Kelly Boyle is a Leeds based artist, singer song-writer and all round Wonder-Woman who works in ink, primarily ball-point biro pen, to create truly mesmerising, jaw-dropping compositions.
She turns the outside in and the inside out, drawing on a broad range of influences to bend form and flares of vastly contrasting image styles into stunning pieces of mind-bogglingly intricate, multidimensional artwork. Her work is the visual documentation of her personal journey through life, and I was fortunate enough to spend an afternoon speaking about Kelly’s art with her.
Here’s an insight into how it all falls so beautifully into frame….
The artwork presented reflects a personal journey of self-awareness and progression. It allows me freedom to absorb, digest, express and make sense of a kaleidoscopic, vibrant world, wringing out my ever filling sponge in the process. It is my crutch and teacher.
What is your main motivation in creating more and more art ?
I am a sponge, I absorb everything, creating helps me to wring out the sponge. If I don’t create I lose my shit! I stopped drawing for 6 years and almost killed myself in the process.
I’m driven by emotion and the need for self expression and progression. As an internal need, it’s like a meditation. It’s like my comfort bubble. A meditative comfort bubble, where I can just sit and be in any situation, and feel comfortable, and just sit and draw, and capture the moment, of what’s going on”
“I remember a Writer getting in touch recently, he had been staring at a blank wall lacking inspiration and he brought a print in hope of sorting his writer’s block. That stuff is priceless, that’s more than money, that’s more than selling a print – to start, to spark something off, to be a catalyst. I love stuff like that.”
Also at a festival a young boy aged approx 2 who’s Dad had passed away walked up to one of my prints and said Daddy, the boys mum bought the print. We remained friends. A few months later she told me the date that I’d finished and signed the drawing was the date that her partner had passed. I wouldn’t even want to try and word a response to that, all I could do was hug her. I’ve since asked permission if i can share this story as it feels so personal to the young lady and her son.
That stuff is priceless, that’s more than money, that’s more than selling.
“I’ve always loved drawing. I think I was drawing in the womb, I must have been haha.
Then I stopped for about six years… I did some sixth form and college and stuff and it just totally killed my passion for it.
Art is so very subjective, freedom in expression is what I needed and i found studying was more about ideas and felt restricted to my free-spirited nature. I enjoy learning techniques, but for me expression is a personal experience and is an extension of the soul.
I was so lost at the time, with so much emotion that I didn’t know what to do with, experiencing regular bouts of depression from a young age and various addictions. I ended up leaving a foundation course and going in a different direction, did loads of different jobs, which gave me some interesting life experience. Then, I did reiki level one, on the 7/7/07 (my numerology number …I found out quite a few years later”) and restarted doodling that day. Something switched back on in me. What I do feels like a need rather than a want, I’ve received outside advice many times to make my work more audience friendly for galleries etc, but there’s this stubborn voice in my head that says, “No, must keep going.” I never knew why and I still don’t fully, it just feels right and that’s all that matters.
Intuitively I make initial marks then logically give shape to the imagery presented. Having freedom without ideas leaves no room for mistakes or self-deprecation; everything happens as it should. Rotating the page whilst drawing, allows for a fresh perspective and direction, striving to achieve balance over perfection. Retrospectively through symbolism, lessons and meaning become apparent.
I find that working intuitively provides an unpressurised space where I can deeply connect with my inner core, create freely and be in harmony with my own existence.
I always title each piece with the date of completion because it tells a story, it captures the progression, for me, of changes, and where I’m going. It was going from that stage of not believing in yourself to going to that stage of actual self belief… I truly love what I do, therefore I love me in the process. Going from a place of feeling like I was nothing to a place of selfvalue is something I never could have imagined in my darkest years. As I’ve opened up things have become a lot more colourful. This is my essence, this is me, trying to be anything else makes me ill. It feels like I need to share that to pass it on. There feels like there is a deep need, that sort of shit needs to be shared…”
Yeah, a doodle every day by 2009, and I realised actually how much i could do in a month. So i started doing a drawing a day. I’d come home from work and sit drawing for 8 hours.
