A Date with Kelly Grace

430Date Night Series by Kelly Grace1, 2 and 3 from the Date Night series by Kelly Grace.

I am sitting in a neat little coffee shop in Leslieville, sipping a massive cappuccino and listening to my nifty new voice recorder. I just met with Kelly Grace. I had seen her mixed media pieces at the last few One of a Kind shows and each time I have fallen more and more in love with her "Date Night" series. That seems to be the way I buy art; I have to wait and if I keep thinking about it I know it's right. The other day these pieces popped back into my head so I decided to act and what a great reason to jump back into my blog writing.

I got utterly lost trying to find the studio that Kelly shares with

her husband Shaun Downey and two other great artists; Kyle Stewart and Gosia – whom I highlighted in a previous blog (http://www.baitedhookhandmade.com/blog/200-artists-3-hours) – small world.

422The StudioThe Studio - Shaun Downey working on the left, Kelly Grace on the right.

Once I found her studio, after banging on a few wrong doors, I was welcomed into the most wonderfully bright studio. The woman who greeted me at the door was exactly like the faces that I had remembered from the paintings - bright red hair swept to the side in vintage-style finger curls and she even wore turquoise, the exact colour palette found in many of her works.

420Date Night Sketches by Kelly GraceSketches for the Date Night series by Kelly Grace.

Kelly's area in the studio is easy to spot. I recognized some of the panels from her One of a Kind booth which were being used as walls. I see one wall with many small pencil sketched vignettes taped to it. These sketches are the foundation for the  Date Night series which was inspired by one of Kelly's "heros" Norman Rockwell. "They are portraits of myself and my friends" she explains, "but sometimes I have to change their hair." Sometimes when her friends come over she will make them pose for future drawings. It is a collection that is constantly expanding.

421Kelly Grace and Norman RockwellKelly Grace holding the photo that inspired the Date Night series by Norman Rockwell - her hero.

The palette of the Date Night series is saturated blues, turquoises and reds. I asked Kelly about these colours which appear in her other paintings as well. Her response was quite amusing; "I don't know why I use this colour scheme. Maybe I had sheets that colour when I was a kid. Maybe it is from watching TRON. I just love that colour combination." She told me that the walls in her house are also those colours.

428Grace Kelly by Kelly GraceGrace Kelly by Kelly Grace (yes that is her real name).

The Date Night series evolved from her early experiences at various art fairs. Her first show was tough because, as Kelly said, "you put yourself out there". She was selling her fine art paintings. Fine art can be a difficult sell especially to those unfamiliar with the process and the value of the work. She was disappointed when people were enthusiastic but didn't buy and discouraged when people sneered at the prices. She was especially frustrated when those enthusiastic people came back only to discover that their favourite painting had been sold.

424ProgressDate Night pieces in preparation for The Artist Project exhibition.

After this experience she began thinking about ways to control these issues. Kelly decided to create images that could be duplicated yet still individually created so that each one remains unique. She uses pigment gel transfers on wooded box frames. She breathes life into each one by working colour on top of the trasfer. She uses an abrasive technique to create an antique look, then paints into the areas that she wants more saturated to give the colours more vibrancy. She then goes back over it with another gel transfer. "The difference is that I am creating 10 little pieces for $60 each instead of one big piece for $600," Kelly explains. This makes it more accessable for the average consumer to own their own piece of art and not feel pressured.

She still has some difficulty with "the art police" who do not understanding the technique. When she tries to explain the technique people turn glassy-eyed. So she now refers to them as mixed-media "pop-art" pieces which seems to satisfy most people.

425Cyclists In AmsterdamCyclists In Amsterdam, acrylic and pencil crayon, by Kelly Grace.

Even though Kelly has perfected the pigment transfer technique she continues to create her paintings. They are wonderful to look at and they exercise a completely different skill set from the gel transfers. One painting that was perched on her easel was a portait of a retro-looking woman in a laundromat. The image is pensive and calming. Kelly asked me about my name and my Dutch heritage. She then brought out her paintings of Amsterdam, a city she adores. She has been there several times and has taken hundreds of photographs. Her technique for these is a combination of painting and pencil. The juxtaposition of the crisp, spidery pencil lines next to the washes of soft acrylic colours is lovely.

427In Delft by Kelly GraceIn Delft, acrylic and pencil crayon, by Kelly Grace.

Painting for Kelly was a natural direction for her to follow. She comes from a family of artistic, creative people. Her sister, Shannon Gerard, is a print-maker – she and Kelly would work together as kids to make presents for Christmas and birthdays. Her mother and father both helped her prepare for her entrance into art school. Kelly's family is a huge support to her. Her husband was the main proponent for her to quit her day-job and dive into her art career full-time, which still scares her. Her father helps her plan and set up her booth at art exhibits and fairs. The excitement and hustle of these shows are reminiscent of her father's childhood. Kelly's father grew up with a dad who was a clown at local fairs. Kelly shows me a photograph of her grandfather with his clown make-up on and her dad and uncle as a little boys sitting next to him. She then shows me her painting of that photo and says, "this is one painting I will never sell."

426Breakfast with BebeBreakfast With Be Be by Kelly Grace.

Kelly's website: http://www.kellective.com/

Watch Kelly's promo video for The Artist Project http://youtu.be/IoHVImeu9YA

The Artist Project: http://www.theartistprojecttoronto.com/

Kelly's sister Shanon Gerard: http://shannongerard.tumblr.com/

Kally's Studio mates
Shaun Dawney: http://www.shaundowney.com/
Kyle Stewart: http://www.kylestewart.ca/
Gosia: http://illustrationbygosia.blogspot.com/

429Oz by Kelly aceKelly is only mildly obsessed with the Wizard of Oz.