Once on the Cape, Kelly began to paint more and more. “Before long, it took over a good part of my life,” she says. “An art studio soon became a necessity—and it came as a special gift from my husband.”
With more room to work, Kelly was able to focus her energy on her craft—and sales and recognition followed. After receiving a “Best in Show” award at the Leo Diehl Exhibition Juried Show at the Chatham Art Center in 1997, Kelly was invited to exhibit her work at the Winstanley-Roark Fine Arts Gallery in Dennis. “I did very well there until the downturn in the economy,” says Kelly. “At that point, I decided to retire to my studio and just paint.”
When considering her artistic influences, Kelly cites the Dutch realist painters, including Johannes Vermeer, as well as American painter John Singer Sargent. Further, many of her paintings echo the work of James Whistler, a 19th-century artist from Lowell. Whistler is credited as being the founder of Tonalism, an art movement where a low-contrast color palette is used to create atmospheric effects in paintings, especially in landscapes. This influence can be seen in Kelly’s brushstrokes, color palette, and her compositional choices of snapshots of Cape Cod life. “On my life’s journey, I have met people who have inspired and supported me, and teachers who gave me the knowledge to hone my craft,” she says. “I will always be grateful to them.”
In addition to painting, Kelly says her biggest passions are spending time with her husband, and practicing yoga. “I find being aware of the physical body is beneficial to my painting,” says Kelly. “Meditation allows me to focus.” She also loves playing Scrabble and sometimes hosts Scrabble marathons with friends.
Kelly’s advice for aspiring artists? She suggests honing one’s skills, proceeding at one’s own pace, and possibly developing a signature style. “Learn practical technique,” she says, “but paint in your own way. People go to demos, and it’s like watching grass grow.” As she herself has experienced, success as an artist is not something that comes about overnight. “You will have failures,” Kelly says, “and those will get you to your successes. If you really love it, you’ll get where you want to be.”
Denise Kelly’s studio is at 5 High Ridge Road Ext. in Truro. For more information about the artist, visit denisekellyfineart.com, or call 508-487-4255.
Sarah A. O’Brien is a freelance writer who lives in Boston.
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