Archive for the ‘Artists’ Category

Georgian Bay Watersnake #Inktober

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

I was happily swimming off a Killbear Provincial Park rock this August when a friendly camper lady said, “Um, hey, you might want to know that there is a snake in the water.”

Ya, I think I would like to know that. And upon hearing that, I scrambled ever so ungracefully out of the lake and safely onto dry land. I was told that the snake in question was a small fox snake and that it wouldn’t hurt me and that it was probably more scared than I was. I doubt that.

So the other morning I was lying in bed, not quick to get up…but I had to get up, so I just pictured me in the lake with a watersnake swimming towards me. And that was it, I was out of bed.

And so of course that morning’s drawing was of my version of a watersnake. Happy #Inktober!



Georgian Bay Watersnake (pencil/ink) by M-J Kelley 2015

Fish Glue, Clamps and Wood

Friday, March 6th, 2015

My brother Greg owns Greg Kelley Conservation Services. He works with old wood – primarily antique furniture. He does not do restoration. Instead he does meticulous repairs on old wooden objects and keeps them looking their age. And that is conservation.

I always thought that our practices were quite different. He saws. I draw. He uses fish glue, clamps and wood. I use canvas, gesso and paint. But sometimes we share the same materials, tools and language. And that is what has happened recently.

Greg needed some help in his workshop. Originally he thought to hire another conservator. As it turns out, an artist with materials knowledge and a sense of detail and humour was what he needed.

So now I work at my brother’s workshop three days a week. And now in addition to gesso and paint, I use fish glue, clamps and wood. And it’s fun!

My Journey into Sheridan College’s Computer Animation Grad Program

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

The last eight months have been somewhat grueling. I was in the Computer Animation Graduate Program at Sheridan College. Wow, that was challenging. Learning how to make an animated film is not for the faint of heart. You have to really want to do it and not for the possibility of a job or money or fame – just that you really want to do it.

My reason was that I really wanted to learn how to make my sketchbook characters come to life and to tell their stories. And I did just that with a Toad.

Toad (pencil/sketchbook) by M-J Kelley 2014

Toad (pencil/sketchbook) by M-J Kelley 2014

But first came the learning of software…3D (Maya), rendering (Vray), sculpting (Mudbox), compositing (After Effects) – just to name a few.

If I had known anything about animation, virtual sculpting, compositing, editing, or rendering prior to the program, my life would have been immediately better. Instead, I had to learn all of that in addition to modeling, UV layouts, lighting, texturing, shading, cameras, rigging, etc.

My first three months I was way behind. It wasn’t because I didn’t work hard. It was because there was just so much to learn and the language was different – pipeline, UVs, IK handles, CVs, dope sheet, anisotropic, etc. By December, I began to catch up and that was because of storyboarding. Pencil and paper, I knew how to do. And that gave me just enough time to really focus on rigging and animating and so before I left for the holidays I was on track.

When I came back, the very best smartest thing I did was I focused on my Toad’s animation. My story has 34 scenes – which is a lot of for a 1:42 minute film. That means it has jump cuts and a lot of those isn’t always good. So working on the animation, meant I also worked on the timing, the cuts, the camera angles, which in turn improved the telling of my story. All the same, that was a painful ten weeks. My animation isn’t perfect, but I became a much better animator for having worked that hard for that long on all of those scenes.

I pretty much stayed on track that is until I hit “how to texture the terrain” bump, which was really more like running headlong into a brick wall. There are a lot of different ways to do it and I really wanted to use image projection offered by Mudbox. I really wanted that to work…but it didn’t, which meant I lost a huge amount of time. And you just can’t lose time on this project. So I had to come up with another procedure which made me spin my wheels for a bit. Eventually I bought a bunch of very expensive high-res rock images and used Maya’s planar projection mapping, created a Vray sand shader, and finished it off with Maya’s Paint Effects — all in the nick of time so I could keep up with the film’s impending deadline. Deadlines are good. They are so very helpful for sorting out what is important and what is not.

My film is finished. And yet there is still so much to do. But it tells a story pleasantly and effectively and that was my goal.

