Archive for the ‘Artist’ Category

Quick Sketches: Hand and Foot

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

It’s fall and the local figurative drawing session has started back up…yay! Here are some quick sketches.

Hand Holding Arm of Chair by M-J Kelley (charcoal)

Hand Holding Arm of Chair by M-J Kelley (charcoal)

Underside of Foot by M-J Kelley (charcoal)

Underside of Foot by M-J Kelley (charcoal)

The Magical Dance of Quick Sketches

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Image of M-J Kelley's quick sketch: Portrait of Emily (charcoal on kraft paper) 2012

Portrait of Emily by M-J Kelley 2012 (quick sketch/charcoal on kraft paper)

Every figurative drawing session that I have ever attended begins with quick sketches of the model. They range from 30 second to 3 minute sketches. For some, I think it’s a bit like an athlete stretching. This isn’t really the case for me. I try to be warmed up before I attend the session.

Instead, it is a bizarre combination of loose lines, accurate proportion and line quality — housed within these early sketches that tell me whether I will be drawing well or not. I am at that place as an artist. This is a great place to be.

My long-time friend Ken used to say that “drawing well was like magic dancing from your fingertips.” So right he was.

And that is what this image is for me — a quick sketch where all was right and the magic was dancing. The lines are loose, the line quality is good and the proportion is accurate.

And when it all comes together, as this sketch did, I get to do one more thing that makes what I do so special for me: I get to breathe life into it with an expression or a look.

New Year’s Fish

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

New Year's Fish (pencil, sketchbook) by M-J Kelley

It’s a new year, and I am happy to see it.

I filled up my old sketchbook in a somewhat timely manner so as to be able to start a fresh one on the first day of 2012. I even added a new pencil and eraser.

A blank page is hard enough, but the first blank page in a brand new sketchbook … well words like honour, reverence, trepidation come to mind. Still, you have to just dive in, and for some reason the phrase “sleeps with the fishes” drifted into my mind while I was drawing.

This, in and of itself, is why it is good to draw from your imagination. Because you never know what you might be thinking and to borrow from Joan Didion’s 1976 essay on Why I Write, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.”

Therefore, it is of no great surprise to me that I took a blind left turn only to end up drawing a sleepy fish instead of creating a Godfather-like-thug- whacking illustration. To be honest, I know myself well enough not only to trust those left turns, but also to count on them. It makes my life interesting and allows me to see my thoughts even when I begin with a starkly blank white page.

BIG IDEAS

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

I love BIG IDEAS. Somehow, I magically come up with a plan for something and move in that direction. When I do that, I give it my all. I dig deep and research, ask questions, stay up late, get up early and do the hard work needed to achieve my goals. This behavior is a constant as long as I have a BIG IDEA.

For the last several years, I have had a BIG IDEA for my artwork. I have worked hard and some of that has paid off. But some, quite frankly, has seen me throwing precious energy into the wind only to watch it fly away.

The latter is unbelievably frustrating.

And so, here I am, reassessing my BIG IDEA. In fact, I’ve been doing it since late September, which is the main reason why I haven’t posted a blog since then. Reassessing BIG IDEAS is a bit paralyzing. It’s a mental transition that seemingly affects all of me. I am no good without a BIG IDEA. The transition takes time, but fortunately, I always seem to be able to move toward another BIG IDEA.

My new BIG IDEA begins with a return in the New Year to my traditional figurative roots. I was never very far from it, but it is hard to do everything I like to do. I have spent the last several years exploring my imaginative work with my surreal art. It will continue on its creative storytelling journey even as I take a more traditional turn. And as for my wildlife drawings, I have opted to only draw a few of them this year.

The biggest thing I am axing from my last BIG IDEA is the art show circuit. I want to focus on being a better artist ― strengthening my knowledge, honing my skills and just enjoying the process. Sometimes the art show preparation is so demanding that it is easy to forget that I paint or draw not for others, but for myself ― for the simple goals of expression and enjoyment.

I have other ideas tucked into my BIG IDEA but for now I think that is a good beginning to the New Year.

Paint Me A Birmingham

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

I like listening to country music. I heard a song today by Tracy Lawrence — "Paint Me a Birmingham." The premise of the song is that a man stumbles upon an artist who is painting on the beach. The man asks him "if he only painted ocean scenes." The artist replies, "For twenty dollars, I’ll paint you anything."

Twenty dollars? For anything? So the man says to the artist:

"Could you Paint Me A Birmingham
Make it look just the way I planned
A little house on the edge of town
Porch goin’ all the way around
Put her there in the front yard swing
Cotton dress make it, early spring
For a while she’ll be, mine again
If you can Paint Me A Birmingham."

All that for twenty dollars and the artist offers to paint the man "back into her arms again."

I have to admit I am a sucker for this kind of romantic ballad. What I wouldn’t give to be able to paint someone’s heartache away. Maybe that is why the artist only charged twenty dollars — to cover his material costs.

Currently working on…Eleanor

Friday, August 12th, 2011

"Do one thing every day that scares you."  – Eleanor Roosevelt. (graphite sketch) by M-J Kelley

Eleanor’s full title is "Do one thing every day that scares you." – Eleanor Roosevelt.

I love that quote.

I’m not sure if I do that. I think if I did that it would require me to climb tall ladders and stand on roof tops or (gasp!) be enclosed in small spaces. No thanks, I’d rather be an artist. To some that is pretty darn scary. Actually, I think it is not so much about being a full-time "art-creating person" that is scary, but more so the fear of being a "financially destitute person" that causes people to avoid or delay a vocation in the arts. I don’t blame them. It’s touch and go.

