Melissa Watson wants to spark ‘things in people’ with her art

Posted 9/13/17

When a work of art captures what few photographs can, you know you are seeing the work of an artist with the passion and ability to capture essence over mere image.

Melissa Watson is one of …

This item is available in full to subscribers

Melissa Watson wants to spark ‘things in people’ with her art


When a work of art captures what few photographs can, you know you are seeing the work of an artist with the passion and ability to capture essence over mere image.

Melissa Watson is one of those rare talents with a God-given gift of capturing slightly more than what the average eye beholds.

The 32-year-old artist said, “I heard recently that ‘art has nothing to do with eye/hand coordination. It has more to do with how observant you are.’ I agree. You train your brain to pick up on things you wouldn’t ordinarily appreciate by looking at them, like a paper clip or a clothes pin — but when you look at it carefully, you see these highlights and lowlights and these blues in there, which you’d never think about ordinarily.”

Watson’s art does not simply duplicate the visible, it enriches it with details that communicate a more intimate concept in her paintings. Born in Bowling Green, Ky., but raised in Chattanooga, Watson said art has always fascinated her for as long as she can remember.

“I remember being 3 years old and drawing a stick figure and being so excited,” she recalled. “There are artists on both sides of the family. I remember in kindergarten learning how to make the color pink. I hated red, but when I figured out you only had to add a little bit of white to make pink, I thought that was awesome!”

Decades later, Watson has become a proficient artist whose paintings are increasing in popularity and value. Like all good artists, however, Watson has never been content with possessing raw talent and admits to being a work in progress, always willing to listen and learn from great instructors like artist Mia Bergeron who is helping her continue honing her craft, doing so at the Townsend Atelier located in the newly refurbished Arts Building in downtown Chattanooga.

Watson said she was influenced by several modern artists like Sean Cheetham and Kevin Llewellyn, as well as many greats of the past.

“It’s an obsession. It’s what I want to spend all of my free time doing,” she admits. “Art is part of me. It’s who I am. I try to paint at least an hour every day. For me, it’s really fulfilling to be able to move somebody. Right now I’m doing a lot of pet portraits. People love their pets. I don’t know what it is about art, but it sparks things in people.”

Pet owners who feel their pets have unique characteristics that make them every bit as unique as “their” humans would find a friend in Watson, whose observation of such qualities tends to pour into her painting in a wonderful way.

She has given some of her pet portraits to family members and close friends as gifts, others have been sold. Some of her art is currently on display at Ankar’s Express Cafe on Shallowford Road in Chattanooga. In October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness month, there will be an auction for breast and ovarian cancer at the Bay Area Cancer Connections in Palo Alto, Calif. ( and, according to Watson, one of her custom pet portraits will be auctioned off, starting at $500.

“I’m very excited about that,” she said. “This is my way of contributing to the cause.”

Still, the gifted artist admits, “It’s a challenge. Part of it comes naturally, but it doesn’t come easily. It’s a lot of trial and error. I recently described it as being like a tug of war when you’re trying to balance the lights, the shades, the colors and the exaggerations — the temperature of the painting without affecting its value — it’s a challenge, but I love it.”

Watson attended Georgia-Cumberland Academy, a private high school, and went on to marry Michael Drachenberg of California, adding that as a professional artist she’s chosen to continue to use her maiden name.

“My husband is very supportive. He’s artistically minded as well, and he gives me honest feedback. I don’t know what the future holds but I want to pursue any door that opens to me involving art,” she said. “I want to walk right through it.”

Asked how long the average pet portrait takes, Watson, who works full time at ClinSearch, responded, “Because I only paint in my spare time, I think things take a little longer than they normally would, but usually a pet portrait will take me about a month.”

Watson said she would love to do more portraits of people and is looking forward to doing more commissioned artwork. To view more of her artwork, visit her Instagram portfolio @mnostaw or: or contact her at:




No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment


Print subscribers have FREE access to by registering HERE

Non-subscribers have limited monthly access to local stories, but have options to subscribe to print, web or electronic editions by clicking HERE

We are sorry but you have reached the maximum number of free local stories for this month. If you have a website account here, please click HERE to log in for continued access.

If you are a print subscriber but do not have an account here, click HERE to create a website account to gain unlimited free access.

Non-subscribers may gain access by subscribing to any of our print or electronic subscriptions HERE