'Sharpie King' Immy Mellin Makes His Mark in Uptown

Immy Mellin

Sharpie King of Chicago Immy Mellin. (Photo by Clayton Guse)

Lawrence Stop IconBy Clayton Guse
The Red Line Project

Posted: Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012        

Immy Mellin bursts through the doors of the Uptown Arts Center 15 minutes late for his own exhibition. He removes his hat, revealing a single patch of long, tangled hair on an otherwise shiny head.

He throws his coat on a chair. A black Sharpie marker hangs from his shirt collar. Dozens of his hyper-colored surrealist works line the walls of the gallery. He grins, pulls out a set of rolled-up poster boards, picks at the tape for a few moments and reveals his most recent creations.

Mellin, an Acapulco, Mexico, native better known as “The Sharpie King,” is equally unusual as his choice of medium. All of his drawings are constructed entirely out of Sharpie markers

“Maybe 10 years ago I had [an exhibition] in Pilsen,” said Mellin. “Everyone there loved my work and said, ‘You are the Sharpie King.’ It has been my name ever since.”

Mellin’s drawings burst with color and take on a surrealist shape that evokes Picasso. Yet he said that his greatest influence is the turn-of-the-century artist Alphonse Mucha who, like Mellin, primarily focused on the female form.

His current exhibit, as with most of his works, adheres to the theme of love. Standing in front of a drawing he calls “Prayer,” which depicts two female images wrapped around one another, Mellin said, “This one is about feeling for a woman -- how it feels to carry a child for nine months. That is love.”

Mellin’s process for creating his art mirrors his eccentric nature.

“My work always starts the same,” he said while scribbling his marker erratically on a napkin. “I take this and then find the picture. Little by little. It’s complicated.”

Mellin forms an image around a random shape before breaking it into a grid on which he will place individual 8-by-11-inch panels that form the whole, large image. He then adds detail, shading and color.

Mellin’s meticulous process forces each drawing to require extensive effort.  This sends the artist into intense solitude when working on a set of drawings, becoming unreachable to others. 

“Look who came out of the woodwork,” said event co-organizer Arlis Ball. “We finally tracked you down.”

“When I am working full time I will only sleep one hour per day,” Mellin said. “Little by little, the picture comes out.”

Mellin’s mantra of “little by little” makes his work a proper fit for the newly formed Uptown Arts Center, which opened in July with an exhibition titled, “Nudes at Uptown Art Center.” “The Sharpie King” is the center’s second expo.

 “I loved the love,” said the center’s founder, Colette Wright Adams. “Generally we don’t do solo shows here, but for Immy we made an exception.”

The Uptown Arts Center, which closed “The Sharpie King” expo on Oct. 15, brings a new form of art to the Uptown community. In an art scene that is largely dominated by performance, namely the jazz and poetry scene of the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge or the musical acts of The Riviera Theater and Aragon Ballroom, Mellin and the Uptown Arts Center introduce visual aesthetics into the mix.

“This is the only venue in Uptown of this sort,” said Adams, “and we hope to continue to grow and foster up-and-coming artists.”

The center’s newest expo is “The Sacred Show,” which opened on Oct. 20 and will run through Dec. 20.

Now that Mellin’s works have left Uptown, he plans to begin work on a new exhibition.

“For my next one: animals,” he said. “Animals are beautiful. They are love.”

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