Melody Romancito returns to the easel

by Laura Bulkin
Posted 2/13/20

When Melody (Melwell) Romancito was a child in Kansas, her grandmother would save the cardboard sheets that came with laundered men's shirts, and she would fill the cardboard with her paintings. It would seem like the perfect beginning for an art career, and Romancito continued to paint and study throughout high school, winning national awards.

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Melody Romancito returns to the easel

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When Melody (Melwell) Romancito was a child in Kansas, her grandmother would save the cardboard sheets that came with laundered men's shirts, and she would fill the cardboard with her paintings. It would seem like the perfect beginning for an art career, and Romancito continued to paint and study throughout high school, winning national awards.

Then, the art trajectory took a long detour when she changed her major to English literature.

Decades later, after a lifetime of jobs from short-order cook, computer tech writer to singer in "too many bands to mention," arts and entertainment editor and writer for Tempo, she has "retired," and is busier than ever.

We visited Romancito in her studio adjacent to the Robert L. Parsons Fine Art Gallery, where she shows her work. The room contains an easel and two chairs, paints and brushes all within arm's reach, canvases in various stages of completion and a guitar. It seems incredible that a tiny space could be crammed with so much art, yet still look tidy and ready for new creation.

"It's kind of like being on board a ship in your little quarters, you have to keep it tidy," laughed Romancito. "The reason I started painting again - I've got X amount of time left, and with that amount of time I'd rather be painting. Eventually I get to a place where it's just me in the studio. If you live with a large family, or you have to spend time with others, time to yourself is really valuable.

"As far as subject matter, I owe a lot to my art dealer, Robert Parsons," Romancito continued. "He has 30-plus years of experience. I remember the look on Robert's face when he saw one of my paintings - I thought it was disapproving at first. Then he said, 'Well, we're looking for an artist and if you think you could have a dozen paintings …' It's a serious gallery, and I've sold something every month."

The work is extraordinary. Adobe houses dot the landscapes, cows graze in pastures as they do in so many artists' work here, but there is something extra that elevates this work. "With oil paints there's the first layer and that's got to dry, and then you rough it in and that's got to dry, and however many passes you need for it come into resolution, and then it's there," said Romancito. "And you can't work on it any more, you could screw it up."

Music, writing and other creative pursuits haven't gone by the wayside. "I've been with this band, the Swing Dusters, for two years. Our membership has solidified, we rehearse regularly and it's a lot of fun to play music for people who are dancing and singing. The songs we do are Western swing classics and others from the Americana songbook. The ones we're adding are also familiar and I can't want to see the look on people's faces when we trot them out."

Romancito is also working on an illustrated children's book. "I'm working on this at home because it's water-based paint. It's about my daughter, Ella's, naming." A history enthusiast, she continues to give ghost tours around Taos with her daughter.

Asked about the joys and challenges of retirement for herself and her recently retired husband, former Tempo editor Rick Romancito, she said, "We haven't been in it long enough to really know. We got him a brand-new Mac, and he's still doing movie reviews and beyond that - we'll see what's next.

"Rick and I have file cabinets full of stories, sci-fi, script ideas. Who knows? We live in this beautiful place. Once you've lived here, where else would you want to live? People work their butts off to be in a place like this. The reason I did all the computer work is that I thought it would give me permission to paint. It's only really when you get into later life that you understand. Meanwhile it's great not having to take care of the dogs by myself - he can do that now!"

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