Creator Focus—Melissa Kay
Back again with another Creator Focus, this time with biomedical illustrator and final girl, Melissa Kay. Melissa has been designing and drawing for years, but lately began to share more of her personal art, so I thought she would be a great person to talk to about her work. Not to mention, with the revival of Twin Peaks coming soon, I heard that gum she likes is going to come back in style.
Let’s talk about you.
1. Tell me little about your background and how you got here.
As cliché as it sounds, I’ve been drawing and creating ever since I could hold a pen. I originally hail from Texas, and lived all over the country—from Los Angeles to New York. I’ve worked in a variety of different fields, but always come back to art and design.
2. Medical illustration is fascinating. It feels like something I know *should* exist, but you never hear people talking about it. What made you decide to get into that field?
It’s funny, because it wasn’t exactly a straight path (nothing worth it really is, is it?). Like I mentioned before, I originally wanted to be an artist. Then somewhere down the line, the left side of my brain began its mating call and I started pursuing my graduate degree in the field of epidemiology—which is basically a disease detective. I began working for a med ed agency, and one of the scientists there clued me into the lucrative career field of medical illustration once she found out I was an artist. Needless to say, I quickly switched gears and worked my way into the field. A year later, I became my company’s sole medical illustrator and have been doing it ever since. I’ve always been as equally interested in science as I was art (and fairly decent at both) so the marriage of the two was a natural fit.
3. I’ve seen a lot of your work—would you say it’s more fun to work on anatomical illustrations or design infographics?
Tough question! I think anatomy is easier, because it’s very black and white—you can’t get too creative with how you’re presenting vital information that’s intended to educate or inform. So for me it’s always way more fun to design things like infographics because all the “freedom” I get.
4. Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere. Movies, comics, vintage film posters, skateboards, toy shops. I have a small collection of old science textbooks from the 70s and they’re cool as hell—a lot of my interests are rooted in the 70s and 80s, art included, so everything I make contains elements from that. I’m also really into bright colors and bold lines. A few of my favorite artists who always manage to inspire me: Moebius, Kirby, Peellaert, Crepax, Allred, Sienkiewicz, Tezuka, Forest.
5. Describe your dream job.
You mean, besides being a tornado chaser? If I had all the money in the world, I’d love to jet set around the world, drawing comics, writing books and making movies. Everywhere. All the time.
6. What’s something you would tell people just getting into the field?
Practice, practice, practice and learn as much about the human body as you can. If you’re not doing the official school route, make sure to study up on all anatomy & biology. I also recommend taking a class or two in those subjects—it can only help your cred. Lots of the field involves illustrating research. After all, anyone can draw a brain—you’re going to need to know the terminology behind it. The difference between an illustrator and a medical illustrator is knowing the science.
7. What kinds of projects are you working on now?
Oh, probably too many, which is just how I like it. Besides the freelancing work for my field, I’m working on a sexy 60s space comic, some enamel pins, writing a book, working on some print ideas, and a short film that’s really more of a passion project. I want to do so many things.
And now the fun stuff.
Top three final girls.
Ellen Ripley, Jess Bradford and Laurie Strode. Erin from You’re Next is a close fourth.
Who is your favorite Transformer?
If you ran an art gallery, who would be your featured artist?
Alive: Bill Sienkiewicz
Have you seen Kung Fury?
I plead the fifth.
Week two is in the books! My thanks to Melissa Kay for letting me poke around her big brain for awhile. As always, let me know if you know of anyone you’d like to see in an upcoming Creator Focus.
For more about Melissa, find her online