September Studio Update

September Studio Update

It's been a month of school-focused commitments, an exhibition to mark the half-way point in my MFA, plus a bit of jail cell magic sprinkled into the mix (no, I didn't commit a crime).

August Studio Update: Wrapping Up

August Studio Update: Wrapping Up

August has been a nice balance between head-down work at my school studio in the thick of research and gearing up for some great opportunities and client work in the autumn.

December Studio Update: A Year to Remember

As 2017 winds down, I am grateful. While it has been the hardest year of my life (one reason I am thankful it is over), it has also been one of unexpected opportunity, growth, and new beginnings.

MA Fine Art Open Studios at Bath Spa University

This coming Wednesday evening and most of Thursday, the 6th-7th November, we're having Open Studios for my MA Fine Art program at Bath Spa University. There's all kinds of interesting things happening in our studios - if you have a moment, pop in! I'd love to see you there. Details below.

Holiday Cards 2017 in Partnership with Compassion in World Farming

Back in 2015, my studio practice took a one-year exploratory detour into overpainted photographs of farm animals. We had recently relocated to the English countryside from Germany and I was captivated by rural living. 

Initially, the farm animals grounded me to a new normal, and then the focus shifted to the animals themselves. They gaze at the viewer with undeniable presence and personality. My interest grew in acknowledging their existence as living beings, in the midst of large-scale farming.

The series of paintings born from this period, New Country, is no longer work that I actively pursue. The original paintings continue to be collected and I love to find ways to keep the series active, even if I'm not still painting.

 Kelly M. O'Brien,  Bossy Ones for CIWF Holiday 2017 . ©2017

Kelly M. O'Brien, Bossy Ones for CIWF Holiday 2017. ©2017

Which is why I'm thrilled to share that two pieces from New Country have been selected for Compassion in World Farming's 2017 Holiday Card boxed set. All proceeds from card sales go to support this UK-based non-profit that works effortlessly in service of farm animal welfare. There will also be an auction for one fine art print each of the two images that were selected for the cards.

There's still time to order cards for the holidays, but you should hurry - the first printing sold out weeks ago but the online shop has been restocked with more! 

 Kelly M. O'Brien,  You're New Around Here, Aren't You? for CIWF Holiday 2017 . ©2017

Kelly M. O'Brien, You're New Around Here, Aren't You? for CIWF Holiday 2017. ©2017

Learn more about CIWF's mission, purchase cards and spread the word about a good cause!

Hand-embellished Prints

I am very excited about a new project underway—and while I can't reveal many details (yet), I can start to share the process of creating something brand new. The challenge is to come up with a solution to use a large amount of my work in a cost-effective way. Original artwork is beyond the scope of the budget, yet we want to create something more unique and special than limited edition prints of the same piece.

Enter hand-embellished prints. They sit between original artwork and a straightforward reproduction, such as giclées (fine art digital prints). Using a reproduction print as the base, the work is then added-to or worked-into with techniques such as touches or washes of paint, spots of clear acrylic to create highlights or other mark-making on top of the print.

 Laser cut tests at Bristol Design Forge. Kelly M. O'Brien ©2017

Laser cut tests at Bristol Design Forge. Kelly M. O'Brien ©2017

In the case of my burnt paper series, I have been testing ways to efficiently burn back into the paper print of an original, as well as create satisfying gilding effects that are cost-effective. Bristol Design Forge has been helping figure out how to use laser cutting to create a range of effects, from clean cuts that barely appear to be touched by heat, to heavier edges with a crispy effect (the latter being much to the owner's dismay, I think, as they pride themselves on getting as clean a cut as possible!).

Testing the possible range of laser cut effects for my burnt paper series, "Playing With Fire" at Bristol Design Forge, Bristol, UK. Kelly M. O'Brien ©2017

The samples are off to the client next week, and with a little luck, I'll be sharing more on this project in the near future.

Mending | Tending at Spike Island Art Centre

Spike Island is a fantastic art center in Bristol that offers world-class exhibitions, artist studios, creative industry workspace, and lots of rich public programming. It's a really inspiring place to be, housed in a former tea packing warehouse on the banks of the Avon River that winds through the city.

I got involved last winter by becoming an Associate and attending monthly art critiques—an informal, friendly gathering of mainly artists and curators to discuss our work. One of Spike's curators saw work from my Object (Im)permanence and Mending | Tending series at a crit (art critique where we share our work and get feedback on it), then shortly after that invited me to do a workshop on the ideas and techniques behind the work.

