Thursday, March 12, 2020

Children's BooK Illustration, by John Kelley

Here is a small section of an illustration I am working on for a client. Illustrating this particular book has been fun and challenging. I won't say too much about the project at this point because it has such a long way to go and some of the drawing elements I am still considering reworking.

My process is also slowing evolving but as of right now I start with a drawing on transparent parchment paper. This allows me to make changes by creating drawings on separate pieces of paper and then placing them under the original drawing to see if they work.  It should also be noted that parchment paper is very conducive for erasing and reworking your drawing, though this characteristic does make it a little messy as well.  Easy to smudge your drawing if you don't have something to keep your hand up off of the drawing.

After the drawing is finished I transfer it to a piece of watercolor paper and then start painting. If you draw this lightly in graphite there is no problem removing the drawing after the watercolor is finished.  My watercolor technique is essentially drawing with watercolor. I imagine it is somewhat close to how you would use egg tempera. I have not been trained to use either, so I am pretty much making up my own technique (not an original John Kelley painting technique I'm sure. It's just what the medium allows).

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Myrtle's Guards, by John Kelley

Added the first beaver guard to my childrens book. Not a very dynamic drawing but I'm hoping the guard below will balance this.  This guard will be a friendly one while the smaller one will have an attitude. I promise when it stops raining I will get better shots of these drawings. My photo lighting setup is not where I draw. Hard to get the pieces down there without getting them wet.  The video below may give you a better idea of how it's coming.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Queen Myrtles Sister, designed by John Kelley

This is Myrtle’s sister. Her name is Leaves. Everybody needs at least one friend like her.

Below are two videos of the process of getting Leaves onto the final drawing. Creating her took an entire day of drawing and redrawing.  I've had her in my mind's eye for over a year but getting that picture out of my head and on the paper was much more difficult than I anticipated. When I finally got what I wanted, and at the correct size, I used a transfer method to ensure I didn't lose anything.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

From The Sketchbook of John Kelley

Another John Kelley Octopus tree from the sketchbook. The lamps hanging from the branches are definitely not an original idea but it does bring a sense of story to the image! Scanner, scanner, scanner, my kingdom for a scanner. Similar trees will definitely be a part of Myrtles kingdom. 

Friday, March 6, 2020

Introducing Queen Myrtle

Queen Myrtle took two days to do her hair. Frizzy, clunky, too many bows. “Is it a bob, a clod, a clattering clunk?” She finally gave up. There were more pressing problems to get into a funk about.

This is the first drawing on the first page of "Queen Myrtle, A Seven Storied Tale" by John Kelley (me).  I have permission to post these as they develop. I will begin working on her sister Leaves today. She will be just behind Myrtle.

Please note that I'm having a terrible time figuring out how to scan/photograph these drawings properly. The image above is a jacked-up photoshop version.  If you would like to see a more accurate (though darker) version of the pencil work please check out my Instagram feed @jkelleyart.

Thursday, September 20, 2018


Other than the portrait I'm working on, first time back to the easel in several weeks

9x12 Oil on Panel
See link for time-lapse

Friday, August 17, 2018

Floral Sketch

One of the greatest options in the history of art, the still life. Flowers are always a winner when your not quite sure what to draw or paint. Their combination of both hard and soft edges (see King Richard's book, chapter six) and their lost and found shapes make them a challenge. One that is usually informative. Draw a still life with a mechanical pencil and make your brain go "weeeeeeeeeee!"

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Couple of Apples 5 x 10 Oil on Panel

This little Korean Tea cup has been a little friend of mine since I first started to paint back in 1998. My father in law was stationed in Korea in the 50's and, if I have my story straight, purchased it while there.  If you've followed me long enough (I tend to remove paintings from the internet after 3 or more years) you may have seen the teapot from this set show up in quite a few paintings as well.  Old friends I enjoy painting. Recently sold this painting via a friend sharing one of my Facebook posts on his feed.  Different world from when I first started doing this but a fun way to have someone find out about my work.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Dried Flowers 10 x 5 Oil on Panel

I got stuck in the studio last week due to various family care issues and lack of planning on my part.  Even though the weather was fantastic I was stuck inside with very little painting time.  It doesn't always go the way you want it to, but often a forced change of routine allows the brain to come up with creative solutions.  This little painting was a surprise.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Fall Tree's

We have had no rain in Tuscaloosa for over 8 weeks. Bad for the plants, great for keeping the extreme color contrast of blue and orange in check.  I certainly enjoy the bright colors of fall, but the dull colors this fall, in my opinion, make better paintings. Here is my shot at if from last week.

The magic painting hat at work.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Cloud Study 9" x 11" by John Kelley

I painted this in 95 degree heat, 75% humidity, under only my hat.  You west coast folks have it made.

Cottondale Storm, 30" x 30". Oil Painting by John Kelley

I've been driving through this intersection for 23 years and never once considered it a subject suitable for a painting. Creation can make even nondescript strip malls and gas stations visually compelling.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Friday, August 26, 2016

Figure Studies

I had never really thought about putting figures into my landscape paintings until this summer.  Since it is new territory for me, I have been painting from videos and going out and drawing figures in public to prepare myself for the task.  The process is enjoyable and many things have already been learned. Here is a little sample.

Monday, May 30, 2016


This is "Dust", 17"x17" Oil on panel. Did this with a lot of strong ambient light and head on primary source. Almost eliminates form but makes the colors changes a little more interesting.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

John Kelley Receives OPA Award of Excellence

My painting "Metal Kettle" received the "Award of Excellence" at the 2015 Oil Painters of America Eastern Regional Juried Art Show.  The show is being held a Eckert &Ross Fine Art and will be on display until December 5th. To see the rest of the shows awards go to the OPA Eastern Regional Page.