Monday, November 11, 2013

Spotlight on Artist Dusty Keliin: Making an Impression

Jack London once said, “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.” You might say the same applies to Superior painter and ceramicist Dusty Keliin.

I first became aware of Keliin’s work by means of a story in the Superior Telegram about an artist who brought pottery to Mr. Lucky’s billiard parlor because of his inability to persuade all his pool shooter friends to come see what he was doing in his studio. If you can’t bring a horse to water, you have to bring the water to the horse. It was an imaginative solution and the volume of work and its caliber made quite an impression as it was laid out on the green felt tables.

I’ve since gotten to know Dusty through several group art shows at Goin’ Postal these past few years. We even did some live painting together on a couple occasions and a collaborative piece on one of these. His easy-going manner belies the seriousness with which he approaches his art.

EN: What do you do for a living?

DK: I’ve been painting houses for over thirteen years now. Through the years I have worked on many houses I thought I'd only see in movies. I'm truly grateful to be a part of these projects that require nothing less than perfection as an end result. This summer I went out on a limb and started my own painting business, North Country Painting. So far the projects I have been a part of have been absolutely amazing. If I could only paint on canvas 8-12 hours a day instead of peoples’ walls I'd be a happy camper.

EN: When did you first take an interest in art?

DK: For as long as I can remember art has always been a passion of mine. Looking back I used to get in trouble in elementary school for always doodling on other students’ assignments while grading them. This continued through high school art classes where I would hide images or sayings in my paintings that would be displayed in class until they were figured out. In college I discovered how creative you could get while playing with clay, not to mention how therapeutic it was.

EN: You express yourself in quite a variety of media, from pottery to painting and mixed media using re-purposed materials. Do you have a favorite and why?

DK: Pottery has become my favorite medium due to the various things you can make and the amount of pieces you can produce. It's a constant experiment, not only with making pieces as functionable as possible, but really focusing on form. For the last few years I've been working with mixed media and have been using recycled materials to paint on instead of working off of a blank canvas. It has been far more interesting along with more cost effective. Working on different materials leads you in undiscovered paths that otherwise would never be imagined. I like coming up with various types of work instead of sticking to one style that can be linked to its creator at first glance. I'm not against developing a signature style whatsoever, I just have had a problem finding mine and may never want to.

EN: What do you like about ceramics?

DK: Starting out with a ball of clay is like staring at a blank canvas. Possibilities are endless. You can go in one direction which is functional by making platters, bowls, goblets etc. or head in the opposite by making more sculptural forms. It's fulfilling when someone comes up to you and says, "I use that piece almost every day." The best part is opening a kiln after a glaze firing. You feel like a kid waking up on Christmas morning. You’re either extremely happy with the results or very disappointed. Sometimes both.

EN: How do you plan your paintings? Or do you just let it take you where it wants to go?

DK: Most paintings start with a simple brushstroke and then I let my subconscious kick in. A lot of the time it seems like you get in a zone and the image or images develop themselves. Often pieces are painted over saving areas of interest and re-evaluating the direction you’re going. There are dozens of pieces hanging in my house that on any given day may receive a little more attention. Every once in a while I'll actually sketch out what I am aiming for and actually have a plan of attack.

EN: Do you have certain pieces that you are especially proud of?

DK: There are a few here and there. I'm usually pretty critical on pieces I create. My best work belongs to others who I have found good homes for. I love visiting friends or family and seeing work I've created and forgot even existed. When selling work I believe in a sliding scale, some stuff is just better in certain hands. You can always make more money.

EN: How does "live painting" differ from painting in your studio?

DK: Live painting is stressful. You’re trying to create something that works but in a limited time frame, though it can be quite a rush. Studio work can take as long as it needs. Some paintings are done in a day, others I work on years later after finally figuring out what was missing.

EN: Where can people see more of your art?

DK: Currently I have work along with many other truly talented artists at Goin’ Postal in Superior. My favorite place to show so far. In the past I've had work at Pizza Luce, Red Mug, Beaners, Snoodle, LSC, Mr. Luckys, and UWS. Speaking of which, I have some work at UWS in the alumni show that opened recently in the Kruk gallery.

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