There Is Hope: A conversation with Kelly
“They do not attempt to cover the whole surface of the paper but instead focus on a few elements, so that the image seems to emerge magically from the empty white background, rather like a photograph that we observe in the process of development.” – Henry Adams, on the drawings of Andrew Wyeth
Traditional medium & subject matter meets a contemporary focus on process through August at Gallery360 thanks to the beautiful and touching charcoal drawings included in Pittsburgh artist Kelly Blevins’ exhibit Solitary Relief.
So often those of us in search of what’s contemporary in the art world are looking for the extreme and unfamiliar. We can be so focused on finding something to loudly jolt us out of our jaded barrage of constant imagery by the sheer force of it’s size, shock value, or uncommon materials that we overlook the foundation skills which educated us to begin with. Such is the beauty of Kelly’s black and white charcoal drawings rooted in traditional drawing practices. Generally devoid of background details, the figures and faces exist in an unknown void, often completely blacked out. The extreme shifts of dark shadows and bright, directly lit highlights create sculptural references in the pieces that have completely captivated all of our gallery visitors so far this month.
A quote from Kelly’s artist statement has stayed with me each time I look at these pieces and feel the isolation of the subjects. She writes, “there is hope inside of art.” This simple idea reminds me that what may seem to be vulnerable isolation can also be a blank space holding unlimited possibility, all it takes is a little determination.
I’ve been lucky enough to have an ongoing conversation with Kelly about her pieces, her process, and her inspirations, and will be updating it regularly as the questions continue:
Lauren: I think your dedication to the process of these drawings is something people should be aware of, you said that you typically put in a full day’s worth of work at a time on a drawing. What is your studio schedule like?
Kelly: Yes, my time is consumed by what I do on a daily basis. When I am not drawing, I am looking for opportunities to share my work around the country and internationally. I try to stay “in it” because when I stray a little I feel worried I might lose something, or miss the opportunity to commit to an idea. A motto I work by, “You have to keep watering the flower garden.”
What is the most important supply in your studio?
The most important supply in my studio is an eraser pen called Tuff Stuff. Once I’m about halfway through one, and there are no more, I panic a little bit. Call 911, the Fire Department, the President…I need an eraser!
We are also displaying sketchbooks of Kelly’s as well as two portfolios of smaller drawings, reference photos, and prints to give visitors an inside look into her process.
You typically work from photographs instead of live models, but many artists feel that they lose something in the process when referencing photos rather than life. Do you think that it is important to draw from life as well as photos?
Drawing from life is very different than from a picture, I can agree with that. Often, I draw from life as an exercise with models, animals, people and inanimate objects. I use pictures because I love the stillness of a moment, the captured time that doesn’t move, like a statue. I feel that using a photograph does take something away, but it also adds a unique style that I like. I can capture something, just like a photograph.
You went to art school for graphic design, not drawing. Do you think that your design education informs your work, and if you could go back would you have changed your focus?
Studying graphic design was actually really helpful as far as learning the business of self-employment. There were things I gained from the education that are permanent. Ways to convey messages, concept development and I grew fond of designing. It had become increasingly difficult to balance drawing and designing, and I knew that focusing on one would be more beneficial. In the end drawing is what I loved more. I wouldn’t change my focus looking back, I think testing the waters of different art worlds gave me experience I wouldn’t have gained if I didn’t at least give it a go.
Who are some of your biggest influences, both artists and otherwise?
The biggest influences that I have always had would be Bob Dylan, Banksy, Picasso, Andrew
Wyeth, Michelangelo, Paulo Coelho, Kahlil Gibran and Andy Warhol. There are many influences, but these are my main squeezes.
What kind of artwork do you surround yourself with at home, in the studio, and elsewhere?
I have some art books I thumb through on my free time, Cezanne, Andy Warhol Prints, Andrew Wyeth. National Geographic is also a big influence for my photography. In the studio I usually have a good documentary going in the background or music. I am always researching artists around the world, mainly Banksy. I also like to surround myself with artists, people I can have lengthy and informative conversations about the art world with.
Kelly, Lauren, and Amy’s podcast with David & Keith from The Lancast is now available! This is big news for our ever-growing Gallery360 and this exhibit so help us spread the word, and listen in here: A Gallery With A 360 Perspective
Check back through August for more Q & A with Kelly & Lauren, as well as the link to our podcast with the guys from The Lancast which will be airing 8/13 (credit to them for this pic)!