Interview with Kelly Deakin

Interview with Kelly Deakin

Could you please introduce yourself and tell us how you started in the arts? and your first experience in art making?

Hello, my name is Kelly Deakin, I am second youngest of ten siblings. My father was a photographer and my mother a painter. I graduated from Ucluelet Secondary School, BC Canada in 1979 after which I completed a distance education commercial art program. I went on to have a young family, three sons and one daughter all grown with families of there own. I also have two step children and altogether ten grandchildren. 

My art career started as soon as I could hold a crayon, I had never ending supplies of sketch books, colored paper and cardboard to draw on, my mother spent a great deal of time creating with me. One evening when I was about seven she and I took off our socks and she showed me how to draw with the pencil between my toes then she got me to draw with my left hand even though I am right handed. She taught me to trust myself and what I wish to portray in my drawing. She said, ‘what you want to create is within you, trust yourself’. I often think about this when I run into obstacles with my current work. In Elementary School I did a piece for a Remembrance Day poster contest and won first place, that was very exciting and kept me aiming to create more skillfully. 

How would you describe yourself and your artwork?

I am a little quirky, down to earth, country girl who wears her heart on her sleeve and likes to see all the good in people and situations. I love to run in the woods, wander in the rain and swim in the ocean on New Years Day with no wet suit. I like to think my art work represents all that, unique eclectic, one of a kind.  Nature, animals and fairy tale are my main subjects. I absolutely love color, you will often see me dressed in tie dye or bright oranges, pinks, blues, yet I work in sepia. I love that the burning looks like sepia and allows the natural canvases I use to remain natural looking with a hint of old school photography (the sepia look).

Where do you get your inspiration from?

One of my biggest inspirations come from studying the journey and works of M.C. Escher, he had a very different way of looking at things and himself, I think that reflects in my work as well.

Living in a rural west coast area, I am inspired by the world around me from the thousands of tiny insects that fly above the garden to the eagles, ravens, crows and hummingbirds that soar above and around us, to the bears that wander onto our property and all the animals in between. I love the way the wind-swept trees grow sideways, the ocean that is forever changing and the creatures that live within it to the idea that fairies could really exist. The outdoors is what keep my creative mind creative. I spend time outdoors everyday and when I get stuck on a piece that I am working on I go out for a walk or a run or to weed the garden, being outdoors helps me overcome whatever obstacle is blocking my current creativity. 

What emotions do you hope the viewers experience when looking at your art?

I hope to evoke intrigue, wonder and raw emotion from my work. There are two experiences that stick in my mind where people displayed the type of emotion I would like to see when people view my work. I had a display of artist conks at a summer show, most of them quite large, a young oriental couple came by and really liked them all especially the frog designs. They explained that their apartment in the city was very tiny and they would not have room to house the large one they liked best. I dug around into my supplies to find a tiny artist conk about a one-inch diameter with a frog on it and gifted it to them. The young woman was overjoyed, giggling and laughing and hiding behind her husband. She returned about 20min later leaving a loaf of fresh-made bread on my table and ran away giggling. That was pure joy!

The second experience was during the Cultural Heritage Festival in Ucluelet where the theme was Celebrating Women of the West Coast. A couple from Washington USA was viewing the show, the fellow came up to me to ask if I knew the artist Kelly and before he could say the last name, he saw my name tag. He burst into tears and started to explain to me how much he appreciated my piece and what it symbolized and asked if he could hug me, which of course I was wide open to. He said he would love to take the piece home with him, however once again it was too large for their small home in the city. This was pure raw emotion! 

If all my pieces can create emotions like these I am a happy artist!

When do you know that an artwork is finished?

This is an interesting question. I get so involved in each piece adding in detail after detail that I work for a bit then stop and walk away, then come back and continue. Sometimes I just know a piece is finished because of the grain of the wood or the surface of the artist conk, such as the Full Moon Rising, not as much detail as I normally put in, yet the image goes with the natural grain of the wood, I knew it needed no more detail. Most of my pieces are so detailed that sometimes I want to keep adding to it, then it gets to the point of how much detail is too much. I believe stepping away from the piece for a short time and coming back to it helps me decide if more is needed or if it is enough just where I left off. I don’t generally pre-draw any of my designs so the only guidelines I have for a finished design is that of the image in my mind.  Once the piece appears to resemble that which I have been envisioning, that’s a good time to step back and say finished or just a little more.  So, I guess when I can step back from the piece and really look at it without feeling like I need to add just a little more, then that piece is complete.

What has been the most exciting moment in your art career so far?

