Kelly Darke works full time as an art therapist. “Creating art has always been a personal source of comfort for me and when I learned about art therapy I actually didn’t believe it was a real thing – art and psychology? That seemed like a perfect combination. I love the idea that I can use art as a means to help others work through emotional, developmental, or psychological issues and to improve cognitive functioning. For my Masters degree thesis I researched how fiber art could be beneficial to improving mental and emotional well-being. I want to create art that literally makes people feel good.”
Kelly uses a variety of painting and stitch to create her works. Working in subdued hues, she investigates different aspects of living things – flowers and cells – in abstract and tactile ways.
Originally concentrating on painting, she has now moved into the realms of stitch. “I have always worked very intuitively – letting my paintings evolve as I worked on them. However, I have come to realize that it is all the experience I gained through the years learning about art and techniques. All the black and white photography I did in high school taught me about composition – seriously, everyone should try creating some b&w pics as a study in creating uncluttered compositions. Learning to draw from life taught me how subtle changes in color and shade can make a huge difference overall. Even though I am working mostly in fibers right now, I am still applying the techniques I learned over the years – layering stitches (instead of paint) for a richer color and more texture. I think when I’m working that I don’t really have a plan and I just use my intuition to create the piece, but really everything I’ve been learning and practicing for my whole life are all playing a part in the evolution of my art.”
Despite being in a job where she works all day with others she describes herself as an introvert, with an ideal evening being to stay at home, knitting or stitching, watching a good movie.
A low point in her early career dealt her a harsh but ultimately very useful lesson.
“In 2008 I was invited to show at a collaborative type gallery for a one night solo show. My kids were 2 and 5 years old at the time and I was trying to get new work completed during my spare time (which wasn’t much). I decided to show a few older pieces and my newest pieces including a fiber piece that was the beginning of my use of fibers. Well, the evening was coming up quickly, I didn’t promote it as much as I would have liked to, my husband was working and my brother who lived near was also busy. My mom was able to help me set up the show, but I didn’t have time to put together a table of wine and appetizers, which I really wanted to do but simply ran out of time. So, I sat in the gallery and a few people trickled in over the first hour, the owner of the space left for dinner, then I sat alone for about an hour – I talked to my sister on the phone, which made the agony of an empty gallery space a little more bearable. Then I needed to get something from my car and figured no one would miss me. What I didn’t know is that the door automatically locked when it closed. I couldn’t get back into the gallery space, no one was inside, and the owner was out to dinner somewhere. While standing at the door trying to call someone to let me back in, someone else showed up to see the show – I was so embarrassed explaining that I locked myself out of my own show and no one was inside to let me back in.
“I left that night knowing that I would never be so unprepared for anything again and since then my openings have gone much more smoothly.”
Recent participation in The Heidelberg Emerging Artist Program has also helped her come out her shell. She says it “gave me the confidence and push I needed at the time to really energize my art career. I have been continuing to show at galleries and reach a larger audience since that first major solo show.”
“My inspiration comes from so many different sources. When I was younger, Joan Miro was always my favorite artist and his work ethic and discipline was serious. He treated his art like any other job, he got up at 5am and went to his studio to work and kept a tight schedule. I also love the work of Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Joan Mitchell. Contemporary artists that inspire are Sheila Hicks (especially her wrapped fiber pieces), Abigail Doan for her beautiful fiber pieces combining different textures.
“I admire anyone who works hard to be able to do what they love – people who don’t give up and work past the hurdles, including the self-imposed ones. Being a professional artist is not an easy job and I admire those who make it work.”
“The favorite part of my house is my studio, which is in the living room behind the couch – it is a mess of supplies – but it’s mine 🙂
“And the best feature is the table that my husband made for me – he inscribed it with this:
“For my beautiful wife Kelly – This Creation Table – to inspire you and help you to continue to bring your beautiful creations to the world. I love you and all that you do. Love always – your husband, Vincent – 12/26/2008”