Burlesque Zoo: Melissa Josephsen Channels Her Wild Side

Burlesque Zoo: Melissa Josephsen Channels Her Wild Side
I’m rather unassuming, but then I’ll draw something and the amount of emotion and expression that comes through speaks louder than I ever can.
— Melissa Josephsen

Always on the pursuit to spotlight passionate individuals, Grave Goods Society was captivated by a recent (on-going) series that pencil artist, Melissa Josephsen, had been promoting. It is dubbed "Burlesque Zoo."

Through a series of 6 questions, we garnered some thoughtful and inspiring feedback from Josephsen. Her words resound amongst a chorus of humble truths and soothingly clear connections pertaining to the roots of her creativity and what drives her these days.

What you get in a snippet of a Q&A is an intriguing look into the soul of an artist, producing intriguing artwork, who you can't wait to see produce more.

I’m relatively new at putting myself and my artwork out there like this - so when someone likes it or contacts me about it ... It’s still a weird feeling, lol.

Grave Goods Society: What made you gravitate towards art and how long have you been honing your craft?

Josephsen: Art has been ingrained in me for as long as I remember, as I grew up in a very artsy family. My mother is a hobby painter and practices other types of crafts, and my brother and I spent countless hours together drawing. I've been drawing for over 20 years and can't wait to see what techniques I can learn in the future to better myself and my artwork.

Grave Goods Society: Name 3 of your biggest influences in the art community. Tell us, what is it about their style that inspires you.

Josephsen:

John - My Brother, who I drew with for years, is one of my greatest influences. Growing up he was always better than me, which made me strive to take it to the next level. I never felt like I could catch up, until later on he changed his path to Graphic Design and Photo/Video Editing - which I somewhat emulatedas well which detracted me from my passion, but I'm back to being me and getting my own style of artwork out.

  • Bangles (Album: "Everything" or "Different Light")
  • Heart (Album: "Bad Animals")
  • Melanie C (Album: Anything she's done)

These musical influences were very instrumental in my growth as a person, and they are almost always present when I'm drawing or doing any type of work. The Bangles were some of my beginning influences, as my brother and I listened to them almost always when drawing. Later on we listened to Heart's Album, "Bad Animals," religiously. Anytime I hear anything from the Bad Animal's album today I just want to draw and the passion takes over me. Melanie C's solo career really is what I've embraced as an adult, as the emotions that are invoked in her music come through me when I'm drawing. Melanie C is also known as Sporty Spice from the Spice Girls, whom I love as well.

Mary Doodles - I'm greatly inspired by her passion and her craft. I'm always awestruck by her designs and her entire business model. She's a part of a few things that I enjoy and take time with, such as Epic Rap Battles as well - which only inspires me to become someone great like her knowing she's completely relied on her arts to get her where she is today.

You cannot appeal to everyone. If your heart is not in what you’re drawing, the audience will know.

Grave Goods Society: What's the best piece of advice that you've received that has helped you improve your craft?

Josephsen: The literal advice that I've been given to improve my actual craft would be from my college Illustration Professor to pay attention to the shadows of the object that's being drawn. We drew daily in that class, and I feel like my refined attention to detail really came from the lectures and discussions we had.

Another piece of advice that I've heard in more recent years is that it does not matter what anyone's opinions are when it comes to art. I was always concerned with acceptance of what I'm drawing when it came to the recent series of the burlesque zoo, but after discussing my ideas with someone close to me, in not so nice words, they told me that it does not matter what anyone thinks - You cannot appeal to everyone. If your heart is not in what you're drawing, the audience will know.

People I know have called my recent artwork “Nightmare Fuel” or “Fear Boners”, so I think I’m getting in the right direction.

Grave Goods Society: What's your inspiration for your latest series? Can you give details about each of the three?

Josephsen: This is a tough one, because I've always had darker artwork that illicit a response from the viewer. I enjoy going with the "shock factor", if you must. For example, people I know have called my recent artwork "Nightmare Fuel" or "Fear Boners", so I think I'm getting in the right direction. I just have really messed up thoughts, and on the surface I'm rather unassuming, but then I'll draw something and the amount of emotion and expression that comes through speaks louder than I ever can. I've always loved animals, so I figured I'd put something together that allows me to draw a love of mine, mixed with primal thoughts combined with pin-up bodies & poses.

Leopard - I've always loved cats, and the leopard is just a majestic animal. I found a body in this similar pose and just felt it click in my head; this is how it had to be.

Bear - The pose that the woman is in can only, really to me, be considered animalistic. She's flaunting herself for attention, and with a bit of word play, I thought of a very fierce animal and created the Bear Naked Lady.

Condor - At first glance, one of the ugliest things you can think of when it comes to regal birds flying in the sky. But upon closer examination, with its colors and details, it's actually very gorgeous. I wanted to put this beautifully-ugly animal on a body that's rather appealing and showing its feathers, so to speak.

I have a lifestyle in my mind that I want, and that is going to be where I end up and I will not settle for anything else along the way. I was not born to pay bills and die. I want to reach out to the world with my art and try to help bring up those with me who struggle to get their passion and craft out in the arts.

Grave Goods Society: What's your ideal work environment when creating artwork?

Josephsen: I actually thrive on a bit of a chaotic background noise. I always had music going on, but lately, with the glory of Netflix, I've probably watched more cooking shows and other things that I can just have as background banter (and wish I could cook that well). Sometimes I'll pick my head up and get hungry, but then just dive back into drawing. So, my work station is essentially: my 3 cats, food porn or music, all of my color pencils & tools around me, and my piece of art.

Grave Goods Society: Can you give advise for fellow artists or those trying to pursue it for the first time?

Josephsen: I try to give some inspiration to new artists and veterans alike with my Instagram when I can. As I know, as being someone of the arts - This world seems to always bear down hard until you can finally break out. My most recent post for Instagram was actually based on the quote from Steve Jobs, oddly enough: "The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet - keep looking. Don't settle." 

Even though, "Oh no, not the big corporate America" is the general consensus from the art world I feel lately, I think Steve Jobs transcends everything in this quote. It applies to absolutely every single person on this planet, and the message is simple. Don't settle. Always push forward towards what you really want, what really drives you, regardless of what is in front of you. I have a lifestyle in my mind that I want, and that is going to be where I end up and I will not settle for anything else along the way. I was not born to pay bills and die. I want to reach out to the world with my art and try to help bring up those with me who struggle to get their passion and craft out in the arts.

Check out Josephsen's body of work through her Instagram @meljo_jojo. You can purchase her work through her Etsy shop here. We're excited to see that she is expanding on her latest series, Burlesque Zoo, and has been teasing some previews of upcoming-additional pieces.