Gina Kelly (US/FR)

Gina Kelly (US/FR)

Number of artists on the blog are interviewed for the first time, which I am pretty pround of. Unfortunatly (for me) Gina already had the great oportunity to be interviewed by the Guardian, which is (I have no doubt about that) a true honour for this part time french :) Anyway, here is the Crewk's interview for you dear followers ;)

Hello, of course as every Crewk interview, first question: what are we listening to when we come to visit you?

Lately I've been listening to Caetano Veloso, Beirut, Beach House, Gastr del Sol, No Means No, Elvis Costello, Psychic TV, Brian Eno, The Cramps, Ali Farka Toure, and The Buzzcocks. Beirut is on the top of the list today because I'm working on a design for them (and because they are great :)).

Can you tell us more about yourself, who are you, where are you from, what do you do?

I am Gina Kelly, born and raised in Wisconsin, US, and I make Gigposters, illustrations, animations, and films. I live half of the time in the States (LA) and the other half in France (Paris) and make work in each place. In France I've been having fun, I've filmed some live Soirée de Poche shows with La Blogothéque and had an exhibition of my work. I just started making posters for shows in Paris and that's exciting because you don't really see silkscreened posters here often. I'm stateside right now, and today I have to work on art for Beirut, two new pieces for Andrew Bird, and design some beer labels for a California Brewery called Brouwerij West. I'm excited for that, I've always wanted to do a beer label. After I finish with all of that, I can return to working on my stop motion film Super Natura.

When did you start drawing?

I started drawing when I was a kid, like most people. Eventually I fell in love with paint and painting became the way that I created things.

Did you follow any course or did you improve by drawing in the margins of your schoolbooks?

Ha, both I suppose, I used to get into trouble a lot for skipping my classes as a kid so that I could stay in the art studios making art. That didn't make my math teachers happy, but I knew what was good for me and I was really committed to it at a young age, even if it meant I got really low scores in other classes, I just didn't want to break my concentration for making art.

Today are you living from your art, or do you do something else for a living ?

I make a living with my artwork, but I also use what I make in my business to fund my schooling, which I am finishing this year. I spent a lot of time just making art in my 20's, so when I had the chance to go to school at Calarts (California Institute of the Arts) I decided to go for it. The school isn't cheap, but I also get a lot of grants and scholarships to attend. I'll graduate with a degree in Animation this year (excitment!)

Are you collaborating with magazines/fanzines, regularly?

I get asked occasionally by different zines to contribute, and I usually say yes, but its mostly French zines, collectives, or publications like Kiblind for example.

Where does your influence come from?

Is there any artists/graphists you particularly like, what are your influences? Phillip Guston, Paul Klee, Jim Trainor, Peter Doig, obscure images from history like etchings of the natural world, old children's book illustrations, Czech animation, Polish movie posters, Zeloot. Mostly, like everyone, I have a dream state that becomes active when I listen to music. That dream state is the focus of my images when I make art for bands.

What are the principal steps in your work ?

I start by searching my imagination for something I find inspiring. This can be new imagery, or re-working old imagery in a new way. For example I made an owl poster for Andrew Bird a couple of years ago, and the idea was really overused, but I really saw this creature a new and refreshing way of using the owl, so I went ahead with it. You can just negate things that are part of pop-culture completely, but you do have to re-introduce them in some way through your own filter. About my way of seeing... I like to tie the physical world and the magical world together with art. The images should feel like they are half way in reality, and half outside of it. Once I see what I'm making in my head, I begin the poster image by using acetate and painting directly on it to create the layers of the image. then I print it and that's when i really get to see it for the first time. I love that moment.

Do you do everything by hand or on computer?

Hands, hands, hands. Computer images are very stylish, clean, and contemporary, but that's not what I'm interested in putting into the world. I would much rather have something less than perfect and very inspiring at the end of a project. Clean is not really my concern. I want to give people a break from seeing digital images represent everything. Its good for your eyes to relate to art that is made by hands.

How long does it take you to do a poster?

That depends on the situation, I have made some really great posters in less than a week, but I prefer having a couple of weeks, two at least. I feel like that is there to make me more comfortable, but in the end, the most radical work I have made was always in a shorter period of time. It's interesting, there's more grace with more time, and more flair with less...I guess that acutaly makes sense if you think about it.

You have a very distinctive style, are you doing only what you feel like or if tomorrow somebody asks you an oil painting with horses running out of water with a sunset backdrop, is it a problem or are you up for it ?

