Archive for the ‘Artist’ Category

Artistic Decisions

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Recently, I have had to make some hard decisions regarding my art practice. Last year I showed my surreal artwork at art shows with varying degrees of success.

I realized after a long assessment these art shows may not be the proper forums for my surreals. There are many reasons for this. But one of the reasons that stood out for me was that of simple human conditioning.

Most art shows show a mix of traditional and contemporary with few showing surreal artwork. I think when people wander about a show they are preconditioned or have a visual imprint of the type of work they expect to see. This is really good for people who are showing similar work. It’s not as good for those who show different work.

I liken this to a person in the travel section of a bookstore who stumbles upon a misplaced children’s book. They are not looking for that type of book and hence dismiss it even though it may be a really good book. If, however, the children’s book was in its proper section, then it may have been better received.

I love my surreal artwork, but I feel they need to be shown in another format – a graphic novel or children’s book. Which means I will not be showing my surreal artwork at the art shows this year. Instead, I will be eagerly presenting my traditional wildlife portraits – which I love just as much.

On Being an Artist

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

I was recently asked by a friend how it is that I survive as a visual artist. I spent months thinking about his question. I wanted to provide him with “a silver bullet” – the perfect singular answer. It was not possible. Instead I provided a collection of tiny nuggets of experience that may, or may not be of use. Here they are…

•    I work at it every day.
•    I have fun doing what I do.
•    I have deadlines. I create them. I meet them. I create more deadlines.
•    I have a business card that says I am an artist.
•    I am ok not making a ton of money and understanding that my income may fluctuate.
•    I diversify my work.
•    I make mistakes and I learn from them.
•    I assess what works and what doesn’t.
•    I make hard decisions.
•    My family is VERY supportive.
•    I stay true to who I am.
•    I continue to dream.

If I had to stress one nugget it’s the “work at it every day” nugget. It’s the point at which an artist crosses over to a place of no longer being a hobby artist.

I know that all sounds rather simple and doable. There are days when it feels like you are climbing a mountain with your teeth and there are days when you feel like you have swallowed the magic potion of greatness and can do no wrong. But only by doing do you experience both of those feelings.

New painting: Stuffed Bunny Head on a Stick with Poison Mushroom Caps

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Stuffed Bunny Head on a Stick with Poison Mushroom Caps (detail, gouache on board) by M-J Kelley

What would ever make anyone draw, let alone paint such a thing? Experiences.

Stuffed Bunny Head on a Stick with Poison Mushroom Caps is about maintaining one’s goodness and humour in a toxic environment. How do we retain a level of childhood innocence when we are constantly barraged with the evils of the world? Bad events and bad people try to drive the innocence from us — sometimes succeeding, sometimes not. Creating illustrative images such as this one helps me to retain the sweetness of childhood.

This painting will be on display until February 13th at the Hangman Gallery (756 Queen St. E., Toronto). For more information on the show: Red Envelope Show: What’s Your Rabbit?

Moving the Art Studio

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

If I wasn’t an artist I really wouldn’t have very many belongings; a few clothes, a few books, things to cook with, and things to live in. But enter the art supplies. I am amazed as to how many brushes, tubes of paint, canvas, paper, sketchbooks, paintings, art books, etc. I have acquired over the years. I am taking stock because I am moving home and studio – again.

My running joke about the studio is that by the time I get it all set up, it is time to move. So I don’t like to unpack everything. It only sets in motion the wheels for repacking.

Though I have moved many times, I can honestly say that I find moving exciting. This time though, it’s the most exciting because I’m moving to the country. There are horses, cows, chickens, and a sow with six piglets on the drive into town. Our new home is beautiful. The yard has tall trees and a huge garden. My studio is four times the size of my current studio. It has lots of windows and quiet time to think. I greatly look forward to the peacefulness and the creative work that it will bring.

But first I must find more boxes…

An Artist’s Statement

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

As I walked down Bay Street the other day I glanced at a poster stapled to a pole. The poster was offering a workshop on “getting to know who you are.”  I didn’t think I paid it any attention but still I found myself asking, “Do I know who I am?”

Yes, I silently answered. And then began the long process of wondering why I do. I think the reason is because I am an artist. Being an artist requires that I articulate why I do what I do. And that very process once written down is called an Artist’s Statement. Every show, gallery, event, etc. asks for one when I submit my artwork.  They vary in length and detail depending upon who’s asking, so I have to know the very long and the very short of why I create, which is a daunting task at best.

