Why Art is Therapy for Mele Saili

Posted by Rhea Cortado on

Mele paints outside. Photo by Luki O'Keefe. 

When viewing or experiencing art, most people think about the final outcome: the finished painting, photograph, or improvised dance. But what if we took the approach of, “it’s about the journey, not the destination” to making art? What if you created without self-judgment about whether or not the final artwork is “good” or if it will get likes on Instagram?

We discuss with Mele Saili about why going through the process of creating art and surfing is therapeutic and fulfilling.

Why do you think art and surfing is a therapy?

The thing with painting, drawing, and surfing is that to do it, you're completely involved in that moment. There is no room for the stressful thoughts of what has happened or what is going to happen. It challenges you to be present, just like meditation.

I've noticed that when I feel upset, angry, or sad is when I produce my greatest work — not to say I can't create when I'm happy but — I like to harness that emotional tension to fuel my performance. Afterwards that pressure is released and transformed into something positive.

How does being in the flow of painting or drawing feel like being in the flow of surfing?

The flow is similar in the way that it's an organic expression of your personality. You can try to surf or paint in someone else's style but when you stop thinking and let your natural movements take hold, it is more raw and unique because no matter what no one can do it exactly as you can.

Mele in the Swami's in Cocodot. Photo by Roisin. 
Mele in the Swami's in Cocodot. Photo by Roisin. 


Mele Saili. Photo by Luki O'Keefe. 
Mele's art. Photo by Luki O'Keefe.

What do you gain personally from creating art and surfing? Does it matter to you what happens to the artwork after you’ve made it?

I do sell my work and have shows here and there but I don't care if I sell anything.

Some pieces I love and some pieces I hate, but I do it more for the process. The images are sort of a diary of things I'm interested in at that moment.

When I look at older work, the emotions I had when I was creating them come back to me and I can remember what was going on in my life when I made it —sounds strange.

Everyone does it differently but when I draw I start with one idea and expand off of that, I don't have an end plan. Along the way I make mistakes that I work into the picture and ultimately the mistakes become the best part of the overall piece. Just like surfing — you move to the way the wave forms and make it up as you go- it's spontaneous.

Kids draw and craft constantly — they're always creating — but that transition into adulthood brings a serious tone to life therefore, creating for yourself isn't encouraged.

I think everyone should have a way to express themselves despite what other people think. That's how culture evolves.
Mele painting. Photo by Luki O'Keefe. 
Photo by Luki O'Keefe. 
Photo by Luki O'Keefe. 
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