Interview with pop surreal artist Melissa Leslie-Quinones

Melissa Leslie-Quinones (aka MLoveStudio) is a fine artist based In Los Angeles, CA.  A connection of soulful passion, liberation and symbolism are interweaved in her works and have deeper humanitarian undertones.  The inspiration for her work has morphed from bright bold colors to surreal collages of world disasters and currently into muted women with serious underlying issues in "Heaven, Earth and the In-Betweens."  Her recent pieces embodies a spiritual reflection that acts like a journal of visual poetry.

Hello dear Melissa, please, tell us how did you find the artist inside you? How long have you been doing art? Is art something that you always wanted to do?
Art has always been my means of communicating the things that would make my voice break.  I've used it in several mediums to record my experiences and revelations throughout all my life and knew it was going to be my life long career.
What was / is your major influences? Other artists, books, movies, music or any other media....What inspires you to create your artworks?
My major influences have shifted throughout my life from my mother's story from the Philippines to America, Cities that spark my imagination like San Francisco to searching the world for absolute truth and the continual resilience I witness everyday in my husband and fellow artist, Daniel Quinones, to fight for what truly matters even though at times it seems hopeless.
How does "a normal day of artist" in your life look like?
Because I run 3 businesses of my own and assist my husband with 2 of his, my days are always changing.  A day could be anything from researching news on human trafficking, fashion designing, character design, social campaigning, creating ads for my brand/non-profit, to featuring or interviewing artists for, a site we feature Artists on.  And when I have time, I work on contacting galleries, magazines, etc for my personal art, and the other half of the day I zone out to music or movies and paint into the night on 1-2 bodies of art.

What’s your background? Are you self-taught artist or did you study art? Do you think an art education is important or imperitive for anybody wishing to be an artist? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages that you have encountered throughout your career with/without the formal training of the Art Academy?
Although I did go to school in San Francisco, I could honestly say I used that school loan to get me out of Indiana and into a city that could appreciate my work and my sense of navigating life….I think I got the most skills from High School from my teacher Mr Jackson.  I personally do not believe it is imperative someone spend $80k on 2 years of art school just to make a successful career out of art and even moreso today due to the plethora of youtube how-to videos on the web.  Because I also train up creative entrepreneurs though MLoveizm, I believe it really just takes a new artist to approach an artist they respect and ask to become an apprentice.  An honest student will do what it takes to show up, ask questions and get tasks done.  There's nothing like the hands-on approach when it comes to creatives.   Without the advantage of the school loan I'm afraid I would have been stuck in a town where my art would never see the light of day and ultimately a cloud of depression would soon follow so I am grateful it was available to me.
What fascinates you the most about pop surrealism? How would you describe your style? What themes do you pursue, what surrealism mean to you and what do you hope the viewer will take away from your art?
I love that every generation has the opportunity to create an artistic movement and the time I live in happens to be this pop surrealism movement that has brought people from around the world together in their peculiarity.  When you see a great work of art in this genre it gives you a sense of nostalgic memories brushed with macabre undertones that no other time period can do.  I think my style leans towards all of the above and varies from each body of work.  Although I reference a lot of realistic anatomy and tones I also reach a bit inside and outside the lines when it comes to getting my message in there with symbols, positions and surreal environments.  I mainly use female subjects as I think getting my experience or view out this way is the best avenue because I can relate and be honest about my approach.  I hope it is first something that draws the viewer in more than a flick of your thumb on an phone and then it they pull from the piece what it may means to them.  Ultimately I want to breathe life and light into the viewer even if they don't agree with the message, I want them to think deeper and ask questions.

What do you love most about creating and being an artist? What does “being creative” mean to you?
I love that the possibilities are endless!  I say this because most of the time an artists, including myself, can be content simply with people seeing and following their work. But, in the past couple years I have experienced feedback through tears and some even at the feet of my pieces for hours reflecting on their own lives.  It is an ultimate testament that my passion is not bottled up for myself but brings about new perspectives and release for others who also may feel unable to speak about their own experiences.  I believe we were created to connect and if my art is a facilitator then I very grateful and honored. 
Can you describe your typical workflow when you’re working on your art? What are your tools of trade? What medium do you most often use and why?
I set up my 8 year old oil paint pallet, a wooden box of select paintbrushes, a jar of thinner, several folded paper towels  and the current canvas I'm working on.  After it's all in place I put on a movie or music and get to it.  I feel like oils are more robust with tons of forgiveness and lots of depth.
Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
I don't believe there is a medium I've wanted to try and haven't pursued.  I have created in just about all of them that peaked my interest or need to execute an idea or job.

