“the Princess called Art House”

Art House welcomes guest blogger for the month of April, artist Melinda Placko.

Starting this month, Art House is introducing guest writers to our blog site Art House News. Each blogger is a professional working and teaching artist who will share their views, expertise and opinions on a variety of topics. This monthly feature offers Art House the opportunity to highlight the work and talent of our teaching artist as they share their perspective about the art community in Cleveland, and offer tips and advice about their art making process.

‘the princess called art house’

Once upon a time, an artist from Saudi Arabia found herself on extended stay in Cleveland, Ohio. This artist, and Princess of the Royal House of Saud, had left her studio at home. She wanted to continue her work while abroad, and study drawing in a ‘comic style.’ So, the princess called Art House. I went to her high class hotel, my case full of books and drawing supplies. Her entourage took up the entire eleventh floor. Valet service, two coffees, and forty five minutes later a woman with long dark hair and deep eyes walked in. We sat at an extra large wooden table and made line drawings with ink. Books were laid out- basic comics, elaborate graphic novels, and volumes full of facial expressions and body language. That morning she made a drawing of a woman screaming her head off. In the next chair, I practiced my ABC’s with ink. And so it started, drawing with the princess, five days a week. We only worked together for a month and a half, but I didn’t realize it would seriously influence my own studio practice.
Years before this gig, I was proud to be a ‘resourceful’ artist (scrapper, really). Favored found, discarded, and real junky art materials. Made paintings with ash, chalk, and fruit juice. Worked on tar paper, discarded scraps, and walls. The material itself didn’t make a piece great- it was how you used them, right? I come from a family of farmers and workaholics. I was raised to make something out of nothing, through sheer force of will and stubborn dexterity. I knew this approach to art making probably wouldn’t fly with the princess. We worked on a fine wooden table, seated beside bowls full of Asian pears, Persian pistachio and hazelnut, drinking fine Turkish coffee. So I brought a beautiful ceramic palette and freshly ground sumi ink. For a water well, I brought a glass vase that had held a candle at my wedding. Same story with dress. Normally, my studio clothes just happen- stained, torn, anything goes. But for our daily drawing sessions, I wore my finest. Velvet, embroidered skirts, polished shoes- the works. When in Rome, treat yourself like a princess. Art House has sent me on all kinds of gigs, and this one was one of the most memorable. I now find myself saying to kids that ‘if you treat your supplies well, you will make a jewel of a painting.’ I still like to draw on walls, but I treat those materials like gold.


Melinda Placko makes pictures using drawing, painting and collage. She works on a variety of surfaces including paper, parking lots, walls and walkways. She embraces Dada, and is currently inspired by sacred architecture and magnetism. A teaching artist for over ten years, she works with Art House and Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio. She currently serves as President of the Board at the Cleveland West Art League, and is a long-time member of the International Union of Mail Artists. Melinda earned her BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art, and her MFA from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, focusing on public and collaborative art. Her next exhibition of new work will be at the Loren Naji Gallery in May, and features collage drawings, mail art, and maybe even a wall drawing or two. For more information about Melinda’s work visit her website www.melktrukstudio.com

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