I fell for Mel Kadel's drawings the instant I saw them. She uses pen and ink on discolored papers, creating contemplative, dream-like scenes with her mostly female characters. There are often twists and piles of patterned layers in the images, drawn meticulously with a subtle, warm palette. Kadel's style is consistent and distinctive, making each piece feel familiar. Several of her drawings are on view in Beautiful Moment, this month's group show at the Shooting Gallery. The excitement of seeing Kadel's work in person for the first time inspired me to ask her for a little interview:
KF: How long does it take to create one of your larger pieces? Do you work on more than one piece at a time?
MK: If I'm focused on one large piece, it might take me a couple weeks to finish. But, it's hard to gauge. I usually have a couple drawings going that I bounce back and forth on. I like having something around for awhile, so that I can keep looking at it and scratching on it.
KF: Where do your characters come from?
MK: There is a recurring girl that shows up in most of my drawings right now, but it's no one specific. Her clothes, hair, and weight will change, but it always seems to be her. She is a constant that I use to help tell a story, and she's someone I want people to relate to.
KF: For some reason the people in your drawings remind me of Tomie DePaola's childrens' book illustrations, did you happen to read his books when you were a kid?
MK: I didn't read DePaola's books. When I was I kid, Shel Silverstein and Maurice Sendak were a couple of my favorites.
KF: I read on Fecal Face that you stain some of your paper with coffee -- do you use coffee with cream and/or sugar?
MK: The paper likes it's coffee black.
KF: Have you worked with fabric? You render patterns really nicely.
MK: I haven't worked with fabric yet. But I'd love to. For some reason, I really want to make socks and wallpaper.
KF: Looking at your work, I get a sense of camaraderie and friendship because of the way the characters support and balance each other. Can you say a little bit about what influences your drawings?
MK: For a long time I drew these very singular images, where there was just one character in a drawing that was facing a challenge. I still do that, but lately I've been more attracted to groups of people. There is something more positive to me about depicting a struggle or a scenario, when there is that support system to play off of.
KF: Thanks again, Mel. Not to get mushy, but I'm really stoked I had the opportunity to e-talk to you.
Beautiful Moment, featuring artwork by Mel Kadel, is at Shooting Gallery in San Francisco through February 8, 2008. Mel Kadel has a solo show opening February 9, 2008 at Richard Heller Gallery in Los Angeles.