I wanted to share a glimpse of the Fall 2018 Where Women Create Magazine including the story of my work and studio in Concord, Massachusetts. It is so thrilling to peruse the shelves of a bookstore or the magazine rack in your favorite store and find yourself in the pages of your favorite magazine. I’m so grateful to Jo Packham and Matthew Mead for the continual support of my work. Take a peek below at my feature and pick up a copy – on newsstands until October.
s u r f i n g in March
Photography by Matthew Mead
ELLEN KELLEY-MCHALE lives and works in Concord, Massachusetts. She is an artist, designer and a connector of people. As a member of The Umbrella Community Arts Center’s Board of Directors—and as an artist in the community—Ellen loves to support fellow artists and other creatives as a way to share her knowledge and grow the artistic community. It is her way to give back to all the people that have lifted her up along the way.
My home is located in historic Concord, Massachusetts, a place brimming with a rich literary history and a revered status in the American Revolution. My town was home to Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and my favorite, Louisa May Alcott. The creative well runs deep here.
I grew up in Boston with a super-creative mother who could knit, sew, draw and cook. She definitely encouraged my creativity but also pushed me to embark on a career in healthcare as a way to fulfill what she called “a real job.” I loved my “real job” caring for people, but I always maintained my creative spirit. It wasn’t until I moved to New Jersey as a young mother that I began teaching art classes at my son’s preschool. When a relocation took us to London, I joined the board of an International Women’s club and immersed myself in the arts and planning art events. When we returned to the States, I focused on creating art and taking art classes.
I have always lived a creative life of drawing, dreaming and designing, but mostly as a backdrop to my professional life and my life as a mom, wife, daughter and friend. It wasn’t until our last child was in the process of being launched and 50 was looming that I decided to put myself out there creatively and see where that journey would lead me. I launched a website and blog and documented a project where I created 50 works of art before I turned 50. To my surprise, that blog attracted the attention of a few magazines featuring my art and interior work and opened the door to an exciting collaboration with a wellknown lifestyle expert that still is strong today.
“My biggest accomplishment is that after a lifetime of being creative and making art, I’m confident enough to call myself an artist.”
My creativity is a reflection of my personal life. The artwork I create is a direct reflection of whom I’m with, what I’m doing, where I’m at, and whom I love. My work is inspired by our travels, our summer life by the sea and these long cold winters in New England. You can probably guess how tough the winter has been by how many floral paintings that I’ve created during that time. This year I began painting surf scenes in March!
When I was a little girl, I loved to play with paper dolls, mainly because I could draw and paint my own outfits complete with the paper tabs to hang off the doll. I was a daydreamer and loved to create little, perfect worlds. I love re-creating a special moment in time and honoring it; either through a piece of art, a thoughtful gift or a beautiful space.
The journey of creativity is never-ending for me. It is always evolving. I started out creating paste paper and then moved on to using the paste paper to create collages. Collage felt safe to me in the beginning — almost as if there were an extra layer between me and the work I was making. Eventually, I began to incorporate my drawings into my work and began to explore painting. I found that I loved everything about it. I began to trust my unique way of expressing what I observed and how I translated that onto paper. Then I learned to show my work (sometimes even without holding my breath)!
I start my mornings in my home studio, working on multiple projects at the same time. I scour art books, the internet, magazines and my son’s instagram account for inspiration (he’s got great surf photos). Sometimes, my ideas work backward—like when I find the perfect antique frame in my favorite vintage store and I imagine the painting I need to create for it. Other times a piece of work can require weeks and months of revisiting before I’m willing to call it finished. Either way, I’m up for the artistic journey. I keep at it until it finally feels right. I would describe my creative style as loose and imaginative—with my images suggested—rather than being realistic. I use a lot of layering of both scribbles and paint to build up interest on the canvas.
My goal is to communicate a sense of optimism and joy in my work. I’m inspired by everyday life with my family and my friends. I’m an observer and love to translate things that delight me in a
simple, colorful way. I use my paintings as my journal… they are a moment captured in time.
“Everything starts as somebody’s daydream.”
The favorite item in my studio has to be a sculpture of a woman in thought, her face resting against her hand. I have the piece sitting on top my art cart, where on its head, I’ve perched the furry bear-cub hat my son wore on his first Halloween almost 21 years ago. It makes me smile. The biggest challenge I have with creating are all the un-creative parts: the responsibilities that have nothing to do with making art but are necessary to succeed. I’ve learned it takes a village, and I appreciate everyone in that village, from my awesome web developer to my equally awesome reproduction/framing guys who are kind enough to look out for me and teach me things I haven’t the slightest clue about.
I’m many things—one of them being an artist—and it is my desire to showcase my love of life through my work. It’s important to me that my art has a sense of optimism, and I’m so honored when someone appreciates what I do. I’m also a person who values and appreciates other artists and creative people and understands that we need to lift each other up and support each other’s journey so we can create a dynamic artistic community.
More on Ellen