It’s just gotten more and more in depth… starting as motifs and then now to worlds… different parallel universes somewhere.”
Then there were some where I photocopied them… I wanted to make a family tree of designs- to photocopy the first and incorporate it onward into the second. It’s just gotten more and more in depth… starting as motifs and then now to worlds… different parallel universes somewhere.”
What are your main inspirations or influences ? Are there any individuals or specific movements which spring to mind?
“I’ve always been more inspired by nature as the main thing, and stuff I just subconsciously absorb. When I was younger I’d sit and copy manga drawings. I loved the tapered lines in them, which has definitely influenced the line work that I do. In the past I went to art galleries and I’d always feel empty when I’d left them…. But that impacted on me starting the draw again because I thought, “I can do that”. Why am I not doing that”?
Apart from the Pompadu centre in Paris. I went there, they had some illustrations on the walls. That was the only place where I felt like, I resonate with that. Everywhere else I just felt like it didn’t speak to me. Like Leeds art gallery and things, yeah, there just wasn’t…
The only artist I resonated with really was M C Escher when I was younger.”
“I like Escher’s tessellation ones. When I was in Mexico recently I was in a gallery selling some of my prints for them to display and resell and they had an artist making intricate wooden statues of different animals. The one I was drawn to was a Polar Bear – I keep being drawn to Polar Bears recently… On this polar bear there were all these really vibrant, contrasting colours with different tessellations going on, and what looked like one of Escher’s lizards, hand painted right onto it.”
Everything else, inspiration wise, I don’t know…I just don’t think the art scene, from what I’d seen in England, represented the type of artist that I connected with and resonated with. The last few years has changed in the UK with street art/urban art/lowbrow illustration making more of an impact. I think DIY culture will always make an impact whether it’s art, music or society in general because it’s what truly speaks to the heart and emotion of the people rather than something that’s trying be sold as a profitable idea.
It wasn’t until the internet- to come across such a broad scope so quickly- seeing people like Larry Carlson – one of the first artists I saw and just thought “aaah yesss.” It’s unique to him, his own unique style that I’d never seen before and I was just like, Yess!”
The stuff in Leeds gallery, when you walk through the main hall to that big room with the big mountain scape- stuff like that I reaally appreciate, because you can see that it’s someone’s, it’s their craft and you see the graft that has gone into it and the skill and, stuff like that, wow.
Each piece has its own meaning and story. They are all titled with the date of completion, which directs the order of progression. The eyes are the soul of my work; representing my emotion at the time of creation. The original ballpoint drawing of each print displayed has taken 100 – 400 hours to complete.
In 2014 I came across cymatics which is the study of visual sound. Patterns in life are created via vibrational frequency, this made me feel at the time yes! That’s how I work! In that moment I felt truly connected to life. Drawing in different environments, busy bars, live gigs, reacting to different frequencies within the room. The wall of sound encouraging the meditative state. Even live music, different genres bring out different shapes when drawing. Both scientific studies and spirituality, I see it all as the same thing. Energy, flow, frequencies, intuition, chi, age old principles, laws of nature, light & sound, the divine, god etc, all pieces of the same jigsaw.
Even Isaac Newton was a spiritual alchemist. I randomly went to an exhibition in Liverpool in Dec 2014 showing some of his and other scientists alchemy drawings, relating to astrology and natural principles.
It’s funny, when someone described it as god my initial response was to have resistance because I don’t follow any religion, I went to a Christian school and had an image of God as a guy with a beard and that never seemed plausible, there’s that label thing again! But it runs through all of us, life, everything we ever need to know, all the answers, we are our own creators. I dislike anything that disempowers the internal belief that you can and are saving yourself, by your own choices. Other people may help but it comes down to the individuals choice to do or not to do or as Shakespeare said, to be or not to be. Seeing it and connecting the dots, I dunno for me all the dots connect and I feel it, it doesn’t matter what the descriptive word is, it just is. And I’m still learning so much more.
Balance over Perfection?
Always, always balance over perfection.
