Earlier this summer, I went to ArtFest with a friend. We took our time walking through, looking at all the amazing art, and talking to the artists. A few of them stood out to us, not just for their artistic offerings, but for their kind and fun personalities. Kelley J. Sullivan was one of them.
Despite the heat of the day, Kelley’s vendor tent was an oasis of cool. Cool paintings, cool water, and a cool artist. Inviting us in, she offered us bottles of water, answered our questions, and was just generally kind and amazing. Her paintings, all done in shades of blue, created the illusion of non-sweat inducing temperatures, and we found ourselves hanging out longer than we had intended. When we finally left to finish our tour of ArtFest, we ended up circling back to her booth. My friend couldn’t leave without purchasing some of her cards, and I couldn’t leave without asking for an interview. I just had to share her talent with you all.
Please keep reading to learn more about the deep, blue, emotions of Kelley J. Sullivan.
SnS: First of all, Kelley, thanks for interviewing with me. I am fascinated with your work. Please describe your style of painting.
KJS: It’s hard to peg my style down to one category. I’ve heard everything from abstract landscapes, to abstract impressionism. For me, the category has never mattered. In my mind, I paint emotional landscapes or models of inner-life. Every painting is a moment in time, tied to an emotional state that everyone has likely felt at some point.
SnS: Looking at your work, that is a great description! So, what drew you to the blue palette?
KJS: I’ve always felt more comfortable using a cool palette. When I try to go branch out into brighter, warmer colors it begins to feel forced. I figure if I’m trying to put some sort of my truth onto canvas, I need to stick to what feels right.
SnS: I like that. After ArtFest I started following you on Facebook. You’ve posted pictures of our art on your page, and many of them have a short poem attached. Do you write those, or are they quotes?
KJS: I write everything I post. (There may have been one exception, but I would have quoted the author) I have an absolute love affair with the written word, and write something for almost every piece I paint. I had originally intended to include the poem on the back of each painting, but realized it may change the experience of the viewer.
I think it is more important for each viewer to have their own personal experience with each piece. Without interjecting my meaning onto it. However, I have included it when requested.
SnS: Good to know. So, how did you become an artist? Did (or do) you have a more traditional job?
KJS: I started creating from the moment I was born. Although I’ve held an expansive array of other jobs, art was always a consistent passion in the background. In 2008 a friend saw some of my paintings and urged me to start sharing them. I started small, showing in local coffee shops and entering every online competition I could find. As I gained exposure, my career just started growing in an amazingly organic manner. I feel so lucky to be at a point in my life where I am able to do what I love as my sole career.
SnS: That is a blessing! Do you have any artists (of any genre) you admire?
KJS: There are so many. I find that most of the artists I am in love with aren’t necessarily world famous. They are artists I find on Instagram, at art fairs, or hanging in coffee shops as I travel. I am definitely drawn towards edgier styles of art. Some of my favorites right now are Walt Hall, Annie Owens, Kathryn Hackney, and James Lipnickas.
SnS: What do you do to get in the mood to paint? What inspires you?
KJS: Music is probably my biggest inspiration. With art as my full time job, I often have to create when I just don’t feel like it. If I put on some sad, moody music with good lyrical content it can usually put me in a place where I can open up and paint.
SnS: You seem to always be on the move. What do you do to relax?
KJS: Relax? Who has time for that! 🙂 But on the rare occasion when I am able to, I head outside. Hiking and camping are fuel for my soul. I’ve also found that as I am getting older, quality time with people who challenge me, in a positive way, can do wonders to help me recharge. I’m lucky to be surrounded by an incredible community.
SnS: Community is important. So what do you think is the one thing about you that people would be surprised to know?
KJS: Probably that putting my art into the world was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I painted solely for myself for years, and never had any intention of showing it to anyone. I had rooms full of unfinished paintings that had never seen daylight. I was terrified that no one would understand what I was doing. I’m still in awe that some connect to it.
SnS: Well it is beautiful, and lucky for us your friend pushed you to show it. So here is my favorite cheesy question. If you could host a picnic for anyone, living or dead, past or present, who would you invite and why?
KJS: I’m EXTREMELY sentimental over the people in my life that have shown me kindness, support, or encouragement. It would be one hell of a party. I would love to invite all the people that I have appreciated. It could have been a kind word on a hard day, or a huge show of encouragement. Some would not be surprised, but I bet quite a few would be shocked to receive the invitation.
SnS: I love that. That’s a great attitude to have. You were very kind to me and my friend at ArtFest. Do you have any causes or charities you support, other than overheated bloggers?
KJS: I am a board member of S.L.A.M. – Support Local Artists and Musicians, in Montana.
SnS: Sweet beans! You are a busy woman. Thanks Kelley for sharing your time and your talent with us all.
If you would like to see more of Kelley’s work. . .
Featured artist at ERA Landmark in Bozeman, MT. Sept. 8th.
INTROSPECTION, an ab-ex group show at FOLD Gallery in Los Angeles, CA. through Sept. 18th.
Bozeman Open Studio Tour – October 21 & 22.
Sip and SLAM Bozeman – September and October.