Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I am from Dayton, Ohio. I graduated from Wright State University with a concentration in Painting. My training during undergraduate school was mostly about observational based work. The school emphasized the importance of Cezanne, Corot, Giacometti and Chardin. I then attended the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth where I earned my MFA. It was much more open at that school. Students were able to explore more personal themes in their work. I was experimenting with a lot of different materials. I was a painter but I was using thin-set mortar, concrete, tar, house paint and many other weird things. My studio was absolutely filthy, in fact I couldn’t graduate until I cleaned it up. That took a good two weeks of scrubbing.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
I am trying to explore the theme of invented still lifes. It’s been challenging but I feel good about the path I am on. One painting usually leads into another. I am interested in formal issues and bringing those forward with maximum intensity and authenticity.
What is your process like?
My process is very spontaneous. I typically have no idea how a painting is going to begin. I usually only work on one piece at a time. If I work on more than one than my mind gets a bit lost, its hard for me to see things clearly. I make slow progress, things have always been hard for me. Even in school, I always had to work twice as hard just to earn a “B”. I think the hardest thing is knowing when to finish. I usually under-cook my work. I am always looking for a fresh, spontaneous type painting.
What is your favorite material to work with, and why?
I love oil paint mixed with cold wax medium. It is great. If you have not tried it, I would recommend it. The only problem is the cost is fairly high for the wax. Plus I go through it so much. But it really works well for me.
What is the last thing you read?
The last thing I read was a book about the downfall of Berlin in 1945. A very brutal time in out history. Many people think that the violence ended in Europe after the Nazis surrendered but it continued on. It was a very interesting book.
What are you passionate about?
I love working. I love being busy. It’s weird, but I actually enjoy a struggle. A struggle keeps you going, keeps you fighting. With a struggle, you have a determination to achieve something. Failure definitely comes into this equation and has to be accepted. Failure is hard to take but it builds a strong character.
What is the most surprising response you’ve received about your work from someone?
When someone told me my work reminded them of Philip Guston. I greatly admire Guston’s work but I never made that connection, perhaps maybe his abstract work. That makes more sense.
How do you spend your time when you’re not making work?
Thinking about my work, looking at art, visiting galleries and museums. That can be just as important as when I am making work.
How has your work evolved over the last few years?
My work has become more focused, which is what I have been working hard at. I think an artist can have more freedom of exploration if they create some sort of parameters. If you create some sort fenced in area, you’d be surprised how much there is to explore.
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
Boy, do I! Currently, I teach at 3 separate universities as an adjunct faculty member. I also work part time at a local library. I am working hard in the hopes of landing a full time university teaching position. I am willing to move anywhere in the country, I just want the opportunity.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
One of the best things that happened to me was when one of my teachers cut my painting in half. I was not mad at all. He taught me to be ruthless with my work, no fear. If it doesn’t live up to par then you should move on. Too many times people think there work is better than what it actually is.
Is there any piece of advice you would offer to others?
Work as hard as you can. The worst thing is when an artist boasts aloud that they are artists but many times they never work. Working hard does not mean you will make successful work, which should inspire you to work harder than you have ever imagined. Watch the movie “Whiplash”. The teacher in that movies should be yourself.
What do you do when you’re find yourself in a creative rut, or feeling unsure about what direction to go?
Get back in the studio and try again. Never give up. Show you work to a friend or teacher. Get some feedback from them.
What does it mean to you to have a “community?”
A community is a great thing for artists. It lets us know that we are not alone. That we are all going through the same struggles. I am very thankful for the artistic community, its a great way to learn and share.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make your work?
I usually have to have a soda. I know it’s not healthy for me but it really helps me keep focused. Hopefully I am not addicted!
How significant has attending art school been on your practice?
It has been extremely important. I have had so many great teachers. One shout out I have is for Glen Cebulash. He was my teacher for my first painting class. That was the best art class that I took, I learned so much. He really set me on course. He is a fabulous teacher and a great artist. If you don’t know him I suggest you look him up, you won’t be disappointed.
What is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far, related to your work?
I attended the Chautauqua School of Art for their summer program. That was an awesome experience. Everyday I would wake up and paint. I learned a lot from all the great teachers and students there.
Are you involved in any collaborative or self-organized projects?
I am currently the Director of the Dutoit Gallery in Dayton, Ohio.
What are you working on right now?
I am working on small oil sketches on paper. I am saving up my money for future projects so I have to cut back on materials.
Find more at samkellyart.com!