Spirit, Self-Love, and Starting Again: Melissa Benbow on Art & Healing

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about her artsy self: 
I am a spirit, and my goal is to use my art to get in touch with my spirit. My art is like a journal. I make poems, prose, essays, paintings, sculptures.

on her artistic journey:
I started back in elementary school. Art was my favorite class. I took art classes through grade 12. I wanted to apply to art school, but I was part afraid and part discouraged.  After that, I stopped doing art for a long time. I wish I had continued during those four years because it may have helped with my anxiety. I knew I wanted to get back into making again, but it was my best friend and business partner, Alim, who supported me to really get started again.  Sometimes I just need to draw. It’s something that my hands naturally want to do.

on healing & her creative practice:
Healing has everything to do with it. Art really calms me down; when I am drawing my brain literally cannot think of anything else. It’s harder to get distracted while drawing or making as compared to all of the other things I do. I also draw ideas, patterns, and using colors that heal me. In a way, my creativity is self-centered. I don't think too much about what people would want because I know that someone will always be able to relate to my experience. I remind myself that I'm not much different than anyone else and it helps me to express fully and without worrying about whether people will like it or not.

on exciting art of color:
Well, my business partner Alim (his artist name is Yesterdaynite) so him of course. I also like Jessi Jumanji, and Harmonia Rosales as of late. There are so many amazing artists of color out there right now. 

what she’s looking forward to:
I look forward to being a curator and promoting the art I love. I also look forward to teaching about art as a practice of self love. Of course, I really want to be a writer, so I look forward to being consistent in blogging and sharing more about my journey. I'm very excited to explore and free myself as an artist as well. Although I do art for myself, there is a part of me who is still apprehensive about sharing it with the world because I don't want to be judged. I know that contradicts what I’ve said about making art for myself, but in doing this I make myself very vulnerable. I look forward to my creative process being the center of my life as opposed to being on the side. Or, even if it is on the side, I would like it to be something that I have more time for. On the technical end, I want to be able to draw photo-realistic portraits while also doing more abstract, symbolic art. Overall, I think I would like to be known as a sculptor.

her wishes for budding creatives of color: 
My wish for all of the budding creatives out there to express themselves freely, because art is supposed to be a safe space. I would say to be diligent about making time for your art, especially if you already have to dedicate a lot of time to a job, kids, etc.

bonus message #fortheculture:
Love yourself, encourage yourself, nurture yourself, really just take time to love on you. No one can love you like you can! And that's for real.

You can follow Melissa on Instagram @honeysunset_ and Facebook at Afrocereal and Honey Sunset.

more about the artist:
Melissa Benbow is a writer, visual artist, event planner, and teacher. By day, she works with high school students in a college readiness program, and by night she is a maker and yoga enthusiast. She loves eating vegan foods, reading, and thinking of new, afrofuturistic ideas. She will be starting her Ph.D. in English at University of Delaware in the fall of 2018, and is excited to continue to work on her visual art and co-manage Afrocereal Studio & Gallery, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.