QUESTIONS + ARTISTS: Richard Melillo

As we get closer and closer to the opening of the Institute For Arts Entrepreneurship in Fall 2010, we wanted to spotlight some artistic entrepreneurs who have found success in their field. In our new series, Questions and Artists, we’ll pose a few burning questions to these brave artists who have set off down their own path to gain some insight into the entrepreneurial mindset.

For more Questions and Artists entries, click here.


Our first artist, Richard Melillo, is a perfect example of someone who found a unique niche and filled it with a creative application of his artistry.  His business, The Modelers Art, uses his scale model building abilities to create three-dimensional moments in time, assemble product prototypes or do teaching and consulting for hobby retailers.  Let’s let him tell his own story, though.

1) What is your artistic field/your product/your service?

My artistic field is scale model-building, which I do a little differently from the average hobbyist by creating what I call “Moments in Time”. This places the model in context by showing its real connection to human involvement and actual history–a “snapshot in 3-D,” if you will.

I create prototypes for new models for model manufacturing companies and provide three-dimensional layouts and other objects for companies in a variety of industries.  I also teach artistic modeling to adult and student model makers through organizations such as schools or civic groups.   Check out and click on photos of the RUSTY FORD for a good example of an object that I created to carry a context and a history in great miniature detail.
2) When or how was it that you realized you wanted to turn your artistry into a business?

When we moved from Upstate New York to California several years ago, I had an opportunity to consider what I really wanted to do with my life, beyond the corporate world.  Although it took me a few years to get my ideas together, I finally decided to “go for it” and try to make a living from doing the work I have always loved and did anyway—for free!  The hardest part was taking that leap into the unknown and finding out if there was a market niche out there for me.

3) When was the “first time you got paid for it”?

I serendipitously made contact with an old friend in the hobby industry who had me come back to his office in Iowa and recondition a bunch of old models that they wanted to put on display in the gigantic hobby expo that is held each autumn in Chicago.  After spending a month there as the Master Modeler and getting paid for my work, and for working with my friend in his booth at the Expo as his “expert,” I knew I had the capability of making a go of it!

4) What is the biggest obstacle you faced as a developing artistic entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?  Or did you?

The biggest obstacle, as everyone in an artistic field would agree, is trying to reconcile the time spent in creating the art object with how much you can get paid for it.  Somehow the time and money never match up, which I suppose is a common experience.  I am still trying to find more efficient ways of creating things I’ve done before, with different materials and techniques.  But sometimes I just have to spend the creative time to develop something new!  It is, however, a labor of love.

5) What’s something you had to learn on your own that you wish you’d been taught about how to entrepreneur your art?

I already had a strong background in business and in this field, so I had a few contacts I could call on.  However, what I STILL don’t have a handle on is how to get going in EMAIL MARKETING and make it work for me without using up a lot of my time.


Richard Melillo

Richard Melillo has been building models in one form or another for more than 45 years—from a childhood love of model-building to work at the movie studios and with model manufacturers and then model paint companies. He developed new paint lines and historically accurate colors as Vice-President and General Manager of Floquil-Polly S Color Corporation and served as president of the Model Railroad Industry Association. His lifelong involvement in the hobby industry took him on a journey through all aspects of model building: railroads, planes, cars, boats, armor, and everything in between.

His artistic vision centers around each object’s unique history, and the way the scaled-down object can become a realistic three-dimensional replica of an authentic moment in time. Capturing those moments in time is about interpreting the life of the object as it might really have existed in history, in memory, or even in the creative mind of the viewer. How to achieve that artistry is what Richard shares on his website, , and through the prototypes and professional models he builds for manufacturers and collectors alike.   He is based in Ventura, CA, where he and his wife live near their three grown children.

Creative Commons License
Resource Center for Arts Entrepreneurs by Entrepreneur The Arts is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at