Teaching Art

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!

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Artists Where You Least Expect Them

September 28th, 2010

By accident I picked up this month’s Harvard Business Review (HBR) (October 2010). It’s not a typical magazine that I read – but a front cover article title caught my eye.

I flipped to the contents section and was immediately caught off guard by a photograph depicting a colourful block assemblage of everyday items. It was indeed an art piece.

In the left side panel, I read “About the Spotlight Artist…Michael Johansson was born in Trollhättan, Sweden.” The description said, “Johansson is intrigued by irregularities and coincidences in daily life and is drawn to combining familiar objects with new or unknown objects. By changing scale and context, ordinary objects become extraordinary.”

Hmm…I paused for a moment, ever the curious and then continued flipping page by page en route to the article I was looking for. Then I stumbled upon another piece of his art work and realized that Mr. Johansson´s work was intended to aid the spotlight article on the Supply Chain – an article I had no interest in reading – that is until I realized the connection with the artist.

His artwork worked really well in tandem with the supply chain article. It was smart, colourful, interesting, and it had an original point of view. I immediately attached all of these elements to the article on the supply chain before I even read it. Nice job HBR.

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The Dreamcatcher

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.

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Wooden Cutting Boards

September 16th, 2010

A few months ago I met a man at an art show who was selling wooden cutting boards. He asked me what I was doing at the show and so I told him I was showing my paintings. He then told me that he too was a painter. I asked him why he wasn’t selling his paintings. He responded by telling me that it was easier to sell wooden cutting boards than it was to sell artwork.

He then pulled out an old magazine that featured his artwork. The magazine displayed the most meticulously painted watercolours I have ever seen. They were collages of items that he had found along the way – ticket stubs, napkins, matchbooks – all painted in high realism. I was really impressed. I asked him if he was still painting. He told me “no.” Then with a shrug, he added “besides I already have a stack of paintings I can’t sell.”

Perhaps I was a bit naive to think that all artists care for their artwork as I do. I think it is important to be flexible with your work and to anticipate and integrate change. I guess if an artist’s focus is purely sales, then moving towards another art form would be favourable. But for me, I like what I do, so I try keep my work evolving and to be on the lookout for something that would work better while always remaining true to my work.

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Silent Auction

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.

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Social Commentary

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.

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New Prints

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.

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The Art Booth Rocks!

June 14th, 2010

M-J Kelley Studio - Art booth at night.

The display of artwork is just as important as the artwork itself. In an earlier posting I mentioned I was in the process of building an art booth with the help of my brother. Well it was completed and has now been on display at two art shows. The interest in my display booth was unbelievable. Mostly because it was a clean gallery-like way of displaying artwork with an easy set up and an easy, fast and compact tear down.

The walls are made with a thin wood panel strung up with cable ties. Each tie is able to support 50lbs of weight. My brother constructed a desk/box construction in similar fashion using cable ties to hold it together. At the end of the show we just snip the ties and lay everything flat. One of the newest features to be added to the booth display are the lights. They are true track lighting but with the wiring adapted to be plugged into a surge protector. It is super easy to set up and then with a twist, the lights are removed. The image above was taken recently at night. There are 12 track lights (35 watts each) illuminating the booth. It looks fantastic at night!

Besides being complimented on the booth design and display, the booth itself has withstood heavy winds and rain and best of all it fits into the Jeep for another show! Yay to the art booth!

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Riverdale Art Walk

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.

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Inside Toronto

June 3rd, 2010

I am featured in an article on the Riverdale Art Walk.
Inside Toronto Article: Art lovers invited to Riverdale Art Walk’s 12th year

There is a correction to this article. I will be showing in booth 42 at the Jimmie Simpson park (Queen St. E./Empire) and not in my studio.

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