Two days ago was Industry Day. It is where you show your film to the animation industry. I have mixed feelings about Industry Day. I wanted to take home a richer experience than I did. But that would be hard to do, because the last eight months were the rich experience. How could anything much top making one’s own character come to life? Well actually today could. Because I am ready to start a new film…I’m going to flip through my sketchbooks and find just the right character and just the right story and start again…

Drawing: A Simple Profile

Friday, April 5th, 2013

A Simple Profile by M-J Kelley 2013

A Simple Profile by M-J Kelley 2013

A simple figurative profile drawing made with smooth newsprint and charcoal – two of my most favourite materials to work with.

Attending Sheridan’s Computer Animation Graduate Program Fall 2013

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

About a month ago I decided to apply to Sheridan’s graduate program in Computer Animation.

It was time to meld my two worlds (art and IT) together. Both fields are undergoing major changes and I felt it was time for me to go in a new direction as well.

I kept it a secret for as long as I could (a few days) and then I told my mom. If you knew my mom you would know she is the type of person that is always there for her family and friends. And as expected she was over the top excited for me and asked to read about the program.

My mother is very thorough. She called me back and said “did you know there is a graduate school open house tonight? You should go.” Somehow I missed this. It is this kind of “no stone left unturned” that my mother is capable of. And for this I am grateful.

I attended the open house and I was able to meet with the CA program director. He was great. He answered all of my questions and told me about various aspects about the program. I asked him about the portfolio submission and what they were looking for. He said, “We want you to send us what you think is your best work.” He also added, “We are looking for artists.”

Not very often do you hear “we are looking for artists.” This was so welcomed. And so, with his advice in mind, I rigorously reviewed the program descriptions and requirements and began to prepare my submission.

It was hard to choose 20 of my favourite images for my portfolio because I have quite a few pieces that I like. But I started with a few traditional figurative works then added some animal drawings, cowboy illustration art, a landscape painting, some surreal art, a few sketchbook drawings and finished with one of my all-time favourites, Stuffed Bunny Head on a Stick with Poison Mushroom Caps.

In addition to my portfolio I had to write a 500 word answer to the question “Why are you applying to this program?” and submit a resume. My resume was the easiest to pull together. The 500 word essay took some time. But it came together nicely. It was simply the truth about when I started in the arts (20+ years ago) and how my journey has brought me to this decision. When I reviewed my submission it dawned on me how it was a cohesive package. Everything went together extremely well and told the same story.

So with everything pulled together I ventured to the post office. I sent it Xpresspost. It was to arrive Monday – just in time for the deadline. I tracked it. But it didn’t arrive. It didn’t arrive on Tuesday either. I was a bit beside myself. So I pulled together another submission package and drove it to Sheridan (2 hours away) and hand submitted it. I was a bit fearful that my submission would be too late at this point and so talked with the program administrator who was understanding and helpful. She said she thought my application had already been completed. She wondered if she had already received my earlier application. Both of us were a bit mystified. All the same I was relieved and began my return journey home.

Shortly after arriving home I checked online to see if my application was now “complete”. Instead it said, “ACCEPT YOUR OFER AND DISCOVER SHERIDAN!”

What? Again mystified. So I clicked on it and a big blue image said “Congratulations! … We are pleased to offer you admission to the following program(s): Computer Animation…Fall 2013”.

Such joy! And that is where I will be this fall!

Spring Art Classes: Drawing and Painting

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

This Sunday will mark the beginning of our spring drawing and painting classes.

Learn to Draw and Paint (ages 6-10) (1-2pm):

Discover the arts! Explore drawing and painting with a variety of techniques using pencil, crayons, pencil crayons, oil pastel and tempera paint. Each lesson will build upon the last, beginning with drawing simple shapes for image creation and continuing with the use of mixed-media painting and simple printmaking.

Art Fundamentals for Teens (ages 11-14) (2:30-4pm):

Explore the fundamentals of drawing and painting with a variety of techniques and materials using pencil, charcoal, conte, ink, watercolour and acrylic. Each lesson will build upon the last, beginning with simple shapes to create form. Students will learn simple perspective, how to draw from sight, basic composition and painting skills. Students will also be introduced to the elements and principles of design.

These classes held in room #3 in the Rosemount Community Center in Vaughan. For more information…

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.