So we’re going to start with the difficult question: sum up your creative process in one word/phrase, and explain why!
I spend time hiking mountain trails and walking through the forest and in the trees. I use my camera to take quick shots of interesting shapes and patterns there. I also take shots of interesting shapes and patterns in architecture and in other places when I travel. Once in studio I look over many many images, and allow an idea or a concept to gel in my head. Then I just start painting and I let the composition go where it will.
A painting never has an end goal for me, just a basic concept and a starting point. I add, deduct, redo, paint over, sand out, add back, and carry on until the work feels cohesive and done. Then i set it aside for a while to be sure it’s really done. If I have to go back, even weeks or months later, I do. Oils have to cure anyway so they hang in the studio for some time before they get stored away. I like to have as many paintings from a series hanging around me as I can find room for. One image seems to inform the next, and by placing them around me I find new images and ideas come far more easily. I’ve learned the hard way that for me, I need to be surrounded by the finished work to be fluid in the creation of the next piece.
Were you always an artist, even as a child? What was your path to becoming an artist?
I was always an artist. I did a lot of art and other creative things as a child, always drawing, crafting, making things. As I grew up I decided I had to make a good living and so I went in to construction and spent many years there, from being a junior estimator in a small firm to running that department for a major firm to consulting for numerous top Toronto companies. I worked on everything from schools and civic buildings to high end offices, condominiums and bridges and tunnels. At one point in there I decided it was time to get back to my creative side. I took a watercolour class at night and slowly I began to paint more and more. I finally left the construction world and went back to school, getting my BFA from the Ontario College of Art and Design and then my MFA from the Chelsea College of Art and Design.
What is your medium of choice and what drew you to this particular medium?
When painting, I work with oil on linen. I didn’t start using this medium until I was at Chelsea. I loved the idea of it and the look and the depth of the old paintings. I figured if I was ever going to do it, during my Masters was the time to try so I switched. I’ve never looked back. It’s a very luscious material and the linen has a great texture for grabbing the paint. I do my own rabbit skin and use an oil based primer so it’s actually all natural product, even if some of it is a tad toxic. I also love that by doing the prep myself I control how smooth the surface either is or isn’t. I have recently done some work on linen that hasn’t been primed. It’s a very different way to work and a very different end result. Right now I’m doing a series of the same image to compare the different results from the different ways of working. I also do sculptures and installations. For those I work with whatever medium is required to fill the needs of the project. I used, fabrics, felt, lighting, electric motors, stones, styrofoam, moss, even adding sound if it makes the experience better.
Is there any particular experience, person, place, or thing that inspires you to create? Tell us about that.
I have a sort of “love affair” with trees and forests so being out in the mountains or just walking among trees is very cathartic for me. It’s been a slow evolution from the work I started out doing and the work I do now. In the early days, during school and for a while after, I did work about Women of Power and Goddesses. I think in hindsight it was more a subject school found acceptable than a true inspiration to me, although I do have a deep interest. Once I graduated I was working with no input from others and slowly but surely, with a temporary divergence into abstract, I have landed here, with trees and forests being the basis of all my work, from the paintings and installations to the public art pieces. I think they draw me because I grew up in a small town in central BC and my Dad was in the forest industry. We played outside in the trees all the time and of course my Dad taught us a great respect and appreciation for them. I know how much they affect me so I have done a lot of research into the benefits to humankind and to the interaction between us and them. My work is a reflection of our interconnectedness.
What is it like showing your work to people and what do you hope people take away from it?
I have been showing my work for a long time. In the early days it was very stressful and I wanted people to like my work. My early subjects were simple and easy so many people did like them and they sold like crazy. Then art school. And believe me, everything changed. My work has a lot more depth and meaning now; it’s far far more satisfying to create. Now, many people don’t actually like it and lots don’t understand it, but I’m ok with that. The work has a depth and meaning for me and there are many, many like-minded individuals that immerse themselves in it. I hope people take away the idea that we are also part of nature and that we must respect it, cherish it, protect it. I hope they feel a connection to trees and forests.
What advice do you have for other artists who may be looking to get their work exhibited?
Make work you love so you’re not tied to others responses to it. And always know that when someone turns you down or doesn’t like your work, it’s only one person’s opinion.
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Lynn Christine Kelly Art