About Eleanor…the image shown here is a drawing. I draw everyday in my sketchbook – which is where all these crazy surreal ideas come from. Mostly I begin a drawing and something forms and then I think about where it is going and what I have been thinking about, or have seen and then I guide my drawing in that direction. The process is rather organic. It is a bit like being a mother duck trying to get her ducklings in a row. I use that type of movement to coax a drawing into a meaningful vision. In Eleanor’s case, I believe I had a moment of darkness. I chose to push one of my flowers overtop of a pointed rock-like object. But then it occurred to me that the flower may have chosen to do so. It made me think of Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote and its importance of reminding all of us to leave our comfort zone to become the people we are meant to be.

This drawing is dear to my heart, so I decided to turn her into a painting; a 16 x 20 full colour gouache painting which will be ready for display at the Cabbagetown Arts and Crafts show this September.

Art on Steroids

Monday, August 8th, 2011

I recently listened to a 60 Minutes podcast reporting that Lance Armstrong”allegedly” used performance enhancing drugs in order to win the Tour de France races. The basic premise of the story was that a cyclist had to blood-dope – because everyone else was – if he even wanted to possibly have a chance at winning. And if he didn’t? Well, forget it.

We have this too in the visual art world.

At a recent art show, I was once again reminded to what lengths an “artist” will go to produce salable artwork. At the show there was an “artist” there who painted on top of a photograph to create realistic looking animals. I believe this to be a performance enhancing art aid. A photo is taken, sent to a printer and printed on canvas. The “artist” then adds paint and sells it as if it were an original piece of art in the traditional realm of high realism.

I mentioned this technique to a 13 year old student of mine. He said, “Don’t they know that’s cheating?” and “So it’s about the product and not the process for them right?” Right.

Before I get into why this technique is wrong, I would like to mention that photography does have its place in the visual arts either as photography or as reference material for visual arts and illustration. But when an artist blurs those lines for the sake of making money, there are several issues:

  1. The “artist” isn’t being truthful to his/her customer because the “artist” is not disclosing that he/she has painted over a photograph. The purchaser of such work believes he/she is buying a “painting.”
  2. Juried shows love traditional realism. Rarely do jurors ask about the art making “process.” As a result, the shows accept the cheating “artists,” while rejecting those who have worked hard to learn their craft.
  3. The work is usually priced far lower than a work created from scratch by another artist. This is because the time, energy, and knowledge spent to create artwork goes into the pricing structure. This creates an unlevel playing field.
  4. The “artist” misses out on the true reason why one creates.

I am incensed by the nature of this type of work and by the “artists” who practice this procedure. I just don’t understand why these so-called artists wouldn’t want to learn – truly learn – how to paint and draw well.

As always, comments are welcome.

But I’ve Never Drawn a Polar Bear!

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

There is a lot to like about participating in an art show. The art, the people, being outside, etc. But sometimes there are things that make you want to run screaming from one. No, it’s not bad weather. I can handle bad weather – high winds, downpours, and extreme temperatures – all of which is fine.

What makes me a bit bug nuts are some of the things people say to me. It’s amazing really. Most of the time all is lovely. But then, every so often I am thrown for a loop. Take this little nugget of conversation from an elderly man: “My favourite painting is a copy of a French painting that I have. It is an exact duplicate painted by a man in China.” Now, I have no problems with Chinese painters. They are wonderful painters. But I do have a problem with forgery. Forgery is bad. How is it someone doesn’t understand that? Or does that become a larger discussion about art in the public domain?

Moving on…this past weekend a man in my booth turned to me and said, “I recently bought one of your pieces…from the Goodwill,” to which I responded, “No you didn’t.”

“Yes I did. Same style, same last name.”

“No you didn’t. This is a new series of drawings.”

“It was of a polar bear.”

“Right, I’ve never drawn a polar bear.”

Throughout the conversation, the man’s girlfriend nodded in agreement with her boyfriend.

Finally, I asked: “How much did you pay for it?”

“Fifteen dollars. It was a good deal.”

And with that they strolled out of my booth.

I hope they enjoy their artwork. You realize I have to draw a polar bear now.

8 out of 9

Friday, June 10th, 2011

That is the number of art shows to which I’ve been accepted this year. I think that is pretty darn good.

Sometimes, I tell you, it is a crap shoot. Neither rhyme nor reason as to why an artist is accepted into one show and not into another. Or why an artist was accepted the year before and not the following year.

But one thing is for certain: an artist should never take “rejection” personally. And though I’ll admit to a slight disappointment – which lasts momentarily – what follows is a fire in my belly and then I’m onto another new project. Rejection grants me precious time to work on new ideas.

Oh, but first you are probably wondering what show didn’t accept me. That would be the Queen West Art Crawl. I was informed in a “batch” email, broken down by alphabet. I was in the J, K, L, and M rejection pile. Who knows how many others were informed from A to I or N to Z. How do I know this? Because the author of the email used the CC line to address her bad news to me and 19 other artists. Can you believe that? Really, how rude to be batch emailed like that. I know 4 of those 19 artists – and their work is fabulous.

They, like me, should have been emailed directly and personally. We deserve that respect, even in rejection.

Art Shows 2011

Monday, April 4th, 2011

I have changed my mind … I have decided to show both my surreal landscape paintings and my wildlife drawings this year at regional art shows.

Some artists choose to display only one style. They worry about confusing their audience. I worry about that too. But I think it’s important to stay true to myself, my interests, and my varied forms of expression.

Because of my training, I am able to draw what is in front of me as well as what is lurking in the back of my head. I enjoy both the technical proficiency of sight work and the imaginative creations that come from cerebral drawing.

I don’t like showing two types of artwork at the same show. Instead, I have opted to review each show and decide what type of art is suitable based on the show’s focus and the people who attend.

I have applied for two September shows with my surreal landscapes. All of the other shows I will be showing my traditional work.

For a listing of my upcoming shows, please visit Events.