To do that I have to ask myself more introspective questions about my likes and dislikes, and my behavior and conditioning. Though simple questions, sometimes the answers take a while to ferret out. But all this is to say that knowing one’s self is an evolution just like artwork I create – as it should be.

Teaching Art

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Today I begin teaching at LucSculpture School & Studios. I will be teaching Art Portfolio and Cartooning, Comic Art and Sequential Storytelling.

Art Portfolio is a “one on one” class aimed at improving a student’s body of artwork for school submissions. Artistic portfolios should display “observational art” such as: landscapes, still-lifes, cityscapes, self-portrait and human form. It should also include work that speaks to your personal experiences and culture, and reflects your thoughts and concepts.

Cartooning, Comic Art and Sequential Storytelling is a seven week class series that focuses on the basic framework and components of cartoon and comic art. These will be put into play by learning how to tell and draw a story sequentially without the use of words.

I once taught a similar cartooning class at the Kansas City Art Institute. I am so looking forward to teaching it again!

The Dreamcatcher

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Dream Catcher (gouache on board) by M-J Kelley

I begin my paintings with full drawings. In the long run it makes my life a lot easier than trying to sort out tonal or structural issues on the canvas. What I found interesting about The Dreamcatcher was that I drew it with no real image in mind and no in-depth knowledge of what a dreamcatcher was – other than the basic premise. It just kind of came to life. So when I showed a friend of mine the drawing, she said, “what colour are you painting the feather?” I said that I didn’t know. “Well,” she continued, “it means something.” Oh, ok. So off I went in search of the meaning of the coloured feathers.

What I discovered was it wasn’t so much the colour of the feathers, but from whom the feather came. So if a dreamcatcher had crane feathers, then it represented wisdom and knowledge. Feathers from a dove represented the offer of love. Based on the design of the feathers in my drawing, I realized that I drew feathers similar to a hawk or an eagle. Both birds represent protection.

Then I continued my research. I found out that the size of the “sacred hoop” is the size of the dreamcatcher’s maker’s left hand. And sure enough my painting’s hoop is the size of my left hand. There are other iconographical symbols in the piece that were created by accident, but interesting to point out. These would be the seven spokes or Seven Sister (Pleiades) which is the nearest star cluster to Earth, a hole for the spirit guide, and the added fact that the feather is not tied in a downward fashion. A feather tied upside down is for children – so the good dreams slide gently into the child while they are sleeping. It strikes me that this dreamcatcher was intended for adults.

When I actually figured out that I was drawing a dreamcatcher, I asked myself what would happen if a dream was caught and what would or should one do with it once it was caught. I think the feather design solved the mystery for me. Protect it.

Silent Auction

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

The Band (gouache on board) by M-J Kelley

The Band is a gouache piece that I painted a few weeks ago. I created it specifically as a donation to a jazz and blues silent auction. The proceeds from the auction are to fund art exhibit display fixtures for the Collingwood Library.

New Prints

Monday, June 21st, 2010

The decision of whether or not to reproduce my artwork was not an easy one. I am a traditionalist at heart and therefore truly value original paintings and drawings. But with that said, I think it is also of value to listen to those who view your work and make suggestions such as “you should definitely sell prints”. So I have decided to meet somewhere in the middle. I am currently in the process of having five images scanned/printed for fine art reproductions. I picked the five pieces based on what my customers liked the most. One is traditional – The Blue Boat and the other four are surreal landscapes. They are The Clothesline, Crow’s Nest, Collecting Colour, and The Arch. All will be signed limited edition prints. With this I am planning on modifying my website to include the purchase of fine artwork and prints.

Riverdale Art Walk

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

The Riverdale Art Walk was a great event. For starters it didn’t rain on the event but rained around the event. So there were puddles present but no runny gouache paintings for which I was relieved.

I had many friends and family members attend the event to show their support. Even my great Aunt Betty at the age of 85 showed up to cheer me on. That you can’t beat. I was delighted to see everyone and I thank them for being so wonderfully supportive. They even visited other artists and spread their joy around.

I met many fantastic people. They were very engaged with my work and offered much commentary. For example I heard “sweet, but edgy” “whimsical” and “very unique”. I was also asked quite a bit if I was working on a children’s book because my work suited that format. Indeed I am – a sweet but edgy children’s book.