Growing up in a creative family, Kelly Grace started painting at a young age. Her paintings have a wide range of subjects including imagery taken from the vivid stories told by her farther.
SP: When did you decide to become a professional artist?
KG: Probably 2004.
SP: How did you decide?
KG: I've been in art school since I was 14. It's what I always aspired towards, but never really thought it would happen. In 2004 I had my first exhibition at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition. It went well, so I decided to keep going.
SP: Are there any stories you would want to share that stand out in your memory?
KG: Let me think here… I’ve done mostly group shows with artists who are friends, or my husband. I really can't think of any off hand…
SP: Your grandparents and father toured the United States as part of a circus, and you enjoyed the stories. Did these stories influence your artwork?
KG: My whole family is creative. My mom is a physiotherapist and she’s also creative. She knows how to draw but never pursued it in her life. I get it from all angles - creativity from my mom and from my dad - but mostly I get it from my dad's side of the family. Also, he's a computer nerd and avid amateur photographer, taking tons of photos when we were growing up. I’m lucky enough to have these photos to use as sources. That’s mostly where I get my inspiration - from the past, from our family - and also when he was growing up in California.
SP: Is this how you got into painting portraits, from your dad's photos?
KG: Not necessarily. I just really enjoy painting the face - painting portraits. I think it is the most interesting subject matter. I do paint cityscapes and landscapes but I always have to include a figure somewhere. I cannot paint a scene that has no people in it. Even if I am inspired by a certain landscape or cityscape, I always add, even if it’s by photoshop from other photos or a person.
SP: Why do think you always include people?
KG: Rather than just showing a street scene or a street at night, I think a person always adds more. If it has a figure or human person in it then there's something you can add - like a story. Not that I necessarily explain the stories behind my work, but I do like the viewers or the people that are purchasing the work to make up their own idea behind the piece.
SP: Was your experience on Star Portraits different from what you thought it was going to be?
KG: Well… I had a friend that actually did the show last season. I watched this episode, but really didn't have that much of an idea what it was going to be like. At first I was nervous, because the celebrity person is a mystery - until you get there. It was all very exciting. When the person is revealed to you and you instantly have to paint them - totally interesting - plus, the person I was to paint was pretty cool.
SP: Did you have any idea who the celebrity guest was?
KG: No, I had no idea. I was joking with Louise and one of the other artists - "Wouldn't it be funny if it was David Suzuki?" - ha-ha-ha - and then two seconds later he appeared (laughs).
SP: You were actually joking about it with Louise and then…
KG: We thought there was no way that it could be him (David Suzuki), and then it was, so it was pretty funny.
SP: How would you describe your work to someone who has never seen it before?
KG: Oh.. I don't know. That's a hard question to answer. It's very nostalgic. I use a lot of retro imagery and retro colour schemes. It is not realism per se - it is sort of representational and, I think, pretty impressionistic. A lot of people tell me when they see my paintings from far away they think "Oh, wow, that looks so much like a photograph..." but, up close the detail just sort of disappears and it's pretty messy.
SP: You had two weeks to paint of David Suzuki’s portrait. Did you feel any pressure?
KG: Yes, a little bit. With every painting you can spend weeks and weeks on it - especially when painting a person. I always wish I could spend more time on a portrait piece, but two weeks is what I usually spend on a painting. I didn't feel rushed or anything like that-- I did do my best and got it done.
SP: Do you have any upcoming exhibitions?
KG: I do, I have the Cabbage Town Art Festival September 11th and 12th. Also, the One of a Kind show in November.
SP: Do you have any future plans?
KG: Hopefully, I don't want to say fame, because visual artists don't really get that kind of fame, like as much as musicians or other art forms. I just want to be well known and respected in the industry. I want the people who are looking and buying [art] to always remember it, and always take something from it
Kelly's portrait of David Suzuki
Kelly Grace grew up in York Region, Ontario where, at age 14, she started her training as a visual artist. She is a graduate of Sheridan College. Working strictly with acrylic medium, she describes herself as a representational painter. Kelly feels that she made up her own way of painting.