my gateway to immortality. My art will live on without me. My gifts will make room for me and engrave my place in history. If I can inspire someone to follow their dreams and climb out of their darkness, then my purpose has truly been fulfilled.
“I want people to know that anything is possible if you have the guts to go after it.”
Dominique Fluker: You’re known for using vibrant colors, unique shapes and bold dark lines within your work. What’s your favorite artistic medium? Who inspires you in the art world and why?
Melissa Mitchell: My favorite medium is acrylic on canvas. I love the way a simple sketch or a doodle turns into a creation of its own. I choose to use bright colors because they speak to me. I have studied the origin of colors and their meanings, so I use colors with great deliberation. I use yellows for optimism, reds to indicate power, pink to speak to femininity and orange to infuse my pieces with energy.
I began painting as a way to self-heal from lots of issues that were hard to verbalize. From losing my father, and both grandmothers within the span of a few years, I didn’t realize how truly broken I was. So, in my darkness, art became a beacon of light. That is how I chose to label myself, the Kaleidoscope of Hope, because I found colors in darkness. Even before I officially picked up a brush, I would visit museums, take walks in neighborhoods with colorful murals, wear bright colors, and just be drawn to all things aesthetically pleasing.
I like to call my work, emotional art. I don’t just paint with a brush, I paint with my heart. I zone out and let God use me a conduit to translate emotions to canvas. I always tell people I am the love child of Basquiat and Betsey Johnson, and Romero Britto was my babysitter. I love these three creatives because they understand history, culture, and color — and even a little controversy. All three have distinct styles that people are drawn to. I love that Basquiat put the plight of African-Americans in the face of society. I love that Britto uses colors to heal and inspire the masses. And I especially love that Betsey Johnson is 70+ years old and does backflips at the end of her fashion shows. Lol. She truly personifies “forever young,” and encourages others to take on that same philosophy.
If I can inspire someone to follow their dreams and climb out of their darkness, then my purpose has truly been fulfilled.
Dominique Fluker: From head wraps to kimonos to books you’ve been a chameleon within the art space. Discuss how you navigate being an artist, author and designer.
Melissa Mitchell: For me, creating has no boundaries. I am a 0 to 100 mph type of creator. The moment I picked up a brush, I said, my art will be everywhere, and I meant it. It’s natural for me to grow this brand from canvas, to cloth, to cars, to murals, to shower curtains, rugs, notebooks, furniture, bedding, to planes — you name it. The sky is not even the limit for my imagination.
I navigate as a chameleon in the art space because I know that creativity should not be confined to one area. I want to inspire the masses so I have to have my art everywhere. My plan is to partner with fashion houses, automobile companies, airlines, hospitals, major corporations and organizations. Creativity should be felt and seen by all, and I plan on doing just that.
Dominique Fluker: Your first book, Views From My Kaleidoscope is a compilation of quotes, mantras and beliefs that you’ve stood on through trials and tribulations. Share how you continue to be optimistic through turbulent times.
Melissa Mitchell: I think optimism is the medicine that God gives to you, to let you know that tomorrow will be a better day. We have to remember that we have bad moments, not bad lives. Life is about choosing to stay on THIS side of happy. I have my moments, but then I remember my prayers and where I was before all these great things started manifesting for me.
I keep a gratitude box, where I write all the things I am praying for, mixed in with what God has already done. I take time to dig in that box to stay focused. I am either reminded of where I am going, or what God has done. This practice keeps me level.
Melissa Mitchell PHOTO COURTESY OF ANDREW PATTERSON
Dominique Fluker: Share your top pieces of advice for millennials who want to make a career pivot to follow their passions and dreams.
Melissa Mitchell: Trust your narrative: As a vital practice a millennial should their own story. In the age of social media, it is so easy to become discouraged when looking at the progress of others. We have to remember that not everyone reports their lives accurately and everything you see is not necessarily reality.
Your dreams are not confined to a clock nor a calendar. What has taken one person 20 years to master, you can wake up in a day with the answers to. That is just the way life works. But none of this will happen until you relinquish the power of what you think should be happening right now.
When you trust your narrative, you are ready to dream without limits. You can only truly pursue passions when you are passionate about your own life. That is the secret weapon.
You are not meant to manifest your dreams alone: We all know great stories of partnership throughout history. The recurring theme is connecting with like-minded people, who want to win just like you.
Do something every day: It’s imperative that you do something every day towards your goals. It doesn’t have to be something big every time. There are some days where I have no energy to paint, or even interact with people. On days like that, I meditate on my goals. I don’t let a day go by without visualizing my future. When the days finally come where you get exactly what you’ve been praying for, things may begin coming in at a rapid pace. But you will be conditioned for greatness because you prepared for it in your quiet moments.
As a creator, I have learned to:
Keep my vibrations high. My work is reflective of my internal state, so I’m always feeding my spirit man
Keep my company (friends circle) limited and share my ideas with a trusted, select few.
Trust my gifts and not worry about what others are doing. As an artist, it’s important to stay true to yourself and believe in your gifts.