Tell us more about your workspace. What was the most funny or weird thing that happened to you in your studio? What is / was the most strange thing hidding in your studio?
Currently my workspace shifts from my own studio to my friends creative spaces across Los Angeles.  I like to stay mobil and organized with my equipment.  I'm not sure if anything really weird or funny has happened to me in my studio, maybe everything is really normal or really weird and so there is no difference?  I'm also not sure if there is anything hiding in my studio.
What toughest challenges have you faced as an artist during your art career? What is the biggest lesson you have learned so far?
The toughest challenge I've faced as an artist is balancing my life with my career.  Because both my husband and I are so passionate about our work and helping others it can sometimes overtakes our time from enjoying each other, our friends and the city we live in.  The biggest lesson I've learned so far is give it all you got to create a foundation to build your career on and write down your end goal and mission early on.  The rest may not be without obstacles but it will be a lot smoother.
What’s the best and worst advice you ever received in your art career?
The best advice I've ever received is to remain honest.  Can't say there's been a worst advice cause I can always perceive it as a suggestion, everyone's opinion is valuable even if I don't agree.
What do you dislike about the art world? What is the hardest thing on being an artist? Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
Through the years I would say the politics involved.  If you didn't meet people when they first started their career whether it be in the creative or business side, it is extremely difficult to approach the 'gatekeeper' to shows or publicity.  Even though it can be a struggle I've found just being genuine and thoughtful of people as a friend it doesn't matter whether or not they reach down to lift you up, Friendship is more valuable when all is said and done.  The hardest thing about being an artist personally, is maintaining balance on relationships as your friends and family grow while building my businesses and challenging myself artistically through my work.  The artistic life can be lonely if you choose it to be. Artists usually keep to themselves because they go inward to display their thoughts outwardly. In that creative hibernation if you linger to long it can turn into depression and loneliness.  I think it's important to stay connected to a community that is innovative, encouraging and progressive, which is another reason we created MLoveizm in LA.  Its phenomenal to reap life from others who will lift you up but not sugar coat anything.

Where do you see yourself in the future? Professionally, what’s your goal?
In the near future I hope to have a book in progress, travel and show for MLoveStudio.  I would also love a permanent spot for Artists to gather for art night and shows for MLoveizm.  And ultimately my top goal is to get my brand fully funded alongside a stellar united team to fight human trafficking with animation, products, jobs and freedom in abundance.  Thats it in a tiny nutshell.
Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others? Maybe advice for beginning artists out there?
If you're beginning in art I would say ask yourself deep down is art something you don't mind struggling for?  If so, then find a local artist you admire, ask to be an apprentice, be willing to serve, pull out your notebook and ask all the questions you can. Not all artists will be willing to give their time to anyone so be prepared to offer something of value to these busy artists.  If you cant find someone then start with archiving your work with quality photos, file them with their info, invest in a website, get someone to write a bio for you, set up your social sites, create a PDF and contact as many galleries and art news sources that best fit your genre.  Best advice I would pass on is remain honest in your work, its the common thread to classic work that will surpass any fad going on right now.
Your favorite art or life quote is ...
"The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit."
What are you doing when you’re not creating? What (other) hobbies do you have?
If I'm not working on my other businesses I'm spending time with my family and/or friends exploring nature or amazing culinary masterpieces, putting together an event or cooking.

Do you have an online portfolio or a blog where we can view your work?
Is there anything else you’d like to say? Is there any project you are working on right now or any ongoing event or exhibition you would like to share with our readers?
I am creating a new body called "The Allegory" and I am currently posting progress shots via my instagram.  I'm also doing mini paint study series that change from month to month, right now it's #30smokinjimis.
Thank you dear Melissa, it was a honor to interview you, I wish you only the best for you and your art and already looking forward to see your new visions and works :)
By contributor Linda. September 2014. Find Oh, So Surreal on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google + or RSS.