Visual Artist Kelly Spencer

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This year Bailey Nelson Willis Street is taking part in the World of Wearable arts window display competition. We teamed up with local artist Kelly Spencer to transform our Willis Street store frontage into a WOW worthy masterpiece. Read on to learn more about Kelly and our collaboration.

Tell us about your journey into the visual arts. Did it change over time from a hobby to a career?

To be honest, I was barely drawing at all between finishing high school and my early 20’s. But the moment I decided I wanted to build a career on illustration, I was full steam ahead. I left my job in a local cafe (standard artist trajectory) and dove into freelance work designing posters for gigs, small illustrations for publications, and random graphic design jobs. Over time, the jobs just got cooler (and better paying).

Did you ever formally study visual arts or was your craft self taught?
No, I studied fashion design, but pushed that aside once I commenced illustration. By the time I’d chosen to follow this path I didn’t have the patience to re-train. There’s definitely a few things that would’ve been quicker to learn if I’d attended university, but hey it’s been fun learning the hard way!

These days you’re based out of Wellington. Does your line of work mean you get to travel a lot?
It does, and for that i’m very grateful. Travel was actually a major motivating factor for me in pursuing a freelance career, and I can’t imagine life any other way. It’s not all romance, it’s not like I can just pack up and leave any old time, but work-travel opportunities continue to come my way, plus I’m able to take a decent portion of my work with me wherever I go.

What does an average day look like for you?
All day’s start with slightly too much coffee while l try to smash out as many emails as possible. If I’m painting a mural i’ll aim to be on site by 9am and work a big long day. If I’m working in the studio then I might do some drawing at home from the comfort of the couch before heading in to the studio to work on designs/paintings/illustrations. And more emails.

Where do you find your main source of inspiration? Do you find looking to other artists useful or do you tend to find sources of inspiration from the world around you?

I try to keep by intake balanced. Of course I love looking at what my peers are creating, but I am increasingly trying to consume art which is really different from my own. It seems to be a healthier approach to ensure the production of original ideas. I love vintage animation and illustrations, I follow a lot of tattoo artists, and a handful of abstract artists who work with colour in a huge way. Out in the world, I’m always scouting out colour combos and retro signage.

Being based in our country's capital with a plethora of eateries and bars at your fingertips; what are your top 3 recommendations for us out of towners?
Oooh. I don’t eat meat or dairy, and we’re fortunate to have a few locations that serve this market excellently: The Botanist in Lyall Bay for brunch, and Plant Blazed for epic vegan burgers beside Vic Architecture Campus. Oh and Hanging Ditch for a drink. It’s everything I ever wanted in a bar.

What exciting things do you have coming up for the rest of 2019?

A one way ticket to Mexico…?! It will eventually become a return ticket, but I have a couple of projects lined up in the Caribbean region, followed by Christmas in New York. Up until then I have a full schedule of murals and  illustration work here in NZ. Exciting times!

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