Bright colors, happy dogs: Arlington teacher loves the joy in pet art

Arlington artist Melanie Anderson exaggerates color, bringing a human quality to the canines she loves to paint and a smile to those who view her work.

While she also paints human portraits, Melanie Anderson can’t help painting the lively brightness of dogs. There’s a pure naiveté to them, similar to that of children, that makes them all the more lovable and comforting.

“When you look at a dog, you see their soul,” she explained. “There’s something about dogs and capturing their little personalities and their essence to me that’s incredibly fascinating and so much fun to do. And it makes people happy.”

Anderson has been painting professionally for 10 years, although she’s been creating visual art since her childhood. Her grandmother, who was a talented artist herself, initially got her interested in art. When Anderson would visit with her sister, her grandmother would get out a big box of pastels to entertain the girls.

“That was the most fun thing in the world for me, to sit down with that big box of pastels,” she said. “We would color for hours.”

Around the same tim,e her family took a trip to New Orleans where she saw the vibrant colors of the city.

“The artists on Jackson Square totally intrigued me, and it was at that point I decided, ‘That’s what I wanted to be,’” she said. “I wanted to be a portrait artist on Jackson Square. That was my dream as a kid.”

She attended the University of Memphis and graduated with her bachelor of fine arts degree in graphic design.

She worked at Catherine’s Stores Corp. in the advertisement department for about 15 years, but, after the birth of her son, she decided her family needed her focus more than her job did.

However, Anderson is not a stay-at-home kind of person. She felt the urge to continue working and had the idea of getting a teaching license. She went back to the U of M to get her license in 2002 and earned her master’s in education from the Memphis College of Art 10 years later.

“I never thought I would be a teacher,” she said. “My sister was the teacher in the family, and I just didn’t ever see myself as a teacher. But I have never looked back. I love teaching so much, and I really think I’m where I’m supposed to be.”

She was initially hired at Dexter Middle School in 2002, then moved to Bolton High School three years later before taking a job at Arlington High School.

In 2012 she became head of the fine arts department, a three-year title that she is handing off this upcoming school year.

In 2013, she was one of three teachers at the high school to be named Arlington High School Teacher of the Year.

“I was so honored to be recognized as a fine arts person,” she said.

She continued, “I like the way people react to my art. And I think my art’s happy, and I want my viewer to react in a happy way when they look at the art. And I would like for them to sometimes even chuckle a little bit.”

For more information, see Anderson’s website at

Written by Mac Trammell, special to the Express. Contact him at