KelseyGarrity-Riley is an artist and illustrator
working out of her home in Savannah, Georgia where she resides with her husband
Erik Riley who is also a talented illustrator. She grew up in Germany and
Belgium before coming to the States to pursue her love of art at the Savannah College
of Art and Design. She graduated in 2010 and works for both professional
publications and private commissions.
Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where are you from and what led you to
move to America?
grew up in Belgium and Germany. English is my first language, and as an
American citizen I was eligible for better scholarships looking at schools in
America. I love and miss Europe but I love it here as well. There really
is amazing opportunity for young creatives.
What school did you attend? Were there courses besides Illustration that you
particularly liked and that contributed to the development of your artistic
Kelsey: I went
to the Savannah College of Art and Design. I always knew I wanted to pursue
art- but it took a while to declare a major exactly. I was very interested in
fashion and fine art as well. Not that there can't be a lot of overlap
creatively, but now I can't imagine having pursued anything but illustration! I
really loved my experience at the school- especially within the Illustration
department and on a study abroad quarter in southern France. I absolutely love
getting to be creative in other mediums as well- other than my illustration
classes I really enjoyed the basic 3d class we had to take.
Describe your typical working day. Do you have any other jobs besides doing
Kelsey: I'm a
display artist and visual merchandiser at an incredibly wonderful place in
downtown Savannah- the Paris Market. Its been a really invigorating creative
experience- a lot of the window displays we get to work on are a chance to be
creative in ways that are refreshingly different than the work I produce
from home. I really enjoy working with a small creative team of amazing people.
I also do freelance prop styling on occasion. But lately 90% of my work is
freelance illustration work from home.
What is your creation process? How do you come up with ideas? Where do you find
There is inspiration everywhere. I love antique stores, nature, old found
objects with good stories. Ideas don’t necessarily com from anywhere in
particular. I try and jot them down in a notebook as they come to me- and
revisit them later to work them into a final piece. I’ve always kind of
over-done it with collecting interesting things to surround myself with- a lot
of nature pieces like old bones and sticks, I love religious art and taxidermy.
My husband and his art inspire me constantly- we often talk through projects as
well. I know this is kind of cheezy and modern, but pinterest has become a
useful tool for me when I have to build up reference images for a project-
especially if its one where a client wants to see or add images.
What is your favorite medium? Describe some of your favorite technical
love working with a dip pen and ink. A small red handled pen called a
"Brause 515" is now the only thing I ever use. Peat Brown ink by
Windsor and Newton is my absolute favorite, as well as their gouaches. I often
use some collage elements as well. I rarely collage imagery, but rather pieces
of interesting old colors and patterns. I love the way the old faded
colors mix to form the color pallet I'm drawn to. Then I always clean up my
image in Photoshop before printing, posting, or sending it to a client!
Which artists’ work most inspires/influences your own?
I first saw Carson Ellis's work I was overwhelmed with how well she mixes so
many elements that I love. I love her stylization, subject matter and color
choices. Growing up I adored the "Brambley hedge" series by Jill
Barklem. Other contemporary artists I'm so inspired by are Olaf Hajek, Marcel
Dzama and Camilla Engman.
Do you promote your work in any way? How do you find clients?
constantly trying to be better at having a steady online presence. Its SO
important for professional creatives! Maintaining a good website and blog are
important.I also have a Facebook account for my work. So many of the
illustration jobs I've gotten in the last year were from someone finding
my work on line. This most often doesn't mean that they went strait to my
website, but that they first found my work on pinterest or re-posted on other
blogs. The more your work travels out into the internet world the better! Of
course always make sure its credited to you and links back to either your own
blog or website so people can find you.
I do also
have an agent (Catugeau) for my children's book work, and as of recently one
for Editorial and International work (Illozoo). These are great tools and
support! I've been represented by Catugeau for 2 1/2 years now and only this
month got a full book assignment, so things take time either way! Its so
important to not be too discouraged. Every great thing requires a lot of
patience, hard work and small consistent steps to get there.
year I also made the investment to have my work featured on theiSpot- an online
illustration database. I actually wouldn't recommend it based off of my
own personal experience- to my knowledge it hasn’t helped my find any jobs or
clients. This might be different for people pursuing more editorial work! I’m
not sure. But for me it hasn’t been worth it.
