Anete Melece

Words & interview by Gi Myao
Images by Luigi Olivadoti

Today, we are launching Artist to Artist Interviews, talking to the most exciting artists working today, exploring inspiring ways of thinking. This is not an interview where I'll be asking where they get their inspirations? We will focus on what it really means to be an artist? Is being talented the only sufficiency for an artist working today? Going deeper with the questions, sharing thoughts, struggles, the highs and the lows of being an artist. We believe when we are open and honest about who we are and how we genuinely overcome our struggles in life and work, that's the only way to inspire. And that's a good interview.

First up is Anete Melece, the creator of an award-winning short animated film ‘The Kiosk’, which is clever, funny, touching and sweet, a breeze of freshness and it's now been made into a picture book for children to enjoy.

Currently living in a summer house which her husband's parents built in Amaroni - a sweet little town in southern Italy with her daughter and family, almost every morning they go to the beach, have a dip in the sea then come afternoon she will try to do some work. Anete talked to Gi in the easy Italian summer breeze.

Do you call yourself an artist? What does the word artist mean to you? For me, being an artist means I always have this powerful urge to create, an urge to show people what moves me, do you agree?

I call myself an illustrator and animation film maker. But if someone calls me an artist I don’t raise any objections, because I agree with you - at the end of the day it doesn’t matter if one creates still or moving images, if they are creative as the result of their own calling - they can be called artists.

On the creative path she choose:

I started out as an illustrator and I still do both, but I like to think about the marriage of the movement, sounds and music with the illustrations, so animation is a medium where it’s possible to include everything.

On drawing style: 

I didn’t choose my style, it simply came out naturally. I have tried to draw differently, but it didn't look and felt authentic. There are many illustrators who are simply following the latest trends and 2-3 years later it’s almost impossible to recognise their work because it is constantly changing. One thing is evolving and becoming better, I think the goal is to be yourself and not try to catch and copy the latest trends.

However I am changing techniques or the tools that I am using. I just follow my impulses - some years ago I started to draw with felt-tip pens, but now I am slowly getting bored of them and with every next work I try something else.

On grown-up issues in today's children picture books:

I think we need both - grown-up and kid specific issues. Come to think of it, I actually don’t know if there are such big differences between them. The problems we are dealing with as adults might have changed their appearance, at the root of it - we need to grow, overcome fear and grief, keep connected with our hearts etc. at any age of our lives. If you mean the grown-up issues like for example climate change or pollution then this is going to be an issue of the next generations so, yes, we could talk more about things like this with the kids, only question is how? One could try to explain what is sustainability, but maybe it would be enough to simply remind that it is wise to think not only about today, but also about tomorrow? Lesson like this is possible to find in almost every fable of Aesop, so I think we come to the same conclusion - all children, grown-up and also animal issues are all basically human issues.

On creative possibility and creative progress:

It really depends from the publishing house one is working with. I have been working with a Latvian publisher "Liels un mazsand they give me a lot of creative freedom, but I am aware that this is a luxury and it's not possible with every publisher, so I appreciate it a lot.

I started the idea with personal, emotional mindset and then it becomes conceptual. I turn my experiences and feelings into ideas a bit like exaggerated characters so I don’t expose and talk about myself directly. This way my experiences become less specific and more general and as we humans are pretty similar to each other and I am not an exception, many people can relate to my characters and their problems.

On the most rewarding being an artist:

Seeing the impact of my art can have on a viewer/reader. It is really a pleasure to hear people laughing or telling me that they have enjoyed watching/reading my work. Though when I am in the process of creating it I do not think about that at all - the only person who should like it is me, but I know that I can trust my own judgement, because often my own liking correlates with that of the others. Meanwhile of course it is not for everybody and that’s ok too.

On how to stand out in today's swamped picture book market:

This is a question that also relate to every musician or film-maker - For we all, a lifetime is way too short to listen and see everything that has been created - so why bother? Today's market is highly competitive, but don't let that bother you so much, the only way is by being as personal as possible and polishing your specialities instead of trying to be like someone else even if it is someone you like.

Do you ever question why you do what you do? What is your biggest struggle in the creative process?
How do you overcome it?

I never question what I do, because, there are so many other things that I could do, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t struggle. Every time I start a new project I have this feeling that I haven’t done anything like this before even I know it is not true. It is a mixture of an excitement and fear of that white sheet of paper. But I think that's a good thing, because it doesn’t allow me to slide into a too comfortable state where I think I know everything and all I have to do is take a pencil in my magic hand and everything will happen. With illustrating a ready text it is a bit easier because at least the page there is not completely “white", but making my own story? Yes, there I struggle quite a lot!

Do you think struggles and heartache improve your art?

Yes and no... New impulses are necessary to create and negative ones usually “kick” a bit harder and move us more, but too much of them can also disturb and be damaging. I think it is all about what do you do with these struggles and problems - take them as lessons or keep on complaining about the life’s unfairness and then it definitely doesn’t improve anything.

Do you think being talented is the only sufficiency to be working artist today?

No, that’s not enough. (If I would be less lazy probably I would be more successful, haha,) I think it’s a talent + hard work + good social skills + luck as well.

Being an artist is not always a profession that offers certainty and reliability, do you agree? It's also pretty much a one-person band, how do you cope with working alone most times?

Yes, there is no reliability and specially now since I have become a mother and that became a bigger issue. I have made some decisions that I try (emphasis on the word “try”) to follow and most important of them - never underestimate the value of my time and do badly paid jobs. I think the whole gender pay gap thing is not because employers or clients pay women less, but because we simply are too nice and don’t ask more. Now when I have a child it’s easier to use her as an excuse, (but it shouldn’t be like this!) - I should be able to ask it “only” to myself as well. Specially in the field of culture clients often are like - oh, I am sorry, this what we do and it is not a business yet, so we can’t pay you, could you still do it? But for me, drawing is my business and income, so I have to say no.

Solved by not working alone - I rent a table in an open space studio with other creatives and we company and support each other quite a lot.

Everyone has 'bad' days. What's your 'bad' day? How do you get better with your bad days? Was there any moment you wanted to give up being creative?

Bad are the days when I have a lot to do, and I have wasted my time on some not important stuff in the day so by the evening I feel dissatisfied and angry. I just let these days go and next day I try to refocus and do more. But if for some reason I happen to be sad then I talk to my husband or friends and they'll help me to see things are not that bad after all.

On upcoming projects:

I am illustrating two books right now - one is a poetry book about time and other is a compilation of very short stories for kids that have recently learned to read. There are also two other books waiting in line and meanwhile in my head I am slowly growing an idea for a new animated short!

Finally, how do you know when a project is finished and it's not going to get any better?

When the deadline arrives, haha!

Images of the sketches:
Children poetry book “Time Pants”, written by Juris Kronbergs

Anete's website
Anete's short films
Anete's instagram 

Thanks for reading :)