The most exciting moment of my career this far was when I was asked to participate in the Parallax Art Fair in England. I made the trip out for the weekend event and while I was there, I was asked if I would like to show my work at the Gabriel Fine Arts Gallery in England. That was a definite highlight. Having my work at a Gallery in England for a year really inspired me to reach beyond my immediate connections to share my passion with the world, one piece of art at a time. 

How long does it take to produce one work?

My pieces are so diverse I feel that the preparation time is just as important as the actual burning time. When I work on an artist conk I stand them on a shelf while they dry and create an idea in my mind by the shape of the conk, I do not draw the design out in a sketch book first, I start burning the image directly onto the canvas, usually the start of an animal face or a tree or one simple image then I step away for a little while and come back and figure out what the rest needs to look like. With the smaller conks, provided I have ideas already I can complete several in a day, just recently I completed 9 small pieces in a six-hour studio sitting, this did not include the sealing of the conk and the finishing coat, stands or hangers. A medium conk takes about a week and the large ones take several months. Wood pieces are generally the same, I can complete simple smaller wood pieces 3 or 4 in day or two, medium pieces provided I have the idea clear in my mind one piece can be completed in a day and the larger pieces a week or more depending on how large. This amount of time includes the time I take to step back and look at the design and decide what it needs or doesn’t need.  I never the rush pieces because I pride myself on keeping them as one of a kind.  I am currently timing myself on a new design I call a half and half and this far working on two 11 x 14’s has taken me 10 hours of actual burning time and I am not yet finished. Going by the image I figure another 5 or 6 hours and these two will be complete. Time really is irrelevant to the type of work I do, it’s collecting the conks from the forest, sourcing the wood from wood mills or shops, then bringing the canvases home to dry and with the wood it usually needs to be cut to size or shape and sanded prior to thinking about the image. As much time goes into the preparing of the canvases as it does with the burning of the designs, so the time really varies. I usually work on more than one piece at a time it helps me to keep the creativity of each piece flowing.

What exciting projects are you working on right now? Can you share some of the future plans for your artworks? 

I came up with this idea for what I call a half and half. Half a photograph and half burning. I generally cut the photo image diagonally which creates two photos, the images I burn are the other half of the photo. I have collaborated with a photographer and created two of these so far, which means 4 pieces, 2 pair. I recently completed a Birch Bay Boat which I used my own photograph of an old wooden boat. I also cut this photograph diagonally and using the pyrographic technique burned the other half. These two pieces are 24 x 32 for which I also made my own frames, a craft of its own. I am extremely excited about these pieces as they are received extremely well by all who see them. These are for an upcoming show on the other side of Vancouver Island several hours away from my home base. 

At this time, I am working on a series of these half and half’s as a collaboration with a photographer friend Karen Gamble, the show is planned for Spring 2019. Normally I work on more than one piece at a time, so while I am working on the half and half’s, I am also working on a bench (3ft x 1ft x 4in) with the design of a pumpkin patch with child’s foot prints amongst the patch, another is a child’s toy box as well as several smaller artist conks. Usually while working on larger pieces I work on smaller ones because the large pieces take a great deal of concentration and the smaller pieces are much simpler with less concentration and they produce finished results in less time.

I just received a delivery of two large slabs of cedar, one ten foot by 18inches and one 7ft by 16inches. One of them is planned to be a mural showing the history of Ucluelet, my home town. 

Do you have any upcoming events or exhibitions we should know about?

2019 promises to be a good busy year for my work. 

I am planning and coordinating the half and half show, which will take place in the Spring, date will be determined in December. 

As well as entering three of my own pieces, I will be coordinating the Pacific Rim Arts Society’s largest non-juried show on the West Coast. This annual show takes place at the Black Rock Oceanfront Resort 596 Marine Drive, Ucluelet BC March 8 – 17, 2019

The most exciting show of 2019 will be my solo show at Artifact 84 Orchard Street, New York, NY USA, July 10 – 28th (this will be my first show in the States

I will also enter as many juried shows as time and pieces allow. 

Where do you see your art going in five years?

In five-years, I would like most of my work to be large custom requests. I would like to be to the point where galleries and curators are coming to me to ask for my work to be displayed instead of me searching out display opportunities. I would also like to be in the position to hire a young person to take care of my social media and advertising opportunities.  Most of all I would like to be at a place where people see one or several of my pieces on display and they automatically say, “That’s a Kelly Deakin” unique and one of a kind! 



Erik Mark Sandberg

Erik Mark Sandberg