Community| 3 min read

Meet the Artist: Melissa Koby

Get to know Melissa Koby, the artist behind our latest Artist Series, whose work celebrate people of color and the peace found in beautiful landscapes.

Our latest Artist Series features Melissa Koby, a Jamaican-born, Tampa-based illustrator who creates vibrant graphics that celebrate the unifying power of art and nature. 

Melissa’s designs, which combine watercolor and digital illustrations, depict natural landscapes and burst with color. Her work celebrates people of color and the peace and tranquility she finds in beautiful landscapes.

Her exclusive designs for tentree grace our super-soft, ocean-protecting SeaBlend fabric. Each piece from the collection plants trees in Haiti through our collaboration with Mother Trees, which also partners with Prosperity Catalyst, an organization that supports women-led artisan businesses in distressed areas.

Learn a little more about Melissa and her artistic inspiration by taking a read below, and shop her collection today.

Q: How has your personal journey and your background influenced your creative process as an artist, and what inspired you to pursue a career in art?

At the beginning of COVID, I wanted to start a business as a wedding stationery designer. And, of course, at that point, no weddings were happening. And my husband said, you know what? I see you spending all this time painting and hand-painting flowers for your wedding stationery — why don’t you just buy an iPad?

I started drawing faceless people and scenic or landscape imagery because there’s something about it that is just very peaceful. And I wanted to be able to express myself through my art.

Q: You mentioned there are faceless figures featured in your art. What’s the messaging behind that?

I wanted to make sure that my illustrations came from my perspective: black female. So, most of the women or most of the people I draw are of color. I do want to be inclusive and include everyone, but with that, I don’t do faces. I don’t want them to look at expressions through faces, only to be able to connect with the work. I want the work to show confidence and serenity, whatever it is that I’m feeling at the time when I create it or the message I’m trying to convey. I wanted to show this only through body language because people tend to judge too much by face. I kind of wanted to strip that all away and just have you interpret what you will with what I put out.

Q: What are your key sources of inspiration in your art? How do they translate into your work?

When I’m not drawing people, I’m drawing landscapes. And it’s funny because I live in Florida, right? You wouldn’t think that’s where my greatest inspiration comes from. But my favorite, my best memories are from traveling to the Pacific Northwest or even hiking with my husband. That’s one of the things that we do for fun whenever we can. We will pick a place that has beautiful scenery, go hiking, and just spend time in nature.

Q: What do you hope people take away from your art?

I want people to be encouraged by what they see because, like I said, I go faceless because I want them to see the strength of the people. I want them to maybe embody that. I want them to look at the landscape and feel that sense of peace that I feel creating it. I want it to remind them of a time when they experienced peace. A lot of my work is centered around hopefulness, strength of person or character as well as peace. So I want all those things to be taken away.

Q: Can you share a specific piece of art that holds special significance to you? What inspired you to create it?

“We Rise” is one of my more recent pieces, which actually includes both things: landscape as well as women. I’m always going to champion women. I believe in us, I love us, I think we’re beautiful.

Q: How has your artistic practice evolved over time, and what have been some of the most significant milestones in your journey so far?

I don’t create the same way I created when I first started out. I think when I started, I was in a place of needing to process and also needing to release and connect with people and share hope, joy, and peace. It sounds selfish to say, but I feel like my work is more for me now. Since becoming a mother, I’ve had to do a lot of internal work. At first, I was creating to connect with everyone. Now, I’m creating because I need reminders to connect with myself, and the reminders just so happen to resonate with other people.

Shop our Melissa Koby collection today, and head to Melissa’s website to check out more of her work.


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