In the Fall 2016 issue of Acrylic Artist we feature Kevin T. Kelly, focusing on his acrylic landscapes as well as his painting techniques. We caught up with Kelly recently, whose studio happens to be in the same town as the home office of Acrylic Artist—Cincinnati, Ohio, to get his take on what makes a great studio and his tips for an artist moving into his or her first studio space.
AA: Your studio complex has open-to-the-public nights. Is this typical and what should artists contemplating renting space in such a setting consider before signing a contract?
Kevin T. Kelly: It’s a personal preference, really. Nothing is written in stone and the artist can choose to open for the events or not. Many artists view open studio nights as opportunities to gain more exposure for their work and it’s an excellent venue to do so. I, on the other hand, have been cultivating gallery connections for the past 25 years and prefer to sell through my dealers. I do allow for collectors, curators, student field trips, artists and small gatherings of friends to arrange studio visits, but my space is primarily set up for working rather than entertaining or networking.
AA: What do you think are the most important features of an artist’s studio?
KTK: Here are the top 5 things I need:
- Ease of Use: How easy will it be to get large works in and out of the studio? Does the space have double doors? If it’s located above ground level, does it have access to an elevator that accommodates large canvasses? Does it have a loading dock?
- Running water: Does the space have a sink with running water in it? Many of the spaces at the Essex do not have a water source inside the studio (mine does), but one is available in common areas on each floor. A bathroom is also preferable. My current space does not have a bathroom within the studio space, but one is located just down the hall.
- Accessibility: 24-hour access is mandatory (at least for me) because I have deadlines that require long hours of being in the studio.
- Security: Peace of mind is a must. If you’re worried about your personal safety because of security issues it’s likely you won’t spend as much time in the studio as you would like.
- Lighting: In the past, I’ve never had much natural light in the studio so I learned to work around it. My son Jack jokingly referred to each of these previous spaces as “The Bunker.” I would install incandescent fixtures to approximate the gallery setting, so I always knew how my paintings would appear when viewed in that environment. The wall of north light windows in the studio I’m occupying now is a real gift. The soft natural light bathing the space from sunrise to sunset has an intrinsic cumulative effect on my psyche regardless of the weather conditions outside.
AA: What has been the greatest benefit for you working from a studio space away from the home? Would a home studio space suit you better and if so, why?
KTK: I can get very focused and introverted. Sometimes (especially during the winter months) when I’m working on the computer or drawing at home, I won’t leave the apartment for days. Having a studio away from home forces me out of that routine. The studios I’ve had in the past I enjoyed most were in close proximity to home but separate. Ideally, I’d like to have a house and studio that are not physically connected on my property. The notion of being at home but having to leave the house to work in the studio is very appealing to me.
AA: Do you have some parting words of advice for first-time studio seekers?
KTK: The studio is never perfect in its raw state, but becomes so once you settle into it and make it your own. It becomes a sacred space in which you go to engage the eternal creative spirit and thus becomes a sanctuary in which you allow your true self to fully realize its potential. My suggestion is to dream big and give your dreams room enough to grow.
To see more of Kevin T. Kelly’s work, get your copy of Acrylic Artist, on newsstands now and available via Norhtlightshop.com in print and digital version. You can reach the artist via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos by: Aaron Kent