Art Shows 2011

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.

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Artistic Decisions

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.

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On Being an Artist

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.

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

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?

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Don’t Anger the Snowman!

January 24th, 2011

I haven’t blogged the whole month of January. I have definitely blown past the “Happy New Year” window. Still I wish it to all.

I have many sane reasons as to why I haven’t written – but those aren’t very interesting. It would just be a hum drum list that you would have read by anyone telling you why they haven’t responded promptly to your email, etc. So I will forgo the list. Instead I will tell you that I have been busy employing one of my strengths to resolve a problem.

Adults don’t like to be told what to do. But, when they do something wrong – say like walking across a neighbour’s property to get to one’s home because it’s shorter than walking around the block – something needs to be done. The question is, how do you do it without creating a quagmire of messy neighbour relations? This is the problem I face with my neighbours. It may seem utterly minor in the scheme of the state of the world, but it bothers me.

Being one who dislikes telling adults what to do, I avoided saying anything by putting up a symbolic marker in the form of a burlap fence. Surely this would deter me if I saw it blocking my shortcut. But no, instead the interlopers walked on my fence. Yes, on it. There were snowy footprints actually on the burlap.

Against my better judgment I went a-callin’. I knocked on their door twice. No answer. I left returning with my problem and no solution.

Then I had a really great idea. It came to me when the snow fell that evening. It was packing snow! I went out and I built a huge snowman. Two eyes, carrot nose, charcoal mouth, stick arms, and a sign. Usually snowmen don’t come with signs. But mine did. It said, “Please don’t walk on our property. This will anger the snowman, and he has friends!” Truly, this was effective. I had the sign up for 5 days. Then I decided to take the sign down because I thought it was no longer necessary. How wrong I was! Last night, my neighbours cut across our property and in doing so broke my snowman’s right arm – which was his writing hand. Now the snowman is very angry. I have put in a plea for help to the ice trolls. It won’t be pretty when they show up.

I’m trying to resolve the annoying neighbour issue with humour, which is what I do with my artwork. Somehow, I believe that a humour coating will help the bitter pill of being told how to behave better will go down more easily.

I’ll keep you posted.

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Boxes Boxes … But Where Did I Put That?

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.

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Moving the Art Studio

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…

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2010 Holiday Card: And you melt when?

December 9th, 2010

And You Melt When? (detail, gouache on board) by M-J Kelley

And You Melt When? is my new 2010 holiday card. It might be hard to see on the small screen, but the snowman has snapped off a limb from the tree for another arm. The tree, not happy with this leans towards the snowman and says, “And you melt when?” Hence a reminder to the snowman that his time is fleeting and he will soon be but a past nuisance. It is my satyrical reminder to everyone that the holidays are about caring and sharing…and sometimes swearing.

If you would like to receive this fine holiday card via the mail, please send me your address using the
Online Contact Form and I will send one out to you.

Happy Holidays!

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An Artist’s Statement

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.

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An Artist’s Fundraiser

November 11th, 2010

Beauty Flower and the Skull Mirror (gouache on board) by M-J Kelley

The Little Art Show is a local juried art auction offering original and limited edition works donated by established and emerging artists (and no bigger than 8” x 10”). Event proceeds fund the operations of the Artists’ Network, a dedicated member-driven not-for-profit with a mandate of supporting visual artists and their practice through a program of professional development, studio and exhibition opportunities. The Artists’ Network operates the Hang Man Gallery and the annual Riverdale Art Walk.

I have donated The Beauty Flower and the Skull Mirror to this auction. This work is an imaginative creation originating from a pencil drawing, and is part of a larger series on surreal landscapes that I create. This small piece is a contemporary “vanitas” piece, representing the transient nature of vanity but with a live for the moment flair that seemingly exists in today’s society. It is painted with gouache on recycled press board.

This event will take place at Saturday, November 13, 2010 at the Mercedes-Benz Downtown 761 Dundas St. E., Toronto (Dundas & River) from 7 – 11pm. For more information about the show: The Little Art Show.

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