Melanie Deal in front of two of her artworks: Nuclear Family (left) and Robot Escape. Credit: Clare Britt

Melanie Deal is a longtime Evanston collage and mixed-media artist. She works primarily with paper, but also with mixed media, especially when adding highlights or humorous objects. She creates only one artwork at a time and usually completes eight to 12 annually. Each is unlike any other.

Her paper collages are very controlled in structure and very creative and playful in image. The collage designs have a pronounced grid layout with repetitions of similar colors and often humorous images. Deal has fun while creating her artwork and hopes the viewer smiles when viewing them.

A portion of Deal’s studio (the dining room of her condo). Credit: Melanie Deal

She creates her art in the dining room of her condominium using simple tools that most people might find around their own home, such as scissors, rulers and paintbrushes to apply glue. She also uses a light table and a proportional wheel/scale. 

Deal conceived the idea for her art style a long time ago, and she was able to collect a great number of image books, comics and kinds of paper to use as source material during her publishing career.

She also collects small objects. Gumball machine trinkets, dollhouse food and plastic flies are only a tiny sampling of the hundreds of items she has collected and can select from to create her images.

She walks along the Lake Michigan lakefront often and finds it a great time to gain inspiration for her next creation.

The initial steps for a new collage result in an artistic plan for the work. She first uses graph paper to create a grid-based image, and then selects the papers and objects that she will employ. Deal finds these two steps the most enjoyable components of her process. The remainder of the steps, while time-consuming, she sees as the less stimulating, execution of the plan steps.

Cutting out pieces to use in Internal Affairs. Credit: Melanie Deal

She creates some images by hand and others by photocopying an image to create replicas. The FedEx office on Green Bay Road is her go-to service because she can drive and photocopy independently at her own speed, which helps reduce the time spent in this part of the process.

Deal uses sturdy, non-warping Gator Board as the backing surface for her artworks and works in repetitive stages. She cuts out the individual elements needed and positions and glues them to the board for each stage. She applies items in sections and layers, and when completed, sets large heavy books on the work to keep everything flat while drying. 

The final Internal Affairs collage. Credit: Melanie Deal

She repeats these steps several times to complete a multilayered work, with the most repetitions typically on larger collages and/or those with a greater number of elements applied.

When the collage is complete, Deal decides whether to frame it or not. She sells her art both framed and flat.

Deal is a member of Evanston Made, which she said has been a wonderful means for her to show her work.

To learn more about her work, visit, or her Evanston Made page at

Jean Cunningham

Jean Cunningham retired from the business world and is now enjoying the next phase, including writing about local artists to increase awareness of Evanston’s amazing art community.

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