WILD LIFE

by LINDA HAYES

BEAUTY, ENERGY, THE MYSTERY of animals’ lives in the natural world. Interpreting such intriguing concepts—either on canvas in delightfully colorful oil paintings or in dynamic black-and-white relief prints—is the motivation behind Fort Worth artist Avery Kelly’s prolific body of work.

Intuiting meaningful moments or outcomes is an inspiration. The artist says: “It’s very much knowing what I want the scene to feel like, then painting or drawing to express that feeling, rather than having a specific vision of what it should look like and then painting or carving that. It’s very exciting when it happens because it’s unknown until then.”

Robin in Dandelions, Oil on canvas, 16″ x 20″

With an impressive and complementary combination of visual art degrees (a Master of Arts and Master of Fine Arts in studio art from the University of Texas at Tyler, a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from Texas Christian University, and a Bachelor of Arts in environmental studies from the University of Redlands, California), Kelly clearly possesses the appropriate tools to enable her pursuit. But it’s her curious nature and keen eye that drive her ability to successfully single out potential subjects, or creatures if you like.

Deer, cows, foxes, geese, raccoons, quail, owls and other wild things, mostly species native to the American West, are all fair game, so to speak, and she is often commissioned to paint portraits of people’s pets as well. “When I’m doing a painting of an animal, I typically take or gather a variety of photos with the animal in different poses,” she shares. “I like to capture expressions, an instant in the animal’s life or something playful. There’s a little bit of a humorous bent in what I show, so [the work] is not too stiff or taking itself too seriously.”

Buddy and Xavier, Oil on canvas, 24″ x 36″

When the opportunity or inspiration presents itself, Kelly will also paint landscapes—dramatic, colorful abstracts of water and sky on the Texas Gulf Coast, for instance. “It’s working with paint in a very different way,” she notes, as is eschewing the more typical paintbrush for the palette knife she uses for its uniquely natural effect.

Also quite different is the process of printmaking, which she is passionate about and which is largely inspired by her affinity for the strong contrast and clarity of black-and-white Pueblo pottery. “Working in black and white is such a dramatic switch and something I really enjoy,” she says. “Paintings are on a larger scale and with lots of colors. Printmaking is a completely different process and on a smaller scale. I’ll make a specific drawing, figure out how to translate that into black and white, and then put it on a plate and carve it. It gives me a totally new way to look at the subject matter.” Often, Kelly will work on prints at home in the evenings or on location while traveling. “It gives me another way to keep things moving forward,” she says.

Three Geese, Oil on canvas, 36″ x 48″

Kelly works out of a small private studio, in which she paints every day, but she uses a nearby space to set out work for potential buyers to view. She also has occasional exhibitions and will sometimes bring work to an interested party for purchase. An elaborate garden-meadow mural she painted on the garden walls of Fort Worth’s Trinity Episcopal Church is open to the community to view. A professional website provides a colorful overview of work and offerings, including paintings, prints and collectible items, like notecards, which the artist considers an affordable way to share her art.

Roadrunner in the Meadow II, Oil on canvas, 24″ x 24″

And if that were not enough to keep busy, Kelly also finds time to teach drawing, painting, design, and art appreciation classes at two local colleges. “It’s something I enjoy,” she says. “It gives me a chance to share my experiences with the students and encourage them to express their creativity.”

Linda Hayes is an Aspen, Colorado-based freelance writer specializing in architecture, design and the luxury lifestyle. Her articles have appeared in LUXE, Hawaiian Style, Elle Decor and Mountain Living.