Melissa Washburn is an artist/illustrator/graphic designer based just outside Chicago in Northwest Indiana. She grew up in upstate New York, but has lived in the Midwest since 1996. She creates expressive illustrations in both digital and traditional media, endlessly inspired by things that run, fly, and grow.
An avid hiker and birder, in 2019 she earned her Indiana Master Naturalist certification through Gabis Arboretum and the Indiana DNR and now serves on the Marketing and Communications committee of the Shirley Heinze Land Trust.
If you have a project that involves nature or food illustration, she’d love to talk to you! For all inquiries, including licensing, please fill out the contact form here.
I grew up around nature. Raised in the foothills of the Adirondack mountains in upstate New York, my parents took me camping, fishing, and hiking from a young age.
Early on I was encouraged to listen to the birds, learn the names of plants, and appreciate the outdoors. I spent a long time away from this connection in my early adulthood, but when I moved to northwest Indiana in 2005 it was rekindled by living so near to the Lake Michigan shoreline and the Indiana Dunes National Park. Here you can see over 750 species of birds during spring migration, and appreciate a unique ecosystem and ecology formed by glacial ice.
Beetles that glitter like gemstones, birds that you can't see anywhere else in the US, a million tiny things happening in my own back yard, the cycles of the seasons. All of these fill me with endless curiosity and help me find a rhythm and a source for image-making, and I love the opportunity to share my enthusiasm and knowledge with others.
My current work combines ink, watercolor, and digital art. Individual elements of my illustrations are drawn/painted and then scanned into Photoshop to create the final composition and tweak color.
This process gives me the flexibility to adjust my work for different applications, whether a repeat pattern, a magazine page, or an art print or greeting card design.
I have also grown more comfortable drawing digitally on my iPad, and have loved incorporating more digital work into my process. I have never understood the digital vs "hand-drawn" debate. I don't know how other people do it, but I still use my hands to draw whether I'm working with a pencil or an Apple Pencil. It's just another tool in the toolbox, and certainly doesn't require any less practice.
I am firmly committed to being as sustainable as possible in my products and my business practices. I recognize that there are no perfect solutions, only better ones.
I aim to create as little waste as possible in how my products are produced, what I make, and how I package and ship. I choose recycled whenever possible, and strive to reduce my use of plastic.
My card sleeves are made of a plant-based material that is industrial compostable. I offer durable kraft paper stickers as an alternative to vinyl, and choose recycled content papers for printing whenever possible. I reuse packing and shipping supplies, and choose to work with suppliers who pay a living wage.
Media and Publications
Draw Like an Artist: 100 Birds, Butterflies, and Other Insects, 2020, Quarry Books
Draw Like an Artist: 100 Realistic Animals, 2019, Quarry Books
Draw Like an Artist: 100 Flowers and Plants, 2019, Quarry Books
Get Spicy! 30 HOT Recipes Illustrated by Artists from Around the World by They Draw and Cook
Nature Illustrations by Melissa Washburn, Pattern Observer, January 2021
Studio Tour with Melissa Washburn, Lubeznik Center for the Arts, April 2020
Mural at Miller Woods’ Douglas Center Celebrates “Native Prairie”, NWI Times November 2018
Eye on the Arts, Lakeshore PBS, February 2018
CRUSH Illustration Collective, ICON the Illustration Conference Blog, January 2018