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WINTER 2014/2015

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The Passionate Painter

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life in the moment|artist profile


The Passionate Painter


story by Ellen Kelly photos by Sergei Belski


“My goal is for every person to realize that they can express themselves through art, through colour and texture and shape and line and how they lay out their art material. It is possible for everyone to be an artist,” says Bev Kelly, artist and teacher.


Kelly, who moved to Airdrie in 2012 after living in Saskatoon and then Calgary, was delighted to find Artist’s Night, a visual artists critique group, at Good Earth Café. “I introduced myself and they we so warm and welcoming,” she says. “Airdrie fosters the arts in an incredible way.”


Kelly’s mother was an artist before her eight children were born and she nurtured in them a love of art and creativity. “When I was about seven, I did this little painting. Years later I found it and I feel like I’ve always been trying to go back to the spontaneity that came with that first piece – the fresh childlike approach, no inhibitions – just painting for the joy of painting,” says Kelly.


The artist’s early life was imbued with talent and artistic appreciation. Her mother encouraged an appreciation for creative arts, theatre and music; her grandmother and a great aunt were very artistic. “We were all musical,” she says.


When she was in her early 20s, Kelly took some university courses followed by many classes and workshops, where she producing realistic paintings that never quite met with her approval. She taught art in her home for 13 years while her children were young, then went back to university (at the same time as her children), graduating in 2008 with a degree in education and majors in fine arts and home economics. While she didn’t have a lot of time for her own art during those years, the process of teaching helped form her process when she was able to get back to her own creative efforts.


As part of her university experience, in 2007 Kelly was awarded the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship, which sponsored her to study at the Elam School of Art at the University of Auckland. “It was a conceptual art school,” says Kelly. “It forced me to make art in a completely foreign way to what I was comfortable with. However it helped me to be freer and it brought in information from all levels and angles. It informed my practice in an amazing way.”


She became less constrained and now paints with an element of realism but also with a new and energetic element of abstraction. “Art is a way to bring beauty to the world,” she says.


Kelly works with acrylics and some oils and currently enjoys mixed media, using non-traditional materials as well as non-traditional tools. “I make stuff up,” she says. “My studio is my lab.”


Inspiration comes from nature and paintings often include suggestions of water and trees. She admires the bold, spontaneous art of Amy Dryer and aspires to create in that manner.


Her passion for art as therapy led to her involvement with children with juvenile arthritis and a recent project sponsored by the McCaig Institute and Telus Spark, aimed at creating awareness that arthritis can affect anyone. “Art as therapy gives purpose to my art so art is no longer just aesthetic,” says Kelly.


Good Earth has displayed her paintings twice, and her art has been exhibited through Partnerships in Business. Her paintings currently adorn a bus pass, a Fortis utility box and a street banner on First Avenue, and she exhibits at the Airdrie Home and Garden Show. Kelly is also a member of ARTS and the Federation of Canadian Artists (FCA) and her art has been juried in shows sponsored by the FCA.


She may draw on her creative energy year round, but Kelly’s time as an artist is limited to summer. “I am a full-time teacher and that is my priority 10 months of the year,” she says.


Art enters her Grade 3 classroom in many ways, though, as she works with a culturally diverse population. “Art transcends barriers,” she says.


Kelly’s talent has been passed on to her grown children. Her son, Jon Bailey, believes his art background, working from 2D to 3D and colour depth, has been useful in his training as a resident surgeon. Her daughter, Janelle Bailey Scrimgeour, who is also her mother’s web, business and resource consultant, is an interior decorator. And her husband, Steve, is her rock and her “souvenir” from New Zealand.


Bev Kelly’s art can be seen at


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