Anne Melnyk is a freelance artist and graphic designer with a diverse portfolio that includes newsletters, murals, promotional materials and more. Anne also volunteers her time and talent with Urban Impact and other community organizations in Pittsburgh.
How did you get into graphic design?
I’ve been into art since I was a kid. I went to Indiana University of Pennsylvania as a Fine Arts major. I took a Graphic Design class and I got to learn about typefaces and fonts. They had a program with the Art Institute of Pittsburgh where I could take classes there and transfer credit. That’s how I got to be a Graphic Design major.
After getting married and moving to South Carolina, I worked for a Myrtle Beach t-shirt company. I designed t-shirts and did advertising and graphic design for their company. It was a great experience and very casual.
You do you a lot of different projects from ads to mosaic art projects to brochures. Is there a common thread through these different projects, in terms of your style or approach?
I would say that I like things to be colorful, playful, whimsical and happy. I’m old fashioned in that I want my art ideas to be beautiful and uplifting. I try to do things that make people feel good.
What are the major differences between freelancing and working for a company full-time?
When you work at a company, you have more technical and financial support. But when you freelance a benefit is that you can be selective about the jobs you take on. It also allows me to spend time with my kids…and I can work from home in my pajamas.
What has been a favorite project of yours?
I like doing paper sculpture which is like collage. I’ve done two paper sculpture cookbook covers and a brochure in paper sculpture. It was a signature brochure and the company used that artwork in their corporate identity for their banners and signage. That was cool.
You do a lot of work with kids in the community. Could you tell us about your work with Urban Impact Pittsburgh and other organizations in the area?
Urban Impact works on the North Side of Pittsburgh with families. They use what’s called the 40 Developmental Assets. The program is based on research that came up with 40 things that children need to be successful. One of those is “artistic activities”. They started an academy with drama, ballet and an art program. So I get to think of fun art ideas for middle schoolers.
I got involved with Urban Impact because my husband did youth ministry in Pittsburgh and I was familiar with the people who did Urban Impact. They knew I did art and they asked if I would be interested in doing art classes. It’s important for me to be in the community and make connections with others in the arts.
When you’re working with children it keeps you young and you understand better the culture we live in. In terms of Pittsburgh, you learn about what’s going on with youth and families and you start to understand your neighborhood and city better. It’s a challenge to do art that meets the needs of the community. And I think it is 100% important as an artist to understand the culture you live in.
What brought you to Pittsburgh and what sets this city apart from other places you’ve lived and worked?
We’re one of those couples that moved away and came back. We have a fondness for Pittsburgh that only people who are from here can understand. There is so much more opportunity for artists here. It’s the biggest city in the tri-state area. As an artist you have support from the Pittsburgh Foundation community *. There is so much support for the arts here compared to smaller communities.
What do you think about the Pittsburgh design/arts community?
The artists here really share. They share supplies, ideas, projects, advice. It’s a very friendly arts community.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start freelancing in design/art?
You should take any job for the exposure and experience. I’ve done everything from designing tattoo sleeves to doing corporate presentations. The more connections you have the more word-of-mouth work you’re going to get. That to me is more fun than beating the bushes to find work.
The ebb and flow of work makes freelancing difficult. Sometimes you have more work than you can handle and other times you don’t have enough. So that lack of consistency … You also don’t have regular work hours. You end up fitting your work around your day. It makes it hard to have a regular schedule.
There are other aspects of freelancing to consider. My husband has health care through his job so I’m covered, but a lot of other freelancers don’t. You also have to handle your own finances, tech support, and continuing education which takes time away from design work.
Where do you see your work in the future, short-term and long-term?
I want to continue to grow as an artist in all aspects of art. I don’t want to feel that I have mastered something but that I always have a lot to learn.
I think it’s important to take classes and continue education. Also to hang out with other artists and people who are creative. It’s very enriching and stimulating to be around creative people. Sometimes the artist temperament is to withdraw and be alone a lot but it’s good to hang out with other artistic folks. So sometimes artists have to force themselves to get out and collaborate.
Any specific goals?
Bill Gates said he wanted to put a computer in every living room. I want to put a mosaic art window in every house. [laughs] But really it’s about art and I want to do more of that.
Actually I do have another goal… I think it would be fun to start a ladies art night and just have everyone come over and do art together for a few hours. That would be fun.
Finally, God gave me this artistic gift and I want to use it for good in the world.
*The Pittsburgh Foundation supports arts in the community through grant making. To learn more, or apply for an award, visit their grants page.