We had the good fortune of connecting with Melissa Mastrangelo and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Melissa, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I grew up in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate NY: In a small town with big dreams. My family traveled a great amount to different beaches, where I guess my ocean obsession began.
I moved out the second I could, at 18 to attend college, with the youthful idealism that I could move on to bigger and better things.
This kept me ambitious throughout school, which is why I think I push myself so hard as an artist/ entrepreneur.
It’s imperative to constantly evaluate and challenge ourselves, and to strive to make adifference somehow with our work.
With the ocean as my inspiration, in a paradise I only dreamed of as a child, I feel the creative possibilities are endless here now living in South Florida.
As peaceful and gorgeous as the mountains are, they never spoke to me like the sea.
I would never imagined learning to dive and being immersed in a world with such natural beauty, to finally feel like home.
The little girl searching tide pools for creatures in Maine, and drawing them would be so proud of where I am today.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My artwork is very ocean and nature inspired. However, painting marine life in Florida is a bit of a challenge standing out from a lot of others that do the same. You say marine artist and everyone assumes you are trying to be Guy Harvey or Wyland. I love to use super intense color palettes, bringing out colors you normally wouldn’t expect.
To set myself further apart, I also move away from just canvas. My favorite objects to paint are upcycled surfboards, skateboards, ukuleles, and porthole mirrors.
There is something about bringing new life to something that was going to be thrown away, that brings me joy.
Recently I’m most proud of my solo show, at PB Garden’s Tennis & Pickleball Center, up now until May 18th.
Two stories of 26 pieces that I worked very hard for a year to complete.
When I moved here 11 years ago, I never could’ve imagined coming this far.
One day just picked up and left, I didn’t even have a job lined up and knew no one here.
I was broke, living pay check to pay check working 2- 3 jobs waiting tables and bartending… so becoming a full time artist wasn’t easy. It took a lot of self motivation, confidence, and hustling/ networking.
I finally took the plunge and started a Paint and Sip company (Mobile Masterpieces) in 2014, at some of the bars I worked at. As silly as people think these paint and sips are, it gave me the confidence to paint in front of people and start doing mural work. It also gave me the freedom financially to grow my Dream in Color Art brand, which really showcases my passion. It’s crazy for me to look back, but I’ve been successfully self employed now for 4 years! Overall, never give up on yourself and always manage to find the beauty around you. I hope my art brings happiness to people when they look at it.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
So many interesting and fun places! Blue Heron Bridge, its actually where I learned to dive, for snorkeling. The snorkeling trail is a home for eels, rays, octopi, seahorses, sharks, and a wide range of colorful fish. People always underestimate the nature scene here.
Jupiter inlet for sure: Paddleboarding in the inlet by the lighthouse 1st, snorkeling the bridge/ looking for manatees, then lunch/ dinner and drinks at U tiki or Guanabanas (great happy hour). A ride on the Pon tiki is always fun!
Definitely would hop on my friend’s boat and do Downtown Delray Beach one afternoon/ evening. Beach town meets modern vibe, with a slew of restaurants… kind of hard to pick one place as a favorite.
We often go to El Camino, Dada’s, or Park Tavern. JJ’s Seafood downtown is perfect for a more upscale dinner.
Grabbing stone crabs from Capt Clays, also a must. Would do a picnic dinner with them and a nice cold bottle of sauvignon blanc on my favorite beach in Lantana ( I have my secret spot where the tourists aren’t).
Honestly, I’m a huge craft beer fan as well. Would go brewery hopping to my favorites- Copperpoint, Civil Society, Invasive Species, and Tripping Animals.
Also, would take the brightline to Miami for the day to see the Wynwood Walls and hit up J Wakefield and Coyo Tacos.
Lastly, if we had time ,do a 2 day trip to my favorite place in the US which is Islamorda in the Keys. Hit up the sandbar by paddleboard and watch the sunset at Lorelei . Seafood dinner at Lazy Days or Chef Michaels. Catch some live music at Florida Keys Brewery at night in their beer garden.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My loving parents who never once questioned, and always supported my full time art career… thanks for allowing me to grow where I am today. Also, shoutout to my talented husband, Imer Diaz. Supportive times a million, my partner in crime, and collaborator of some new exciting animated art projects we have in the works. I also couldn’t be where I am career wise without your help and unconditional love!!!