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Art And Soul

By Alexandra Faszewski

What do cupcakes, art, and “Sex and the City” have in common? Jamel Saliba, a local fashion illustrator known for her chic, whimsical artworks. The 29-year-old’s body of work ranges from custom illustrations to logos to pillows, as it is possible to do a lot with just one design. Using her childhood nickname in her brand name, Melsy’s Illustrations, Salib sells her work online via Etsy and at pop-up booths.

Melsy’s Illustrations began when a close friend of Saliba’s gave her an illustration of a girl in a pink dress. While shopping online for other illustrations, she noticed how expensive they were and decided to try her hand at creating her own. She began drawing and posting her art to Instagram, where other Instagram users encouraged her to sell the pieces.

Saliba only started drawing in August 2013 and is completely self-taught. Before being inspired by the fashion illustration she received, Saliba was a technical writer at Raytheon, where she said her “whole cube was pink.” She worked for Raytheon for four years before resigning in order to pursue her art more seriously. Now, illustration is her full-time job.

Inspiration comes from Saliba’s mother, who has always been deeply interested in fashion and interior design. Saliba comes across subjects in various ways—some images she finds online, on sites such as Instagram, Pinterest, and in various fashion blogs. She is also inspired by items she notices on people and makes them her own. For example, one of her drawings is of four dresses, and each one is inspired by a character from “Sex and the City.”

The time it takes to complete one of her illustrations fluctuates, depending on how many figures are in the image—whether it is a Chanel bottle or a garment on a hanger, rather than a figure—and on the medium being used. Saliba estimates that most take 60 to 90 minutes to complete. Saliba prefers Copic markers for their ease and efficiency. In fact, if she had to choose just one, Copics would be her illustration tool of choice. Saliba especially enjoys drawing hair, backs, and shoulders, which can be seen in one of her personal favorite illustrations. In this piece, a girl is examining a display of cupcakes; like many of her works, the piece tells a story. “One day, I was craving cupcakes, so I drew them instead,” Saliba explained with a laugh.

Saliba also loves to do custom illustrations. “Every one that I do has such meaning behind it,” said Saliba. Requests are most commonly received from brides hoping to document their special day. She often finds inspiration in the people she is drawing and in their individual stories. “This guy emailed me and said, ‘I want you to help me propose to my girlfriend.’ He wants me to draw him proposing to her,” said Saliba.

Saliba has been able to sell her work to international locations, including England, Italy, and Taiwan. Being an online vendor is beneficial because “online you can reach a lot more people, while with a store you’re limited.” Saliba believes that starting off online is better, not only because of the audience one is able to reach, but also because it is more affordable. She touted the benefits of social media; Instagram was especially useful as it is a visual site. “I’ve gotten more jobs this way than with Raytheon,” said Saliba.

In addition to Etsy, Saliba sells her work at pop-up booths in Boston’s SoWa Open Market; she spent two months manning her own booth at New York’s Bryant Park as well. She plans to return to New York in the spring to sell at Chelsea Market.

What’s next for Melsy’s Illustrations? Fans can look forward to exclusive Christmas greeting cards this year, and her artwork will be featured on several designs for Hallmark. Saliba’s greeting cards will be available at Marshall’s and TJ Maxx. 

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