Working out of Toronto ON, Kelly Durette is a self trained artist that creates haunting portraits with graphite and colored pencils. Some of the images which have the “Day of the Dead” style to it, have been seen with other artists in the past few years, but Kelly definitely has her own flare to it. Pushing some of the faces into the ream of anatomic drawings, something that shows her deep interest in illness, mortality, and death. I was a able to send a few questions over to Kelly to get a better idea of how she started, her working process, and inspirations.
Creep: Can you tell us a bit how you got started in art? Any formal training, and how your style has evolved since you first started.
Kelly: My mom is really creative and I get it from her. My sister is also very talented though they both have their own styles and mediums. I have never had any formal training other than general art classes in high school, which were not always taught by an “art” teacher. I became really obsessed with tattoo designs, mostly tribal at first in high school. I spent all my time in class drawing, even throughout my post-secondary education I was always drawing in lectures/classes. About three years ago I saw the work of Sylvia Ji and was so struck by it. I had never attempted to draw people and thought I could maybe try. I was impressed with my first ‘day of the dead’ style drawing, but looking at it now just makes me laugh. In the last three years I have really evolved through drawing, getting better tools of the trade to work with and taking chances.
Creep: You use primarily pencils and colored pencils. What is it you like most about this medium? Will fans be seeing any work from you soon in other mediums?
Kelly: I can’t get away without using a pencil, I’ll always draw up the basic outline on pencil. Colored pencils give me the control I need to make fine lines, and the color palette can be infinite. I have tried other mediums such as painting and sculpting and to be honest, I’m just not very good at it. If I ever have the means in life I would love to take some painting courses.
Creep: Most of the models for your work are from photos of alternative models. Some of which have become muses for you. What is it about the alternative models that inspire you?
Kelly: I’m a pretty odd person, in so much as the things that interest an inspire me. I have always swayed to the darker side of things and you see it in my work with the skulls, bones and mandibles I use as hair accessories. So alternative models attracted me at the beginning because they are just as their name describes them. There are some beautiful people I would love to draw that I just don’t think would appreciate my style. I often speak to the model before I draw them via e-mail and get their input so that it’s a collaboration in a way. Another huge reason the alt models attracted me is because they work with some of the best damn photographers out there.
Creep: In many of your Day of the Dead styled drawings, many of the anatomical elements have a less painted on feel, and look more as though the bone and muscles is exposed from the model. Ive always been a fan of an understanding of anatomy in art. How did this style come about?
Kelly: At first the bones were just hair accessories, then it involved into trying to create a skull type mask which didn’t work out the way I liked. So I thought to myself that you could just do a portion of the drawing and see what happens, I especially liked that style for hands. I have always been fascinated by medical illness, anatomy and what happens to the body after death. So I suppose the anatomy aspect was the next place to go. Around the same time I started drawing bones in the hands I came across an amazing artist named Fernando Vicente who seemed to create the kind of image I like to draw. It’s not meant to be creepy, but rather to draw these beautiful women and add a touch of the macabre without loosing the overall sexiness.
Creep: Aside from the various models, what else are some of the things, movies, music, or books that inspire your work?
Kelly: I have always been a huge horror fan, but over the past year I have developed an obsession with foreign films, especially horror. North America just doesn’t seem to get it when it comes to the horror genre, either that, or they aren’t allowed to show it. I like anything bizarre and their is no shortage of bizarre movies out their to get the creative juices flowing Dogtooth, Gummo, and Desperate Living to name a few. I read pretty much whatever true crime I can get my hands on. I read a book about Jack the Ripper when I was around 11, and never dropped that hobby. I listen to music all the time, though nothing that’s comes from the last five years maybe, with the exception of the Black Keys. I don’t like this trend of anyone famous being able to make an album just because computers and technology are equipped to make them sound mediocre. I stick to The Beatles, Bob Dylan, CCR, Nirvana, Radiohead, and Marilyn Manson.
Creep: Last question, who are some of the current artists you would love to be share gallery space with?
Kelly: There are so many talented people out there and I wish Toronto had a better art-scene like LA does. I would have to say Sylvia Ji, because if I had never seen her work, I don’t know that I would have tried to expand my horizons. Glenn Arthur, Nathalie Rattner, Marc Mazzoni, Fernando Vicente, Michael Hussar, Kevin Llewellyn, Sylvia Lizarraga, Dean McDowell, Gustavo Rimada, and Tom Bagshaw to name a few.