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Student Profile: John Melillo

Veteran Discovers a passion for painting

John Melillo is a Vietnam veteran who has worn many hats throughout his professional career, having been involved in marketing, business, technology, entertainment, real estate, the oil and gas industry, and more. “I’ve always been somewhat of an entrepreneur,” he said of his background.

In early 2015, he decided to leave his prior engagements behind and pursue something that he could truly enjoy making a living at. Interested in art, but always too busy to pursue it in the past, he started auditing classes at his local community college. “The result— the earth shook under me,” John said of his first art classes. He fell in love with painting.

He decided that he would unite his past experience and his newfound passion for art, with the eventual goal of owning his own business in the arts. His first step toward this new goal was to immerse himself in the role of the artist. “How do artists think? What drives them? What tools do they need and use to accomplish their goals?” John decided to pursue further instruction. Having already obtained a BS before the Army, he enlisted the Veterans Association for help in finding a school. “After careful research, and with the help of Christopher Holder from the VA and Gemma Prosper-Brown from SVA, I realized SVA was the best fit for me. The course content, as well as quality of the teachers, made my answer clear.”

John took Marvin Mattelson's course in Realistic Figure and Portrait Painting and John Parks’ courses Portrait Painting and Making it Real. “Oil painting is my passion. I look to give my paintings a sense of reality by pushing back and bringing things forward that I want to emphasize. This can give a painting a real sense of life when done properly. I found Marvin Mattelson’s approach very simple and intuitive—no matter what you’re painting, it all starts with drawing shapes properly. John Parks’ use of color was also very helpful in my progress as well.”

As for what’s next for John, his immediate plans are to continue honing his skills at SVA. His next decision will be on whether to begin looking for master’s degree programs in studio art or business to aid in his long-term goal of starting his own venture. It is clear that regardless of where this new path leads him, discovering painting has given him a new sense of direction and perspective.

“In the final analysis, I’ve learned you have to feel your passion and act boldly,” says John. "Do not be afraid of failure, because painting is a very humbling experience no matter who you are and what level you’re at.”

Sunrise and the outline of a fish on the beach made up of people c
Artworks by John Melillo, including New Beginnings, a painting from the Ship Wreck series by John Melillo; oil on canvas.
a man appreciating a art work
A painting consisting of wine, an apple and a book on a table.
A painting of a woman with long dark hair hangs on a white wall.
a colourful ball is in ground

A version of this article appeared in ContinuED: Winter 2018. See more updates on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages!

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