Waterfront Luxury Lifestyle Magazine
'Artist Paul Mellia has produced commissions for some of the most famous people in the world. Renowned for its ‘super realism’, Paul’s work is synonymous with the three dimensional depiction of superheroes, cartoon characters and Hollywood icons. As Paul now begins to shift the focus of his art, his current exhibition at Playboy Club London perhaps represents the last chance to view this highly sought-after collection. He spoke to Jonathan Kearney to discuss the end of an era.
Essex man Paul Mellia has spent a lifetime painting his comic superheroes. As a dyslexic youngster with reading difficulties he found an escape from the disagreeable demands of the ‘Three Rs’ replicating the images of the fantasy figures he so admired. Paul has been depicting these comic heroes ever since, with his work selling for tens of thousands of pounds and drawing admirers from Seal to Princess Diana.
Fittingly he was the first artist licensed to paint the Marvel comic book heroes, with his interpretations of these and other icons of popular culture attracting wide acclaim at home and among the Hollywood glitterati. He said: “I was good at football and I was good at art and they were the only two things I was good at. My English was terrible because I couldn’t read. There wasn’t the awareness of dyslexia in my time. I used to hide the fact that I couldn’t read. As a kid I loved comics. Because I couldn’t read them I used to draw from them instead.”
Now shifting his focus to more self reflective “high end” pieces, Paul tells me the celebrated images of luminaries such as Ava Gardener and Betty Boo currently adorning the Playboy Club are likely never to be displayed again. “I’m never going to be doing these pictures again,” he said. “This is the last time they’re going to be shown. I’ve sold two or three already pre-show. I’m not doing any more. Over the years we’ve sold numerous pieces for huge sums. I just want to change it up a bit now.”
Having displayed a notable aptitude for art, Paul received an invite from Harvey Nicholls to design their window displays during his first year at art college. From then on his career, and his life, has taken a fascinating trajectory. He said: “I played football for West Ham but I wasn’t really good enough. I went to art college and my Dad thought I was gay because you didn’t go to art college in those days. In those days you were supposed to come from public school to be involved in the art world.” Paul added: “My tutor pushed me and pushed me. My course was three years and I got a job in the first eight months of college. I won an award for a window design. Harvey Nics saw the window and they employed me so I was quite lucky. They used to spend about £60,000 on the window displays, which was a lot of money then. I was putting Harley-Davidsons and American flags in there. It was a great time. That’s how it started really. From then onwards it’s just snowballed. I’ve worked solidly from that day onwards.”
Paul’s talent has certainly been a source of great opportunity, enabling him to make a generous living from his passion. An Arab Sheikh once paid him a year’s salary for a single commission. “He asked me how much I earned per year and he paid that for one picture,” Paul said. “It was enough to buy a house back then but I blew all the money because I was partying so much. They were times I would never take back.”