Archive for the ‘Drawing’ Category

What Did You Learn?

Monday, July 25th, 2011

This blog is about learning. I am asked numerous questions about: how to draw, how to paint, creating characters, drawing animals, how to use watercolour and gouache, what kind of pencils I use, what crosshatching is, and how to do perspective. The list goes on.

People have many reasons for wanting to learn an art form. It may be because they want to go to an art school and so they tell me that they "need to learn everything!" One person I talked with wants to learn how to draw dogs. Another wants to finally understand perspective. Yet another wants to eventually teach art and give back to the community. These are all completely understandable reasons for learning art.

I graduated with a degree in Art History and decided that I wouldn’t be a very good art historian if I didn’t know how to draw or paint. And so I enrolled in a figurative drawing class. I spent the next four years learning how to draw the human form. By year five I dived into painting. By year twelve I was learning about comic art and cartooning. I am now in my twenty-second year of art learning and it will continue. Every year I take a course on something that is interesting to me and that forwards my learning. I also spend a lot of time reading books about painting and drawing and about specific materials.

At this stage of my career, I look for the little nuggets of wisdom in a class or a book. For instance, in an Extreme Anatomy course I learned that the space between the fourth finger and the pinky was slightly bigger than between the other fingers. Understanding that little bit of information allowed me to improve my hand drawings in both traditional drawing and comic drawing. It is these little nuggets that are so important.

At the start of every class I teach I ask my new students who have taken drawing before: "What do you remember from your last teacher?" The most common answer is: "nothing." Wow. They remember nothing of what they were taught. I find this totally unacceptable.

In teaching core fundamentals, I strive to teach elements that the students will remember. My teacher – 22 years ago – taught me these things and I in turn, teach my students.

  1. Draw lightly
  2. Draw general to specific
  3. Learn to draw through your mistakes

Obviously, there are more lessons that I teach. But these are the three elements of basic drawing that I repeat over and over again. I hope if my students are asked by another teacher: "What did you learn from M-J Kelley?" they will remember these three elements.

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.

Getting Ready for the Art Shows

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

I’ve been cramming. Getting ready for the art show season is like preparing for final exams in a really hard subject. This year getting ready has been doubly difficult because I moved my home and studio last December and I decided that I wanted to show two lines of work this year – wildlife drawings and surreal landscape paintings.

For the most part, I have been working on my wildlife/farm life drawings – an eagle, a cow, a sea otter, a pig, a hare, etc. I have chosen animals that live in Canada. And it’s a broad range. They are all so different – their nose, fur, skin, eyes, fur, antlers, ears, beak. It’s a lot of focus to figure out how to draw well something that is unusual. Each animal has had its own unique challenge. But each is a labour of love.

So far the hardest part of all the animals to draw has been the feathers on the back of the mallard. And the delicate soft appearance of a pig’s skin.

Molly Mulhern - Mallard (graphite on board) by M-J Kelley

What is easiest for me? The eyes. The intricate structure of the eye is fun to figure out. It’s also the most rewarding part of the drawing — the eyes bring the animal to life.

The Riverdale Art Walk (RAW) is this weekend. It starts off a 7 show run with my wildlife drawings. For more information about the art shows please see my Event listings. Hope to see you at one of the shows!

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.

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.

Boxes Boxes … But Where Did I Put That?

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

I think I take it back. In my last posting I casually said (obviously without thinking) that I find moving exciting. Really I meant “exhausting”. I am certain that I posted that comment prior to packing up my studio. Yup, I sure did. I cannot tell you how long it took me to pack up my precious scraps of paper. Each painting was gently wrapped and carefully slipped into an appropriately sized box and labeled accordingly. And this went on and on until all was boxed.

And about my new studio that I mentioned in my last posting – well it’s not winterized. It’s not that this major issue slipped my attention; it’s just that I like to see potential instead of problem. And so here I am with a non-useful sub-zero studio. Fortunately, there’s a warm 2nd bedroom where I have crammed all of my art boxes.

And though I have tons of art materials, I have to say nothing is more useful or comforting than a sketchbook and pencil which I smartly packed in my knapsack for easy finding.

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.

Social Commentary

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

M-J Kelley Studio's Hood Ornament

I begin each morning with a blank page, a sharp pencil and a cup of coffee. I never know what I will be drawing. So imagine my suprise when this turned up. Hood Ornament is a new piece that makes a visual comment about the connection between the brown pelicans, automobiles, and the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

I am finding that the greater the social commentary, the greater the animation or cartooning of a piece. It seems easier to comment in this manner. I now understand political cartoonists all the more.

Illustration Proposal

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

OAC Content Sample (graphite) by M-J Kelley

I recently submitted an illustration proposal for an arts booklet. Along with submitting past illustrations, I created this one specifically for the bid. I didn’t win the bid, but I really liked my proposal and also this illustration. This piece (though cropped) incorporates the various arts: dance (ballet shoes), theatre (tape marks), film (film reel), music (piano keys), and painting (canvas on easel).