Hmmm, good question, I pretty much do what I feel like doing, so can I use my color palette for your water horse painting? Hot pink and orange horses, teal, greens and grey everywhere else? Sounds like fun actually, making kitsch work is worth doing sometimes. Generally speaking though, no, I am doing what I want and how I want to do it. If you come to me with something very specific, it will be put through my way of seeing.

For which band have you already worked for?

Beirut, Andrew Bird, Built to Spill, Calexico, TV on the Radio, Arctic Monkeys, Bill Callahan, The Books, Wilco, Bonnie Prince Billy, Califone, Stornoway, Guzzlemug, The White Rabbits, etc.

For which band would you love to work?

Right now? Beach House, St. Vincent, and Feist. I would love to make more work for the ladies of indie-rock, I think they are doing some of the best work in the genre and I want to support that with my imagination. In my dream world? Brian Wilson/The Beach Boys? Tom Waits? Bjork would be fun, I'd make her mouth gigantic with a forrest inside for the poster. The thing about that level of artist is that they have such a iconic presence already that making a poster based on that would be an incredibly fun and challenging process.

Do you choose the artists yourself?

Yes I do! No matter who contacts who initially, I have no agency, so I get to work with who I want to work with. That's a real plus in terms of being self-employed.

What is the most difficult part in designing a poster ?

 Hmm. I guess for me its specific...Since I design the positives directly and I overprint colors to get new colors, its to know what certain color combinations will produce in your head, and translating all the binary information in your positives to an image that you have under control mentally. Once you get to four layers, you start challenging that, and all sorts of great things happen, but you really have to trust yourself as an artist to work in that kind of free manner. I like it, but I would say its the most stressful part, trusting myself that is : D

Do you think you are part of a "Graphic Scene", if so who else ?

Let's see. I'd say that I'm a satellite of the Chicago scene in general, especially since I work a lot for Chicago based musicians, so that would include Kathleen Judge, Dan Grzeca, Steve Walters, Justin Santora, Diana Sudyka, Jay Ryan, Sonnenzimmer, Crosshair, Alana Bailey, and newer folk like Rich Kelly, who are all friends in one way or another. My little brother Tom Kelly prints Grzeca's posters in his studio with him, so there is an extra family feeling about Screwball and Ground-Up Studios in Chicago, I also print there if I'm ever in Chicago. In Paris, I think I'm kinda on my own for the moment, but I think it's good because its a chance to be a part of something from the beginning. I work a bit with Arrache Toi Une Oeil, so it's nice to know there's another studio in Paris who can print my work if I am in the States. They are great, and they are almost the only artists in Paris who are really out there making work in the gig-poster scene. I'd say we are at the beginning of building the French poster scene, and there's a lot of ground to cover. It's an exciting to be near the beginning of something that I think is going to generate a lot of energy in the years to come. That said, can offer some friendly advice to the French about posters? Paying 10-15€ for cheap digital posters from shows is unreal!!! Those should be free, they cost nothing to make, they are poor quality, and your money is wasted on them. T-shirts are great, because you can wear them. Still, when a silkscreen poster is at a show, it may be 10€ more than the other items, but its made directly by the artist and its screen-printed normally by hand, and then signed and numbered by the artist. There is none of that in a digital flyer from the show. En plus, you are supporting more artworks to be made for concerts, you are helping to create the scene in France! That's powerful, DIY, and has real value in terms of your generation's art. They are more rare than you think.

A bit of self-promotion, take advantage of it, it's free, where can we see your work , on the web or in real life?

Well, if you went to the Beirut show at L'Olympia on September 12, you saw my poster for the show! My work will be in Paris again when Andrew Bird plays in March, but until then keep updated on my blog which also links to my website,

The best praise you received lately?

A student from New Zealand is studying my work for a project where they have to pick a living artist to build a model of aesthetic from, that was really flattering. I recently made paper puppets and animated them for a music video for TV on the Radio and a friend of my brother's freaked out when he find out I was involved with the video. I like the little stuff like that. When I release a new poster, I get a lot of attention just after, in the form of new jobs, galleries, feedback etc. but mostly, I still really get happy to know that there's someone young in the world who is interested in what I do and if I inspire others, that inspires me.

What can we wish you for the future?

Wish me that Super Natura, my stop motion film using real insects as puppets, becomes the beautiful film I see in my head, and that Beirut, Andrew Bird, Beach House, The Books, and Annie from St Vincent agrees to do some of the soundtrack. Ok? So on the count of 3. 1....2..........

Thanks for answering my questions and see you soon on the website !!

Pas de problème!

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