Emerging Artists | Jenny Kelley

Blooming with color

Jenny Kelley, Blue Hydrangeas, oil, 16 x 20.

Jenny Kelley, Blue Hydrangeas, oil, 16 x 20.

This story was featured in the September 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art September 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Jenny Kelley can’t remember a time when she didn’t want to be an artist. As the daughter of a fabric artist and a carpenter, the Massachusetts native grew up in a household where creativity was part of everyday life. By the time she entered middle school, Kelley was copying the works of Mary Cassatt and other famed Impressionists in acrylic. As a teenager, she studied drawing and painting with artist Carl Lopes. On a part-time basis, she also painted furniture, lamps, and tiles for interior designer Joan Peters. But her love for the portrait paintings of 19th-century artists like Degas and Sargent made perhaps the deepest mark on Kelley. As a student at Rhode Island School of Design, and in the first few years after graduating, she focused mainly on figurative painting. “I worked a lot from photographs, but everything was turning out flat,” she says. “It just wasn’t inspiring.”

Then, about seven years ago, Kelley began painting flowers from life—delphiniums, snapdragons, peonies, you name it. Suddenly, colors appeared brighter, fresher, and more alive. “You realize what you don’t see in a photo,” she explains. Gradually, her style began to change, too. “The more I paint from life, the more I realize what you don’t have to include—that you can get the look of something without painstakingly painting every tiny detail,” says the artist.

Though she has her favorites, Kelley generally portrays blossoms that are in season. In the summertime, the hydrangeas blooming around her home in the seaside town of Duxbury, MA, are always a good bet. When setting up her floral arrangements, the artist might add a vase or piece of fabric with colors that mirror the petals’ hues, creating a luscious color harmony. “I use a lot of transparent colors in my palette, and Indian yellow has been an incredible part of it because you can make deep, beautiful greens,” she says. “Sometimes, to get the vibrancy of a flower, I’ll use paint straight out of the tube.”

Last year Kelley’s depiction of a jar of yellow roses was a finalist in the Art Renewal Center Salon. She also became a signature member of American Women Artists last fall, and this month, her still life CHASE’S TULIPS is on view in AWA’s exhibition at the Haggin Museum in Stockton, CA. These days, for Kelley, you might say everything’s coming up roses. —Kim Agricola

representation
Tree’s Place Gallery, Orleans, MA; Leslie Levy Fine Art, Scottsdale, AZ; Tilting at Windmills Gallery, Manchester, VT.

This story was featured in the September 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art September 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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