What was your most favorite project that you worked on lately?
just recently finished a mural in a little girls room that was really
enjoyable. It feels so rewarding to see her excited about and interacting with
it. I'm in the earliest stages of two children's books which I'm beyond
Which book would you really want to illustrate and why?
hard to say…I love that Wes Anderson hires artists to design fake book covers
for his movies- that would be a dream job. I would love to illustrate a very
soft an subtle story- one not necessarily modern or historic so I could mix all
the things I love together in it…not sure what that would be.
What do you find most challenging about being an illustrator?
me, the most challenging thing about being a freelance illustrator is trying to
strike a balance with life and work. I've always loved drawing and painting in
my free time, but now that all of my work time is taken up with it as well
sometimes its hard to know where work ends and daily life begins. I work from
home and it can be hard to turn illustration "off" a lot of the time.
There is always a feeling that I should be working, when its also very
important to take time to pause and appreciate spending time with others,
sleeping well, etc. Also I work right next to our kitchen and its hard to not
snack all day!
In your opinion, what does it take for a young illustrator to be successful
dedication, and hard work. Above all probably Self Motivation! Its an exciting
time where as young artists we have opportunities to spread our work to others
through the Internet, competitions, etc. What that means though is you have to
be disciplined enough to work on and promote your own projects even when there
isn't a real deadline, or a paycheck or a client.
For this assignment, I would like to portray myself as a povitrulya. Povitrulya is a good spirit
from Ukrainian pagan mythology, specific to the western Ukraine, particularly
Carpathian Mountains region.The name povitrulya comes from a Ukrainian word povitrya which means air. Povitrulyas are daughters of the
wind, that live on top of the mountains. Carpathian Mountains are famous for
their polonynas – mountains with flat
tops. Basically polonyna is a flat area, like a field on top of the mountain.
It is usually very windy on polonynas, making it a perfect habitation for
Povitrulyas are fast and light, and can be invisible. They
have wings, but usually hide them.Wings
allow povitrulyas to float in the air. They are very beautiful, and merry. They
love to dance and play in the wind. They are associated with beauty,
creativity, and inspiration. They protect mountain shepherds and their
sheep.There are many versions of a
legend that tells a love story between a povitrulya and a Carpathian shepherd,
and how she leaves her wings and becomes mortal to be a wife of a human.
I chose this creature, because I am very interested in
ancient Slavic mythology. I am also in love with Carpathian region and its
culture. To me, this place is what true Ukraine is all about. Growing up, I
spent many summers camping and hiking there with my parents. This place is
home, so if I was a mythical creature I would definitely choose this to be my
home too J
Some of the descriptions of povitrulyas say that they wear
wreaths of flowers and herbs, and that their bodies are often covered with
plants and flowers all over. I would like to create an elaborate wreath
incorporating plants, flowers and berries that grow in that region: like
blueberries, wild strawberries, thyme, mint, ferns, branches of fir trees. For
the clothing ideas, I looked at traditional folk clothing and embroidery
patterns of that region.I want to make
the sleeves of her clothing look like wings, and imply her ability to fly,
rather than drawing actual wings, because povitrulyas hide their wings most of
the time, and because I don’t want her to look like an angel.
As far as overall composition, I would like draw her in
motion to emphasize her lightness and her association with wind and air.Also because most of the herbs and berries
that I mentioned above are used in teas, and I love drinking tea, I want to try
to draw her holding some sort of cup offering tea to the viewer. This way, this
mythical creature will possess my qualities, while I possess hers.
This is how my pieces looked at critique this Monday. The response was generally positive. I am not happy with them though. I feel like they are missing something: some sort of definition or contrast perhaps, apart from some anatomical issues.
I really want to re-do them and hopefully I will by the end of the semester!
Originally I wanted these to be illustrations about a girl's day. I liked Mary's interpretation, that it is about a girl dreaming of having long hair and eating gigantic doughnuts :)