Arts·Q&A

'Black History Month is really an opportunity for us to share our stories'

Pop artist Melissa Falconer shares the inspiration behind February's profile pic.

Pop artist Melissa Falconer shares the inspiration behind February's profile pic

Melissa Falconer designed the CBC Arts profile pic for February. (Courtesy of the artist)

Every month, we feature a new take on the CBC Arts logo created by a Canadian artist. Check out our previous logos!

You'll find the world's most famous Black icons on Melissa Falconer's Instagram. The self-taught Toronto artist makes pop art portraits of performers, activists and athletes — and she celebrates her heroes in sizzling neon colour. All February, you'll also be able to find her work on our Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. To mark Black History Month, she's painted a CBC Arts profile pic. Here's the story behind the design.

Name: Melissa Falconer

Age: 24

Homebase: Toronto 

Let's talk about your design! What inspired your take on the CBC Arts logo?

I wanted the logo to represent what Black History Month means to me. In the Black community, we celebrate our history and our culture all the time, so Black History Month is really an opportunity for us to share our stories with the rest of the world. So my version of the logo is a representation of that. 

It's a callback to one of your paintings, isn't it? What is the original piece about to you, and why did you want to incorporate it into this design?

The original piece, titled "Stay Mad," was created as a response to the racism about Black women's appearance, specifically our full lips. In 2016, a Black model (Aamito Lagum) posed for MAC to advertise lipstick and the comments on MAC's Instagram post were overwhelmingly full of hateful comments about her lips. So I created "Stay Mad" to tell all the haters that they should stay mad because we're proud of our features and unapologetic about who we are. I wanted to incorporate it into this design because to me it's a symbol of being able to express ourselves, and I use it often in my work whenever I want to explicitly say something meaningful.

(Instagram/@melissafalconer)

Pop culture is definitely a huge influence on your work. Why do you paint Black pop culture icons?

I like to paint people who have had an influence on my life or who represent the values that I have. And Black pop culture icons are unique because they also influence the lives of so many people just like me. So I want other people to identify with my work. I also want to bring more representation of Black culture into the art industry.

Tell us a little about your style. What drew you to pop art?

I like to call my style "pop art portraiture." I'm really drawn to faces, so I only like to paint portraits. I like the intricacies and details that make up a person's face, and to me, pop art really expresses that in a bold way. I like using distinct shapes to put it all together; it's kind of like a puzzle for me. Also, pop art really allows me to be more creative and unconventional when it comes to colour. I try to create colour palettes that no one else is using, so it really helps me be unique.

What's the art project you're most proud of?

It's hard to say, but one of my favourites is a portrait of the "Women of Wakanda" that I created in celebration of the Black Panther movie. It was just nice seeing such powerful Black women in leading roles and I wanted to pay homage to that with this piece.

(Instagram/@melissafalconer)

Who's the last artist you discovered online?

The last artist I discovered online is Obi Arisukwu (@obiaris on Instagram). He's a really dope cartoonist.

What's your favourite place to see art?

It's funny because I don't really frequent galleries or museums. I'm pretty immersed in social media, so to be honest, my favourite place to see art is on Instagram.

Any new projects on the go that you'd like to mention? Where can we see more of you?

I recently did a portrait of Michelle Obama that I'm really proud of. You can find it on Instagram (@melissafalconer) along with all my other work. I'm also present on YouTube where I upload timelapse videos of my paintings. 

Also, my website is www.mfalconer.com, where I have prints, paintings, stickers  and apparel of my work for sale.

(Instagram/@melissafalconer)

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