“A Distant Winter” Interview Number One – Rich Kelly

I took a few minutes to ask each of the three artists involved in the upcoming “A Distant Winter” show at Phone Booth Gallery (Martin Ansin, Ken Taylor, and Rich Kelly) a few questions about the work they contributed. First up is Rich Kelly, hope you enjoy. For more info, visit the show’s Facebook Page.

What can you tell me about the work you’ve completed for “A Distant Winter”? Does it follow any kind of theme?

With my prints, I’ve continued to examine the subject matter that seems show up in some of my commercial projects, the historical narratives that surround the explorers of this earth. I’m not so concerned with explorers whose discoveries have resulted in the wiping out of civilizations, but rather those who have pushed the limits of the human body and our scientific understanding of the world. For me, researching my subject is often more fun than executing the piece, I’ve always had a fascination with those who have been the first to upend the assumption of what was humanly possible. Presently, this fascination deals with these figures of the past. I think I romanticize an era where science was fairly limited, where these adventures were represented by the personalities rather than the machines that made them possible.

While the paintings in “A Distant Winter” stray from the recorded history of the world/this country, the subject matter still embodies an era of the past. I’m nostalgic for a time that I wasn’t even a part of. As I step away from the forgiveness of the computer I allow myself to make mistakes with the pencils and paint, layering images much like I do in a sketchbook, forcing myself to make decisions and deal with the consequences.

Would you say the new work is pretty in-line with your normal output, or are you trying some drastically new things?

I would say the work continues the path that my work has previously been following. With roots in editorial illustration I try to create a narrative for the viewer to interpret. Whether the subjects are real or fictional, there’s a story behind this moment that I have captured.

What has the process been like? What mediums are you working in?

While I have been making screen prints for a little over two years now I still haven’t figured out the way that works best for me. I used to create a finished, detailed pencil drawing and use photoshop to create separations from that specific drawing, but lately I’ve been merely creating a set amount of layers/colors (in photoshop still) and treating the whole piece as a painting. Without a clear vision of the finished piece, I push and pull, add and subtract, replacing my pencil with a wacom tablet. Often, the surprise of an errant stroke will define a certain part of the picture as I try to find the right balance of a composition.

With the paintings, that same uncertainty haunts the beginning of each piece. I get to a point where I’m happy with the base drawing but in order to push a certain value or color I must cover parts with paint and pull out the lights to get the desired effect. The only real confidence I have is in my drawing ability. I’m not saying that I’m a better drawer than anyone else, but rather I have almost zero confidence in any other medium. Therefore, each painting starts with a pretty detailed drawing and then as soon as I start painting, it is a constant battle of holding onto that structure while relinquishing some control and letting the paint do it’s job. Acrylic paints have given me the best results, as I work in five to eight hour segments, and the quick drying time allows for quick edits, creating the necessary pressure to get the information down on the board.

How is the approach on personal paintings and art prints different than client work (i.e. concert posters, movie posters, etc)?

While I have been lucky to work with art directors who have trusted my abilities and ideas, it’s freeing to work without any constraints. That same freedom can be unnerving, however as you consider the infinite amount of possibilities for any one mark. I have been trying lately to trust my instincts, not question my motives, and let my intuition guide the creating of a piece.

Being known as an artist that mostly works on posters, do shows like this inspire you to create more original art?

It’s tricky being known for a certain style and then being given the freedom to create anything you want. Before I started making prints, I didn’t know of this world of poster-makers and the collectors who keep them in business. With the vision of becoming an editorial illustrator after school, I had no idea this artist-as-merchant thing was even a possibility. I actually found that after a year of making work I started to spend too much time considering my audience. It became crippling as I was constantly questioning the reception of each project. That said, I’ve been extremely fortunate with the positive response that my work has received and am constantly humbled by the amount people who promote my work, whose names pop up with almost every release. In the past couple months I think I’ve really started to find my voice and I’m extremely excited to share this new work with an audience.

And just to confirm, you’ll be in attendance, correct?

That is correct. (insert Chris Farley in Billy Madison impression.)

7 Responses to ““A Distant Winter” Interview Number One – Rich Kelly”

  1. I can’t wait to see what Rich has in store for the show.

  2. The perspective of the editorial illustrator turned artist-as- merchant and the effect that has on creativity is very conscientiously said. Also the fascination with another era certainly comes through in Rich’s work.

  3. There are very few artists whose new work I look forward to seeing as much as Rich Kelly.

  4. More posters for Mondo please, Rich! Please make it happen Mitch!

  5. Rich took all my monies this week. Awesome work Rich.

  6. Hell yeah Rich Kelly. Dude makes me glad I’ve got eyes.

  7. Highly talented and his work embodies his concepts very well. His way of working is reminiscent to illustrators in the past, probably of the same era as the figures portrayed in his work but with his contemporary edge. It’s going to be a great show.

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