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Daily Inspiration: Meet Melissa Sisk

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Sisk.

Hi Melissa, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
My background is unique, but it is anchored on my commitment to make information accessible and engaging to everyone as well as to support institutions that encourage collaboration, curiosity, and discovery. Throughout the years, I’ve been crafting and telling visual stories that have ranged from educational to entertaining — and I have Wikipedia to thank for launching me on my career path.

While studying Physiology at Michigan State University, I took a fondness for the anatomy and physiology drawings in my textbooks and a quick google search led me to a Wikipedia page on medical illustration. Going down that wormhole, I learned about a unique career field that combined art and science and in which I could tell a myriad of stories that would help the public, scientists, doctors, and more. I leaned into this interest and went on to obtain my Master of Science in Biomedical Visualization from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Within my roles in the biomedical industry, I’ve had to take complex scientific data and transform it into engaging and approachable stories through the creation of illustrations, infographics, in-house marketing materials, animations, and many more visual aids. One of my favorite projects was animating the face of an adult rhesus macaque, in which babies watched and responded to each gesture.

I’ve taken breaks from medical art to focus on learning art direction as well as traditional art mediums. For a few years, I managed an exceptional team of art directors while working on several triple-A products within the board game industry, which provided moments of joy, play, and unbound creativity. Around 2019, I decided to go out only own and explore traditional art mediums, such as oil painting, weaving, and printmaking — my ultimate muse.

Today, I am happily dabbling in all my past experiences as a freelancer and educator. Every day is different as I’m creating medical art for attorneys, web graphics for nonprofits, vignette illustrations for magazines, and hand-pulled screen printed posters for gallery exhibitions. I truly believe that as we learn and innovate, we grow wiser and become more engaged in our world and our place in it.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Like Mr. Toad, I’ve had a wild ride!

I have been fortunate to work in niche fields, which took resilience, flexibility, and a lot of energy, time, and money to explore. I emphasize to my graduate students the importance of self-care, from defining and honoring your values to making sure you’re drinking enough water. If you can’t take care of yourself and set up boundaries, you’ll become lost and veer from your path. When those times do happen, you’ll have to rely on your support network of mentors, friends, and family to help guide you back to a path you want to take — and it may not be the same one you started on! Life is a choose-your-own adventure.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
Ooo, this is a long list, as I love working on different subject matters and with multiple art mediums. Because of my degree, I typically focus on science and health-related projects, but when I’m given the option, I have a penchant for illustrating and screen printing plants and animals. With everything I create, my goal is to bring forward the beauty and wonder of our everyday world. I also prioritize taking on projects that align with my values and desire to help others.

Recently, I was on a panel and asked how I juggle everything. The short answer is time management apps! I track everything during the day. It helps me to focus and understand how I’m using my time. As well, seeing my numbers on a spreadsheet allows me to monitor and keep things in balance, such as making sure I’m getting enough sleep.

Is there any advice you’d like to share with our readers who might just be starting out?
I never imagined this career path that I’m on, nor all the different industries and projects I’ve been able to be a part of! I advise students these tidbits: be observant and open to all the different paths you can take along your journey; don’t get lost in the weeds of perfection or distractions; build and cultivate boundaries; and keep moving forward at a steady pace, even when it’s tough (to which, again, may mean taking a different path). Also, make sure to drink lots of water!

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Image Credits

Erica Wollmering

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