Kels O’Sullivan, an award-winning illustrator and graphic designer, recently found her creative voice after committing to a daily painting ritual. The process well and truly paid off, as Kels not only renewed her passion, she created a business doing exactly what she loves. Discover Kels beautiful Mid-Century inspired work at our Melbourne AW15 market this weekend, and read on to discover more about her process.
How would you describe the style of your work?
My work sits somewhere between art, design and illustration. It is abstract referenced from life, nature, an experience or an idea. My style is quite eclectic. I have a lot of different ideas that I am always trying and exploring.
I used to be concerned that I don’t have one singular style but now I have embraced my diversity and see it as strength rather than a weakness. My work definitely has a modernist influence to it.
What is your background and what lead you to where you are today?
I have a background in illustration and design. I have worked as a graphic designer for 13 years and whilst I really enjoy it and am able to work with some amazing people and on amazing projects I felt that something was missing.
After the birth of my son it became clear to me that what I was missing was personal expression. I had neglected my personal creative voice, so I became determined to find it again. I began painting and creating everyday, for the love of it. Through exploration and my renewed passion I am expressing my love of design, art and nature and the simple joy of doing what I love.
What inspires your work? Where do you head for regular inspiration?
I am continually inspired by water and nature. I live by the ocean and can see it from the studio and most living areas of my home, so it’s a bit hard not to be influenced by it! The way light is reflected on the water is of particular interest to me. I am also heavily inspired by textures from nature and also within textiles. I love tiny stitches, textiles and weavings.
My work is particularly influenced by colours and shapes found in mid century textiles. Also as a means of keeping me inspired I undertake a daily art project; positing a daily 30min sketch to instagram @thebookofkels. It’s been a great way to experiment, get ideas on paper and to connect socially with a lovely and supportive creative community.
What materials do you prefer to work with and which ones would you like to explore more?
I am in love with acrylic on wood. There is something about painting on that hard surface that has really just clicked with me. I also paint on raw linen. I enjoy a surface where I can leave some parts unpainted and allow the raw material to show through.
I also really love scratchboard, which is not really in vogue at the moment but I am sure there will be a resurgence! I love making tiny little lines and textures in my works that just couldn’t be achieved any other way. I also enjoy making paintings, marks and scanning them to make digital compositions. This is how many of my Art Prints have been composed. It’s a process that combines my illustration and design backgrounds.
Describe your workspace and surroundings and what your creative process is.
I have a home-studio that I share with my husband, who is a Designer. It is filled with all things art and design. Living and working from home means a lot of flexibility and a lot of late nights and it is really rewarding to be able to work along side my family.
Once I get an idea I run with it and be quite intuitive with the art making. When I let myself go and have trust in the artistic process I am happiest and make my best work.
What advice would you give others wanting to follow a similar path?
Just do it! There’s no harm in trying. You really have to just put yourself out there and make your dreams happen. There are so many opportunities now with connecting with others and with social media and finding your own market for your art.
Life is short, if you feel the passion to create then create. There’s a great book ‘Art Inc.’ by Lisa Congdon that may get you thinking about how to carve out a market for your work.
What has been your favourite project or exhibition and why?
My first exhibition that I held as part of South Australia’s Living Arts Festival (SALA). It really signified the turning point for me where I realised that I actually could make this happen, people were liking my work (and buying it) and it gave me so much confidence to just keep going and creating, but also to think smart about how I could reach a wider audience.
I am also really proud to have exhibited with artist from all over the world in The Strikeaway Show in June this year in San Francisco.
What aspirations do you have for the future and what would be your dream project?
I would love to be involved in creating textiles, décor or furnishing. I create many pattern ideas for my daily art project @thebookofkels and it is fuelling my desires for my own fabric.
I am also looking forward to a solo exhibition of my paintings in October.