Mel Kadel Interview

I will never forget the first time I saw Mel Kadel’s artwork.  I was in Baltimore at a record shop called Soundgarden and I had come across the Silversun Pickups’ first EP, Pikul. On the cover was a black haired woman character swinging in the wind on top of a pale blue backdrop.  After looking up more of her work, I realized that this black haired girl was a common thread through all of Kadel’s art. Sometimes she’s riding quilted horses and other times she’s struggling to carry a load of mice.  And don’t be surprised if she’s riding in a boat atop a triangular ocean, holding up the sun, finding her way out of a massive blanket maze or even defying the laws of gravity.  She is no doubt a “little badass”, as Kadel would put it. - Keba Robinson

Keba: Where did you grow up?

Mel Kadel :I grew up in the suburbs outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

K: How did you start making art?
MK: I think we all start out making art as young kids, but some of us just keep doing it. I was around 14 or 15 years old when I begged my dad for a bigger desk and a brighter lamp. Drawing was something that I began to spend all of my time on, and inspired me to focus.

K: What would you say are the motifs of your work both aesthetically and conceptually?
MK: It's colorful, detailed, and positive, but with underlining feelings of struggle.

K: Do you stain your paper yourself or do you buy it like that?

MK: I stain it with coffee on my porch.  The elements always add something unique.  Whether it be rain drops, squirrel prints, or just the baking sun

K: What media do you use? and which would like to experiment with?
MK: My tools are very basic:  300 lb. paper, tiny Micron pens, glue, blades, and ink washes that I mix for color.  I've been pushing these same materials lately to make more intricate collages with a lot of layering.  It really changes the work.  Taking it from a pure drawing and turning it into something more 3-d and textural.
My most recent experimentation, is working on animation.  I can't wait to see the layers move.

K:Who is that little lady in all of your drawings and how has she developed over the years?
MK: She's a little badass.  A  few years ago she became a constant in my work, while the adventures and obstacles change around her.  I definitely relate to her, but we look nothing alike,  other than an occasional beer belly.

K:What does your creative space look like?
MK: I work in the room attached to our kitchen.  There are windows everywhere, tons of trees around, and an open door is next to me where random cats walk in.  Organized sounds boring, but it is.  I just keep the tools around me that I use, along with a couple pine cones.

K: How does a drawing usually start for you?
MK: Most of the time, I have a rough idea in my head when I start with a pencil and get the loose sketch down on paper.  That part goes pretty quickly, so most of the time is scratching away at the details with pen and ink.  Sometimes I'll just spend days on doing pages of patterns to use later for collage.  No matter how it starts, my process is slow and steady.  

K: What are you listening to at the moment?
MK: Right now, NPR.  But, lately I've been listening to:  Das Racists, Shadow Shadow Shade, The Evens, Akron/Family, and Lee "Scratch" Perry.

K: What was the last good movie you saw/last good book you read?
MK: The documentary 'Deep Water' was incredible.  And, i can barely make it through Keith Richard's book 'Life', but it's still on my night stand.

K: Are there any special upcoming projects that we should look forward to?
MK: Travis Millard and I are having a split show at FFDG (Fecal Face Dot Gallery) in San Francisco.  It opened on June 11th. We live and work together, so it will be nice to take what's been piling up at our house and move it onto clean walls.