David Kelley has never been hesitant to push the envelope, whether he’s working in the corporate world as an illustrator or painting an ethereal Cape Cod landscape. His multifaceted background has taught him to stretch the boundaries. “I’m always evolving,” he says.
His career path has veered off in many directions through the past five decades. He worked as a medical illustrator and graphic designer for advertising agencies, insurance companies, and book publishers. He designed a reading program for elementary schoolchildren. He was a printmaker. But he never lost his love for painting. “I find that lots of artists start off as graphic designers or illustrators and paint on the side,” he says. “Their passion is painting. Anyone who gets into it (as a career) is very lucky. Lots of people have the potential, but have their desires squashed.”
After graduating from Providence College, he enrolled at the Rhode Island School of Design. It was at RISD that he first began exploring the limitless bounds of creativity. “That was a major factor behind my design work. If I was having problems, I’d think what other artists would do and I’d refuse to be limited by restrictions,” he says.
After stints as a photo re-toucher for an advertising firm, a designer for Aetna Life Insurance, art director at Houghton Mifflin, and a freelance sports photographer, Kelley relocated to Cape Cod in 1991 and, inspired by an eight-week oil painting course, began focusing on painting during the past decade. “I didn’t want to design anymore,” he says. “I just wanted to be free and loose. I wanted to develop a spontaneous approach. I had worked on the computer (creating illustrations and collages) since 1987, but I wanted to get away from the tightness of all that.”
Distinctive shapes and evocative shadows have always intrigued David Kelley. He initially worked in acrylic and oils, but eventually shifted entirely to pastels because of that medium’s versatility. A former president of the Falmouth Artists Guild, he is now a member of the Pastels Painters Society of Cape Cod. Determined not to have his work pigeonholed, his paintings range from landscapes and wildlife scenes to portraits to the occasional sports piece.
“I just react to the situation. I like the excitement of a situation that is changing,” he says. “Doing different kinds of work and different disciplines has helped keep things natural and exciting.”