When I can’t see where to go, I turn the page around.
I’ve incorporated a lot of my life lessons from my drawings, and which i actively put into my drawings.
I just like working with proportion and balance, and finding That.
I don’t think perfection exists. I think it can, with certain things, but I think it’s more of an illusion, it’s something created to get people to chase something…
When I paint, that has always felt like more the feminine element, i’d finger paint and get really messy, then coming to working in biro, and this felt more logical, not with more thought, but with more structure to it. Then with posca pens i combined the two. Like in the -Wolf-, initially finger painting, then adding the biro detail, then poscas.”
I’ve experienced and learnt a lot of my life lessons from drawing, and which are naturally actively incorporated into my work. It never started out this way, but thiings I’ve realised through the natural process.
- Creating spontaneously, Being in the flow, magic is created without thought, more action less thinking, answers are revealed in hindsight.
- I’ve spilt many things on my drawings, turning it into little motifs, happy accidents and it fits, appreciating/ creating something positive from something that could have felt like disaster, but cos my work has no destination point it can never be ruined, it takes it’s own path, reminding me that I can’t always control external appenings but I can choose how to respond.
- Words create realities.
What’s the longest a piece of work has been in the motions ….
One I finished recently – The Monkey Essence – it’s definitely my essence – it’s at the exhibition SFDF, but not for sale; even from taking it away from where it’s been on top of my chair felt like taking away a life line. I’ve been working on that for 11 months.
The eyes have just got this sense of me in it – it’s definitely my eyes. It’s had loads of different faces. The eyes have been changed, because something wasn’t fitting right, but then I got the eyes and the nose right, and then the mouth. So it’s had like four different noses and four different mouths. I’m going to do a video that shows the process, that tells you, because each one captures a stage I was going through as well. The features show it, the mouth might have a smile.
For me there is no greater feeling than saying this is who I AM, this is my truth and I believe in me. To me this is freedom, freedom to be yourself completely.
I ask the viewer, “What do you see?”, as the imagery appears differently to different archetypes/people, suggesting a conversation between objective and subjective perspectives. This highlights how our perception is relative to our own experience; helping us to remember that although we coincide as a collective, we also reside in our own reality.
I‘m very much in my own bubble. I enjoy being an individual, it fits my being and I think that’s the most important thing in life dancing to your own tune, we all have our own molds, folk don’t have to understand me, as long as I’m ok with my own level of morality. I’m happy to learn a technique from another whether that’s in art or life but I don’t want to be anyone else because in my world that’s like telling myself that who I am isn’t good enough.
“I like things that are quite contrasting. I feel like a ball of contradiction. I always felt that I want to balance that masculine and feminine energy in me, which could leave me at odds with myself. I still feel the need to be balanced but just within different perimeters. Rather than everything trying to be balanced at the same time, now I’m more in a stage of accepting and appreciating each part and letting each one have their moment to air, more in a yearly cycle than everything at the same time. Currently, that feels a more balanced and harmonious state for me to be in. But I’m open to change and each year so far has brought a different outlook.
When I paint, that has always felt like more the feminine element, i’d finger paint and get really messy, then coming to working in biro, and this felt more logical, not with more thought, but with more structure to it. Then with posca pens i combined the two. Like in the Wolf, initially finger painting, then poscas, then adding the biro detail.”
In the particular piece we were discussing at the time, I saw jelly diamonds, smiles, bright eyes ,a cheeky bumcrack, reversed upside down into a penguin free falling through Dr Who’s time tunnel. I lack wisdom, But Kelly Boyle’s art is Amazing.
Art to check out on Kelly’s reccommendation…
Over the last few years I have come across called visionary art collective Threyda. They are next level, absolutely next level.
There’s a woman Hannah Yata, her work is, absolutely, oh my word, makes my head explode. Her subject matter, and skill of craft, it’s absolutely out of this world.
There’s another artist, a girl i worked with a few years ago called WolfSkullJack.- sick-. She does loads of anamorphic drawings and stuff – really worth a look into her work.
interview and artist photos by Hannah Dixon