Now a resident of Greece, she was born and raised in Canada, where she received a degree in graphic arts. Her passion for art seemed to choose the course her life took. In 1989, shortly after graduating college, she entered and won a competition resulting in four of her illustrations appearing as Christmas seals for the Canadian Lung Association.
She took an extended hiatus from art to raise four kids. But now she’s back. “Eventually, I got back into creating my art,” she told me, “which is mainly for myself—but I am looking into selling [it] soon.”
Let’s start with the basics: when did you start to draw?
I started drawing and doodling daily at the age of 10 or 11. However, I do have a specific memory from grade one. I remember I was very frustrated while doing a test because I didn’t know many of the answers. On the last page, I was asked to draw something and I really surprised myself that I could draw on demand. That was the only part of the test that lifted my spirits.
Do you remember the first piece of art that had an impact on you?
Yes, I do! I don’t know who this teenager was but he lived next to my cousin and I happened to look into his room window and saw a piece of his artwork. It may even have been a copy of an album cover—I can’ t be sure.
I was about 8 years old and I had never seen such a powerful illustration before. I was so impressed and it made me realize that drawing—or art—didn’t have to be about pretty things or reality. It made me realize you can make up odd worlds of your own.
You seem to work largely in pencil, ink, and watercolor pencils. Is there a stylistic reason for choosing these media?
I’ve tried to use others but these have won me over—for now at least. I feel like I understand them and they understand me. I don’t understand colour too well. Needless to say, pencils are so convenient for many reasons—one being I don’t have the patience to wait for things to dry.
Who were your influences?
Many influences! I guess that boy I mentioned above, he surely influenced me. I also have to say my brother and cousin who also are creative. The fact that they evolved into such wonderful painters, even though they started later on in life, really made me appreciate that you can learn at any point in life. I guess everyday normal people influenced me more, rather that famous artists. But, I’ll also add Victorian illustrators, Disney animation, and Prince.
Do you feel the need to create? Is it an obsession or just something you do when you have free time?
I love creating, the satisfaction it gives to both my ego and soul is addictive. It’s a natural process but looking back it makes me realize that it is a matter of free time. I didn’t draw at all for about 15 years while my children were young. In school, however, doodling helped me concentrate, otherwise I’d fidget.
Your content ranges from satire to absurdity, but there’s also an undercurrent, usually subtle, of empathy or melancholy. Is your art an expression of what you’re feeling as you’re creating it?
This of course depends on what kind of style I’m doing. I have more than one style but I do have a favourite one. It’s probably the one you were describing. If someone has asked me to do a painting for them then I don’t really use emotion. But some of my most favourite illustrations that I do for myself come from emotion. And that is the one that flows with great ease.
What’s your goal as an artist? By that I mean what do you hope someone experiences when they see your work?
I’ll have to bring up that boy again—if I too could influence someone the way he did me, that would seem so magical and amazing to me.
It’s nice to evolve and experiment but I think it’s also important to be true to your personal style because you never know who you may influence or inspire. I try to remeber this when I’m worried about my style.
I’d also prefer, if my viewer is left with a positve feeling, even though some of my work gets dark, it comes from good intentions; that’s why I try and add some humour into it at times.
Also, I’m somewhat of an introvert so I’ve also used art to connect with people—said the spider to the fly kind of approach.
Take us through your routine. Do you plot out a piece, think about it, or just set pen to paper, so to speak, and see what comes out of your brain?
There is always a sketchpad on my bed beside my pillow. Usually, the first thing I do in the morning—or the last thing I do at night—is pick it up and start doodling/sketching. I don’t have anything on my mind and I just wait to see what my brain—or wherever it comes from—will come up with.
The last two years something else has come up which I never, ever use to do. After the drawing is done, I start asking myself for a title. It’s like I’m brainstorming with my different pesonalities and eventually a little verse pops up. I enjoy that part just as much because I admire the ability writers have and I know I don’t have it–I’ll take what i can get.
I have a favourite quote that I posted the other day on my Facebook,
“Success is not about trying, it’s about ease. When you are in the experience of painting—in the moment and relaxed and not efforting, the creation is revealing itself to you in the moment—it becomes there and ready—It’s channeling through you. You are creating a flow that is coming through you.
“You are not the creator of a painting—you are the creator of the moment of being the painter.” — Abraham Hicks
Unless there is another explanation, because I’m also pretty sure the brain can do alot more than we consciously think we have the ability to do. I think my subconscious puts my confused pieces all together. Sort of like those little balls, in the lottery that are all jumbled together but eventually fall into place and form a number. After I see the whole picture, it makes me feel a bit more complete.
Your pieces tend to convey a sort of vulnerability. Are you trying to convey something about yourself with each piece?
Like I said, I tend to change styles depending on my moods. It is my emotions and I let them guide me in my doodles. I guess I use it as a form of cleansing. Perhaps on certain matters that I can’t communicate with words. Not necessarily about myself, it could be something I saw on the news, etc.
How do you define “art”? What is an “artist” to you?
You left the hardest question for last. I often wonder if I have the right to call myself an artist seeing I didn’t finish arts in university but rather graphic arts in college, but don’t really care for it anyway. I love to illustrate instead, mainly for myself, but am I officially an illustrator? I believe there is no one answer to the question of what is ‘art’ or ‘artist.’ It’s like religon and politics. It’s all about the personal belief system of each person. Each and every one of us will try and justify it, according to what we’ve accepted as truth.
See more of Kelly’s art, or drop her a line, on her official Facebook page.