Artist Profile: Kelly McNeil – Wildlife up Close
Dragonfly Arts on Broadway, located in Orangeville, ON, has so many lovely and unique things to offer to those who appreciate lovely and unique things! Their beautiful space plays host to some extra- ordinary Canadian artwork and artisans, with some of these artists having a working space right in the middle of this beautiful gallery.
One of those extraordinary artists is Kelly McNeil, wildlife painter, who sat down with me to talk about her inspirations, her methods, and to share some of her beautiful finished works that will leave you with an experience that leaps right off the canvas.
“Art has always been part of my life,” begins Kelly. So much so, that she studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design (now OCAD University), and graduated with a diploma in “Editorial Illustration” and a degree in “Bachelor of Design”. As Kelly explains, “People in Media Arts today are learning the basic design skills that I learned in pencil, paint and markers”. Beyond her education, it’s clear to see that Kelly is so much more than her “skill set”, as it was her soulful spirit that I found so inspirational. She is quick to point out that although she’s done portraits and landscape work, her passion is wildlife.
“When I had my children and was a stay-at-home mom, I was painting portraits and different landscapes. But once I bought my first digital camera, and went to the zoo, well… that was 18 years ago and the rest is history!”
Kelly’s amazing attention to detail makes her the perfect wildlife artist, and it’s the detail required to make her art come alive that sets her work apart from many others. “When you connect to wildlife, it connects back” explains Kelly. “I seek to have an experience with my subject, and then translate that experience onto canvas.”
When I asked Kelly more about this, she told me a wonderful story. “When I was in Nova Scotia visiting my parents, I saw an owl just off the bridge making a funny noise. It was too dark to get a great picture of the owl that day, but that evening we called for him, and he came and landed directly on the roof of my parents’ home. We decided to wait until the next evening. Just as dusk was setting in, my son and I went into the woods to see if we could find him. As it turned out, he was very high up in a tree, so I made the noise he had made at us the night before, and he slowly made his way down the tree toward us. My son and I knew we had just literally communicated with this beautiful owl. We felt we were beginning to build a relationship with him now. We called for him again, and this time he landed within 10ft of me. I took pictures of him for hours, and got some really beautiful shots. That painting was here in the gallery, but has now been sold. I called it “Christmas Island Local”, which is where my parents and this beautiful creature lived.”
What you can’t see in just reading this, is the absolute admiration and passion Kelly shows when sharing this story with me. Her passion is both contagious and heartwarming.
Kelly loves the connections she makes with her wildlife friends. Whether she’s taking photos at the zoo, wildlife centres, or simply going directly into nature itself, she’ll patiently wait for just the right photo. Her extreme love and respect for animals strongly dictates the beauty of her finished work. Kelly explains to me that she’ll take hundreds of photos of one animal, and use maybe only 3 or 4 of the best ones to create the painting. This dedication and hard work that goes into her painting process is evident and reflected in the beautiful artwork itself.
Kelly’s attention to detail, her ability to connect with the animals she so very much loves, all combined with her incredible skill in painting, allows her clients to have their very own personal experience with wildlife. “I want my clients to have the same experience as I have. The fact that I’m able to translate a very personal experience to someone who was not there to have it in real life, is a gift I love giving.” Kelly’s beautiful artwork has done just that for those lucky enough to see them, and might I add, so much more.
Some interesting facts about the artist:
Graduated from Ontario College of Art and Design University with a Bachelor of Design degree in 2012.
Wildlife Artist for 15 years, and shows her work internationally in places as far away as Tasmania, and has her work displayed in galleries in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, and Geneva, Illinois.
She was a founding member of Beaux-Arts Brampton. She is on the board of The Colour & Form Society and a member of the Society of Canadian Artists and also Artists for Conservation.
Written By: Kelli M. Maddocks | Photography: Cory Bruyea ■ Cynthia Percival | Resources: Dragonfly Arts On Broadway, Orangeville