People of Niagara: Local artist Rea Kelly

Photo Credit: Rea Kelly

Photo Credit: Rea Kelly

Rea Kelly is passionate about her art and producing work that is worthwhile in a world that often overlooks the value of artists. Kelly is currently a third-year Studio Art major at Brock and has spread her wings during her time here.

“I mainly do drawing, I have just been getting into painting now. I am taking a painting course right now and that has really pushed me into using paint. I am finding I really, really enjoy it, so that is probably going to become its own thing [focused work],” said Kelly.

Kelly is a multi-talented artist, expressing her art through a variety of mediums. Her foundational form, however, is ink.

“What I usually do inside and outside of school is use a lot of ink. I don’t do really high realism stuff, I like focusing on line work. I really like the graphic illustrative side for smaller pieces I use ink pens, but for larger pieces, I use brush and ink,” said Kelly. “Usually [there is] washes of colour in the background, but for my drawing stuff, I don’t usually work with colour. When I started painting, then I started to get more into colours.”

Kelly sees inspiration everywhere, even in downtown St. Catharines, where many people would be blind to the artistic value of the local architecture.

“I draw a lot of architecture — especially downtown, we have a lot of 19th-century buildings. Down on St. Paul Street, you have the old-time tops of buildings and then right below you have a Pizza Pizza.”

Kelly says that architecture is interesting and challenging to draw. She describes it as the reconciliation of two completely different crafts.

“I genuinely love drawing architecture, it is like you have this mathematical, precise thing, but when I draw I don’t like using rulers or anything like that, it is all by hand.”

Her aesthetic is dark, impressionistic and fluid. She generally sticks to a deep colour palette, fitting considering the dark subject matter she often utilizes.

“I like being able to see the process when looking at a painting, that is my aesthetic preference. I really like the impressionist movement, it is not about the image it is about the paint.”

Kelly created her preference by drawing inspiration from different artists, as well as fostering her own style.

“I really like Jenny Saville and Francis Bacon. A lot of my painting is dark, using dark colours and tones. For content, I like darker, psychological stuff which I have been really tapping into for my painting.”

Kelly isn’t afraid to experiment and is still growing as an artist.

“When I am drawing I will use a brush and ink, kind of mimicking painting with drawing. One of my pictures, I did a Vincent Van Gogh and a portrait over top of it to mimic the painting with the ink. I am still very early, so a lot of it is me experimenting and finding out what I like.”

Despite Kelly’s success and passion, it is hard not to address the reality of being an artist today. From the stigma of a “lazy artist” to the marginalization artists face there is no doubt being an artist, in any form, is not easy.

“The worst part is the stigma around going to art school. What is nice is that the people in art school know why we are there, but those on the outside ask ‘what are you doing with your life?’” said Kelly. “Most people do not understand the arts industry, and it might not be their fault. A lot of people do not have knowledge about what art is and what art means.”

Individuality and taking into account the world we live in is a big part of being an artist.

“Being in a creative profession, whether it be music or journalism, what you write and what you make is up to you and that is what makes [being an artist] good is your input into it,” said Kelly.

Despite the stigma around being an artist, Kelly is committed to her craft and wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

“That is all I want out of life is to do my own thing, I am sure most people in the arts would say the same thing. It is a lot of playing, in a very not childish sense. It is academic, but at the same time it is not, it is exploring your creative side, exploring what you want to say and taking a concept and technical skills to make something that is worthwhile in this world. It is hard for that reason because [I ask myself] does what I make matter? But I wouldn’t be doing anything else. I have to do this,” said Kelly.

Kelly plans to continue with art well past her university days.

“I am devoting a large part of my life to creative output. You are dedicating yourself to creative output and you are putting yourself into the art world no matter what section of that world it may be,” said Kelly.

Kelly has big things coming her way, with an exciting studio project underway.

“What I am working on right now in my painting studio is something I haven’t done before. I am really liking what I am making because the nice thing with painting is there is more movement, especially on bigger canvases.”

Kelly is like many student artists, trying to make an impact in the world while remaining true to her style.

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