Introducing Kelly Hay-Hambrook, an artist who lives and works in Miramichi, NB.
When did you start creating art?
I remember doing paint by numbers a lot growing up as a child. I was always doodling but nothing serious. I went into drafting as my career, which is drawing, but on a technical level. I realized my desire to paint later in life.
Is your family artistic?
I would have to say “Not really!” My father was a principal and a strong believer in education, but not so much on the art side of things. Sports and politics were the main topics of conversation in our household. It’s funny, I was asked a few years ago if any of us kids had drawings done by my father. None of us knew he even doodled. I was told he had some talent, but nothing of his was ever saved.
What styles or mediums do you work in?
My first love was oils. I painted with those for years. Then I was exposed to many mediums when I took the “Art Fundamentals” course at NBCC. I was enchanted by charcoal and pastels, especially pastels. That was four years ago and I work exclusively in pastel now. I hope to get back to oils soon. It seems that a lot of pastel artists also work in oils and are able to switch back and forth and I would like to be able to do that.
I don’t think I have a “style” yet, still letting that happen! But I do prefer to paint realistically.
Where do you get your ideas or inspiration from?
This is so cliche, but life inspires me I guess. I love animals and nature so I get out to the woods as much as I can. I love the atmosphere of swamps and bogs. There you can see the connection between life and decay. To have one, you need the other.
Why do you do what you do?
Why? That’s a bit harder to explain. Art becomes so much a part of you that it becomes necessary. If I go a day or two without drawing/ painting, I feel like something is missing.
Do you follow certain themes in your work?
I guess an overall theme would be nature. But I don’t do specifically one thing.
Did you receive any formal training in art?
When I first starting doing oils, I went to Bob Stephens classes at night. Bob has been giving art lessons in Miramichi for years. I went to Bob for a long time. What a great teacher he is! He introduced me to everything oils! The great thing about Bob is that he can modify his teaching to your skill level. So as the months went by he was able to keep showing me new things. Then I had the opportunity to go take the Art Fundamentals course at NBCC. This really opened my eyes to so many mediums, different styles of art and also Art History. Then that one year course turned into three years when I decided to continue into Animation and Graphics. I graduated from that course in 2013. I have also attended a three day pastel workshop in Montreal with Master
Pastelist Terri Ford. She uses underpainting to lay down the darks and she builds from there. This summer I took a two day Plein Air workshop put on by the Miramichi Art Core with Michael Chesley Johnson. He reinforced the dark underpainting but with Michael he was able to get me to understand the importance of value. As I incorporate these lessons into my studio work I am hoping that I will see an improvement in my finished art.
Do you have any advice for those people considering entering the Art Fundamentals course?
The only thing I can say is that you need to love to draw/ paint. You need to want to make yourself a better artist. You are instructed eight hours a day for 10 months on how to see like an artist, interpret like an artist and create like the artist you want to be. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. My “job” was to draw and paint all day. It doesn’t get any better than that! And
you have to have an open mind. You can’t be set in your ways or you will not get the full benefit of the course.
Any advice for young Artists who believe they have talent and are hesitant about showing their work?
This is a hard question because I struggle with this myself. When I first started I was horrified of people outside my family seeing my work. Through schooling I have gotten to the point where I will post to the internet and display in the Water Street Gallery, but it’s still hard. The only piece of advice I would have is to take small steps. Show people that will give you constructive criticism so you can improve.
What is the best advice you have been given?
My father gave me the best advice. He told me to do the best job I could do at everything I did. If I ended up digging ditches, be the best damn ditch digger around! I have really tried to do that all my life.
What are your goals as an artist?
My number one goal is to become a “Master Pastelist”. You have to enter juried shows and place and win in so many to get that designation. Another goal is to always be improving, always keep it interesting. I would also love to have a solo show someday. But I have to become more productive for that to happen!
Describe your process.
I am always looking for inspiration everywhere. During my drive to work, walking the dogs, cooking meals! When I find something I usually take umpteen pictures of it, and if I can, I do a sketch of it from life. Back in my studio, I do thumbnail sketches first to do a value study and work out the composition. I take out anything from the photo that doesn’t add to the overall painting. It’s only a small sketch at this point, maybe 2” x 2”. When I am happy with that I create a drawing on a piece of paper that is the same size as my pastel board. I add detail at this point. When I am happy with the drawing I flip it and cover the back with a blueish pastel and transfer the drawing onto the board. I reference my thumbnails and loosely cover the dark areas with a dark Nupastel. I set this dark with a brush and alcohol. This is the underpainting. Then I add the soft pastels and build layers until the painting is complete. The time it takes can range from a couple of days to a couple of months depending on size, detail and how fussy I am with it!
What are your other interests and hobbies?
I am involved with the Water Street Art Gallery. Really enjoy spending time with the customers to see their reactions and know their thoughts on the pieces in the Gallery. Art really is my hobby I guess. I love to go out and take pictures of birds, ducks and nature in general. I also love to garden, both flower and vegetable.
I am a freelance animator working at Loogaroo at the moment. They have been so helpful in bringing me along in my animation career. I hope to become proficient in digital background painting in the future.
Have you lived in Miramichi your whole life?
I was born and raised in Miramichi. Left after graduation and took schooling in Fredericton and Saint John. I then lived in Saint John for a number of years before coming back to the Miramichi. I came back for family I guess. Our family has deep roots here and I have always felt that this was home.