As part of our Exclusive Artist Program, we’re collaborating with a handful of independent artists whose work can only be found in galleries to bring their creative vision to our customers. They create artwork exclusively for us — you won’t find these pieces anywhere else — and you get to enjoy the next best thing to original art at an affordable price.
One of our newest Exclusive Artists is Melissa Payne Baker, whose collection appears under the name Sasha Art. Awarded Best Atlanta Artist by Jezebel and Atlanta magazines as well as hailed as the Atlanta art scene’s “new belle” by Modern Luxury Interiors Atlanta magazine, Melissa has become the darling of the city’s best interior designers. Her paintings, featuring thick swirls and swipes of color in rich hues, are the perfect punctuation to complete any room.
Melissa was kind enough to invite us to her home’s basement studio, where she creates her popular works of art. What we learned right off the bat was this: even if she didn’t start her career as an artist, she was certainly bound to become one. It’s in her DNA. Both of her paternal grandparents were painters. Her grandfather was also a woodworker. Her mother is a painter. Both her father and brother are metal sculptors. She says she had always dabbled in art growing up, and even attended art classes with her grandfather when she was eight. “I was always painting and creating things,”she said. “It’s always been in me.”
Her three-and-a-half year old son, Payne, is already a better artist than most of us. The artist proudly showed off her son’s wall gallery in her basement hallway. And we were pleasantly surprised to find we had a mutual respect for one another: Melissa’s home is filled with many Ballard gems. Read on to find out more about Melissa and see photos from her home.
Ballard Designs: Tell us a little bit about yourself — how did you end up in Atlanta?
Melissa Payne Baker: I went to Ole Miss and was a marketing major and came to Atlanta through friends that lived here. I got a job with an interior design firm in Buckhead and worked in interior design for 10 years and loved it.
BD: How did you make the transition to becoming an artist?
MPB: When I moved here, my girlfriends and I had what we called art night together, and they would always tell me that I should sell my work, but I just never knew how to get it out there. Then my best friend who was part of art night passed away in a car accident, and soon after I was asked to donate a painting to a charity auction in Atlanta. There was a bidding war that night, and I got a call the next day for a commission. It snowballed from there — and that was 10 years ago. I continued working in interior design while also getting in at Ann Irwin here in Atlanta. Then Trinity School picked me up and I sold 20 pieces at that first show. Finally, I got in at Huff Harrington Fine Art gallery where I’ve been for eight years, and that’s when I started doing it full time. I also show my art in galleries across the southeast, from Dallas to Nashville.
BD: How would you describe your art?
MPB: I mostly do abstract acrylic on canvas, and I like to use pops of color and thick textures. I try to convey a feeling to the viewer. I want to draw the viewer in. Some people say, “I see a sailboat” or “I see an angel.” It’s really nice to have people at my shows stop in front of my art and say, “Wow, that’s so calming.” It just pulls people in and I love that.
BD: Your work is distinctive in that you have these thick, bold strokes. How do you achieve that?
MPB: I play with different mediums. I’ll use wall putty and thicker paints. I apply the texture first and then I add layer upon layer of color. I use a palette knife, and if I want to soften edges I go in with a brush. I’ll use my hands, a paper towel, anything to get the texture I want.
BD: What inspires your work?
MPB: Interior design. I love going through home design magazines and collecting tears for inspiration. It’s a great way to see what colors are trending. I also love going to designer showhouses. I started out in high school wallpapering with my mom’s friend, and we would go into these gorgeous homes. I saw all these great fabrics and wallpapers — I think that’s where I got my love for home decor and rich colors and textures.
BD: Can you describe a typical day? Do you start on one piece and work on it until it’s finished?
MPB: No, most of these pieces aren’t finished. I usually work on 10 to 15 pieces at a time during a typical week. I really like to paint in the mornings and the evening, because that’s when I have the least distractions. And then I just go for it. I don’t draw anything out. I just start putting layers and colors on the canvas until it evolves into what I feel is a finished piece. I always say, as an artist, you have to know when to stop, because it can get muddy.
BD: So how do you know?
MPB: It’s just something inside of me where I think, “You know what? I love that.” I always have to walk away from it and come back and study it.
BD: What are the challenges of being an artist?
MPB: Being inspired. Sometimes I have gotten into an artist’s block and I just cannot get out of it. That’s when I have to take a break and go out and find inspiration. I’ll take walks, read interior design magazines, go to museums and galleries. Sometimes I just love to go to a coffee shop after I drop my son off at school and decompress. I can’t paint when I’m stressed or there’s a lot going on. But other times I can come down and this is my relaxation and I can just let go and paint.
BD: Why did you want to work with Ballard?
MPB: I am so excited to work with Ballard. I’ve been a big fan for a long time. The first time I went into Ballard, I probably bought a truckload! Also, I wanted to print my work so that people who can’t afford $4,000 original art can still get fine art. The quality is truly great, so I really wanted to do this.
BD: Your collection of exclusive art for Ballard is called Sasha Art. Can you explain the name?
MPB: My niece is 11 and she has called me Sasha since she was nine months old. I signed this collection Sasha, because I knew I wanted to do something a little more light hearted and different than my usual work. These pieces are more fun and wispy looking, yet still elegant enough to go into the beautiful rooms in your catalog.
BD: In the production process, we add texture to the print to make it resemble the original as much as possible. How do you feel about the quality of the print versus the original?
MPB: I was so pleased! I got them out of the box from California and I had a hard time for a minute trying to figure out which was which. The quality is amazing. The texture is spot on.
BD: How do you envision people using Sasha Art in their homes?
MPB: I want them to use it to anchor the room. Just like the room in the catalog, those colors anchor the pillows on the sofa and the chairs. Art just pulls a room together and completes it.
BD: What can we look forward to with your new collection?
MPB: I’m not exactly sure yet. This is kind of new, so we’re going to see where this goes. I might come up with an even more fun line for spring and incorporate some fresh colors, like corals and yellows. I always look at what Ballard is doing with their fabrics and furniture, so my pieces are easy to work in.
You’ve got us excited. Thanks, Melissa!
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