With a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Kennesaw State University, Kelly McKernan is a traditional artist working, these days, primarily in watercolours. Dismiss those images of bland, washed-out landscapes and still-lifes; McKernan’s work presents us with a semi-surrealistic smorgasbord of introspective, even tragic female studies against a backdrop of mysterious haze, elusive forests, and hints at geometric architecture. She deftly combines anatomical realism with hard, illustrative lines and loose bleeds and spatters in a manner which at times evokes street art more than fine watercolour, and her use of colour is sublime – muted (but never drab) palettes shot through with flashes of vivid yellow or red.
An interest in illustration is apparent in her fine art work – a heavy vein of fairytale mythos runs throughout, with the appearance here and there of fairy wings, antlered girls, birds and fish – but McKernan has also produced work for book covers and albums, and even when working with established characters and universes, still manages with ease to make them her own. What’s perhaps most striking when grazing among McKernan’s gallery is the sheer scope of variety she manages to create. There are recurring motifs – pieces which seem to fit together as a collection – but many are entirely distinct from one another despite the relatively narrow field of subject and tools she works within. This is a clear sign of someone who has bested their craft; an artist who can take the same basic building blocks, and create from them something completely different from what has gone before.
There is a definite sense of a journey in McKernan’s work, of constantly channelling new ideas and attaining new ambitions. She is a regular at gallery showings and is in-tune with her audience online, too, interacting through social media and an adept at self-promotion; an inspiration to any young artist in today’s media-centric world.
As for the future, McKernan says: ‘I’m working towards building a stronger illustration portfolio as well as more pop-culture inspired works for shows coming up. Otherwise, I’ll be focusing on baby time!’
At current, McKernan is expecting her first child, which unfortunately means giving up her studio space to make room for a nursery. In order to be able to move into a larger home with room for both baby and studio, she’s holding an IndieGoGo campaign which is already past halfway to its goal, but there are still plenty of great rewards waiting to be scooped up (at time of writing there are 29 days left on the campaign).
She also accepts commission work and sells prints and original pieces through her website (check site for details),