A City’s Canvas: Melanie Troutman-Williams

By David Willard

Childhood memories are precious entities. They can bring smiles to moments that are bringing us down. They can give us solace in times of loss. They can even inspire us to work harder for goals waiting to be achieved. They are, indeed, powerful. In some cases, it is those small, seemingly insignificant moments that end up making the biggest differences and longest impressions. They can even lay the groundwork for our whole future. Melanie Troutman-Williams has held on to those childhood memories and now, downtown Winston-Salem is reaping the benefits.

Melanie Troutman-Williams makes her downtown home at Sixteen Over Six (16/6) at 6th and Trade Street. Williams graduated from East Carolina in 1999 with honors and gained her bachelor of fine arts degree in painting. However, her journey began as child, as she took classes at Sawtooth School for Visual Art and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She took these classes to continue to hone a passion that her family had already helped instill.

“I was fortunate enough to be born into a family that appreciates and supports the arts. This is due largely to my maternal grandfather, Frans vanBergen, who was an artist. Creating was a natural, everyday occurrence. My grandfather would let me use some of his art supplies and let me draw, or he would put a paint brush in my hand and let me paint some grass in the corner of the painting. I would watch him work on different projects and be amazed. That’s when I knew I would be an artist. It was the only thing that made sense to me. I was disappointed to learn that I would have to finish elementary, middle and high school before I could go to college and study art,” says Williams.

Williams’ art, much like most of life, has been a project in growth and refinement. Using her education and background, she is still growing in her craft. “I am old-school at heart and admire Rembrandt, Titian and Caravaggio, but I can relate more to Sargent’s style the most. The challenge is to bring their approach to contemporary subject manner,” she continues. “I enjoy painting portraits, landscapes and still-life. My work is representational. It is determined by what I am commissioned to paint. Often it is people, their pets or a sentimental object that belonged to a loved one. On my own time, I like to paint the human form incorporating symbolism in an ‘old masters’ approach. My style is also determined by the project. My Art O Mat series called “Doggone” is painted with acrylic in a cartoon style, but my more realistic portraits are done in oil. My style is changing as I am, and hopefully improving with each project,” adds Williams.

“Art has become such a broad term that is thrown around a lot. It has to be held to different standards and personal preferences. For me, art is a creative piece, visual or performance that has been done in a knowledgeable and experienced manner. Even if I do not like the subject manner or style of a piece, I can appreciate the skill, thought and heart that went into it. Everyone will relate differently to a piece of art. Hopefully they will see and appreciate the thought, time and effort that was invested (often referred to as blood, sweat and tears). My portraits make my clients smile. Landscapes trigger a memory of places and times in the past. If my work brings forth an emotion, discussion or the viewer looks at my painting longer than three seconds, I’m happy,” she concludes.

Those three seconds may not seem much to the viewer, but they are important to Melanie Troutman-Williams. They are moments that she can share part of herself with someone else. Much like the moments her grandfather shared with her, they are moments of admiration and appreciation. Williams found a piece of herself in her grandfather’s work, and that discovery shaped a world to come. That world is open for all to see on 6th and Trade, and Williams would love to show you the way.