Last Saturday was our sold-out workshop, a packed house of all ages and range of experience! I was a bit apprehensive about how to pull this off, given the relative complexity of the concepts and techniques I use, and the wide range of needs to take care of in the room. 

 Spike Island  Mending | Tending  Workshop by Kelly O'Brien, Bristol, UK. Part of Spike Island's  I Am Making Art  public engagement programming.

Spike Island Mending | Tending Workshop by Kelly O'Brien, Bristol, UK. Part of Spike Island's I Am Making Art public engagement programming.

The whole experience was a joy. Everyone really dug in and engaged with the ideas, materials, and art. People created beautiful, meaningful work that portrayed personal and imagined stories from the images we worked with.

 Work in progress by Jo Young,  Mending | Tending  workshop at Spike Island. Image: Jo Young via @firedupjo

Work in progress by Jo Young, Mending | Tending workshop at Spike Island. Image: Jo Young via @firedupjo

I was reminded once again - both in preparing for and facilitating this workshop - that my lifelong accumulation of skills does not end with one career (corporate/government trainer), but rather underpins and supports what I do now as an artist. Will I do more workshops like this? I'm not sure - I've resisted going down that path, mainly to focus on making my own work, but also because of burnout as a trainer. This experience was so fulfilling, it's caused me to be open to the possibility.

Two New Commissions Going to Hong Kong

Two new pieces are winging their way this week to take up residence in a Mt. Nicholson Show Flat in Hong Kong.

 Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire No. 67 . Paper, gold leaf, ink, flame. 40 x 28 x 1 inches. ©2017. Commissioned for Mt. Nicholson Show Flat, Hong Kong.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire No. 67. Paper, gold leaf, ink, flame. 40 x 28 x 1 inches. ©2017. Commissioned for Mt. Nicholson Show Flat, Hong Kong.

These pieces are inspired directly from my very first and third works in this series, back in 2013. There was something very simple and innocent about Playing With Fire No. 1 and No. 3 that I enjoyed returning to in these two latest versions.

 Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire No. 68 . Paper, gold leaf, ink, flame. 40 x 28 x 1 inches. ©2017. Commissioned for Mt. Nicholson Show Flat, Hong Kong.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire No. 68. Paper, gold leaf, ink, flame. 40 x 28 x 1 inches. ©2017. Commissioned for Mt. Nicholson Show Flat, Hong Kong.

These new pieces are another example of scaling up and referencing earlier work. Clients often come to me with images of my former pieces, asking me if I can do something "similar to this one, only in these dimensions."

 Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire No. 67 . Paper, gold leaf, ink, flame. 40 x 28 x 1 inches. ©2017. Commissioned for Mt. Nicholson Show Flat, Hong Kong.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire No. 67. Paper, gold leaf, ink, flame. 40 x 28 x 1 inches. ©2017. Commissioned for Mt. Nicholson Show Flat, Hong Kong.

At first, I resisted the idea of just re-producing work to spec­―is that really fine art? What I've learned is that they're all original! With flame and paper as the mediums, there is no way any two pieces will ever be identical.

 Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire No. 67 . Paper, gold leaf, ink, flame. 40 x 28 x 1 inches. ©2017. Commissioned for Mt. Nicholson Show Flat, Hong Kong.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire No. 67. Paper, gold leaf, ink, flame. 40 x 28 x 1 inches. ©2017. Commissioned for Mt. Nicholson Show Flat, Hong Kong.

As with any work in a series, there are subtle differences to be explored­―the drip and flow of Chinese ink, a variation on gold leaf, what fire does to paper. So no matter the original model, this work truly has a mind of its own.

 Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire No. 68 . Paper, gold leaf, ink, flame. 40 x 28 x 1 inches. ©2017. Commissioned for Mt. Nicholson Show Flat, Hong Kong.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire No. 68. Paper, gold leaf, ink, flame. 40 x 28 x 1 inches. ©2017. Commissioned for Mt. Nicholson Show Flat, Hong Kong.

 Kelly M. O'Brien,  Playing With Fire Nos. 67  and  68 . Paper, gold leaf, ink, flame. 40 x 28 x 1 inches each. ©2017. Commissioned for Mt. Nicholson Show Flat, Hong Kong.

Kelly M. O'Brien, Playing With Fire Nos. 67 and 68. Paper, gold leaf, ink, flame. 40 x 28 x 1 inches each. ©2017. Commissioned for Mt. Nicholson Show Flat, Hong Kong.

A big thank you to the team at James Robertson Art Consultants for the opportunity! And to Zed Al-Gafoor at Imagecentre in Bath for the beautiful images.