‘Moments of Inspiration come from lots of different things and always seem to be totally unexpected and a bit big, like the lights have just been turned on. It can be a sentence said by a friend, the expression on the cat or the colour of the sky or a favourite song. They all feed the soul and keep us going.’
This time, in ‘Under the Spotlight’ we have been talking to Roy Kelf, an intriguing 3D artist with a background in Fine Art and Theatre Design. He very much likes to use ordinary materials to make his ‘Kelf Kreations’ like newspaper, flour, masking tape and string. The results however are anything but ordinary, his sculpted animals have a unique humour and character.
Do you have positive/negative memories of art when you were at school?
It was a mixed affair depending on the teachers. One teacher, looking back ,was supportive and open to allowing kids to make and create within the lessons and I would look forward to getting into the class.
In the final year of school I was not happy, having a different teacher who wanted me to do everything in a certain way and she was not very supportive or engaging or inspiring. I wonder if that was because of having exam targets? At the end of the year she told me I was not very good and would be lucky to pass my exam.
What would your school report have said about your art?
I got A’s and B’s for art. I don’t remember the comments but it was something like this usually “Roy fails most written subjects but really enjoys his art work and practical lessons.”
Did you go on to further education in art or are you self-taught?
I did go to art school as a mature student in my mid twenties. I didn’t have good grades and had to take A level art before they would even consider me for the foundation course. It took me three attempts to get onto a foundation course and then I didn’t look back. I attended
Norfolk Institute of Art in Norwich for a foundation Course
Brighton University for a B.A in Printmaking
Duncan of Jordonstone in Dundee for a Masters Degree in Fine Art.
While in education my work was 2D, printmaking and painting, I choose silkscreen printing for my B.A show and during the masters I did large abstract colour field paintings and printed artists books.
But now 15 years on from education my work is 3 dimensional and is self taught. The education of art history is such a valuable and interesting thing. when making your work it can support you in your development and justification of your art.
What or who has inspired you over the years?
I think it is the people who have been in my life and their words and support from loved ones.
I have always been drawn to strong and bright colours in art work that gives me a strong feeling and less thought.
Moments of Inspiration come from lots of different things and always seem to be totally unexpected and a bit big like the lights have just been turned on. It can be a sentence said by a friend, the expression on the cat or the colour of the sky or a favourite song. They all feed the soul and keep us going. I suppose it’s the small things can have the biggest impact.
What Artists do you admire?
I have favourites that have stayed with me for years and some that seem to come and go. Mark Rothko and Howard Hodgkin are painters I have always been drawn to, and to the brilliance of Lucian Freud.
But now it changes a lot. At the moment it is Nick Bibby who makes beautiful animal sculptures, Javier Marin for his heroic new take on classicism with huge heads and figures in resin and bronze and Calvin Nicholls’ incredibly detailed paper sculpture.
What is your favourite piece of work? (yours and someone elses)?
This is really hard; by having a favourite does it make the rest not so special? The most moved I have felt was when I stood in front of Jackson Pollock‘s big painting Blue Poles so I’ll say that one is very memorable for me.
What has been the highlight of your artistic career so far? What are you proud to have achieved?
I’m not one for putting myself up for awards and prizes but in my final year at Brighton University I was selected for a group exhibition Young Printmakers1993 at The Mercury Gallery on Cork Street in London.
Recently a piece of work was published in Ghost of Gone birds by Chris Aldhous. They are not great awards but no less important to me
What have you sacrificed for your art?
I’m sacrificing time working on my garden and down scaling my growing activity as I don’t have the time any more. Boo!
What’s the best bit of advice that has been given to you?
It was an old art lecturer in Norwich said to me. “What you put into your art, you will get it back.” I’m not quite sure in what way, but this keeps me happy.
What advice would you give to an aspiring artist/crafts person?
Don’t let practical reasons stop you following your dreams and it’s never too late to try.
How do you start a piece of work?
Sometimes the materials seem to suggest what they can be used for and I make that. I usually look at lots of photographs of the subject and think about the shape of a nose or the area around the eye. When I think I have it organised in my mind I start making the basic form. If I can’t get it quite right, I do some quick drawings to organise the shapes I need to make. The work usually evolves and takes on it’s own character.
When life drawing, I like to directly build the model as my drawing and then work it up in the studio to include details like fingers, faces and hair.
When is it finished?
When there’s nothing left to do.
Do you have a mantra, quote or line from a song that best sums up what your art means to you?
I just really like to make stuff and working hard and to giving it my best shot.
Does music help with your creativity? If so what would you choose to listen to whilst working on a piece?
I usually start with no music and as a piece progresses the music goes on, either the radio in the evening the local stations seem to play a lot of retro soul and disco and I like to hear the news. At the moment it has been Ellie Golding, Matt Cardle and Stevie Nicks.
What is your favourite medium to work with/in?
I work in mixed media and like trying out new techniques, Paper mache forms the building blocks of my work. Modelling with masking tape is my favourite way of working right now. It is great for sculpting and can be quickly worked into lovely shapes, rough and smooth and can be used to create some lovely fine details. I have been scorching masking tape recently to see how it looks for an owls colouring and coating it with fabric stiffener to try and weather proof it. It will be left outside over the winter to see how this experiment works.
Do you have a lucky or favourite something that you use that has been with you forever?
I’m not very superstitious. I do have a glue gun I have had forever and it still works fine it hasn’t got a trigger, you have to push the glue though with your thumb and can be a bit tricky to manage sometimes.
Are you living your dream through your art or do you have one – what do you strive for?
I do like to have a dream or a plan to work towards. I would like to be able to make a living from my art work and only time will tell on that one. This is my first year of working full time as an artist and to start getting to grips with all that that means, like self promotion and working routine, sales, being self motivated and disciplined and having an exhibition to work towards, getting a web site up and running it seems like a big list and so far it has been great. I love getting into the studio and being totally engaged with my art work. I thought it would be a bit lonely but that’s not the case as when I not making there is lots to do and people to see, there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day. I would say I’m living the dream right now and loving it.
Is there anything you avoid with your art?
Things I think are very complicated, like making a web page for my art. It just baffles me.
Drawing with a pencil.
Thankyou so much Roy, for taking the time to answer our questions, it’s been a real privilege!
You can see more of Roy’s work here: