Kelly Pelfrey believes that light and color and nature rain down as good gifts. She captures it all on canvas, applauding what is good and lovely in the world
By KATHERINE PETTIT
Artist Kelly Pelfrey recently completed her “Peace” Collection. The acrylic creations are lovely, soft, and evoca-tive, but none of the paintings are available for sale. They sold out almost instantly. There are many beautiful works available from other collections and as individual creations however and that’s a good thing. She works mostly in acrylics, painting landscapes and portraits and recently, still life compositions.
“I love to highlight the beauty of the southern landscape with its hospitality and deep sense of home,” Kelly says. The life-long Palmetto State resident and graduate of the University of South Carolina currently lives and works in Chapin. Formerly a children’s art teacher, the pandemic has helped give her an anchor at home with her husband and four children. “As painful as this pandemic has been, for me it’s provided the opportunity to use the time at home to work and grow as a contemporary impressionist and abstract expressionist,” she said.
When the couple welcomed their fourth child in January, they recognized that more childcare had become a necessity. Teaching would not be on her agenda. And that was before the pandemic hit. “I’m glad we didn’t know what was ahead because I would have been terrified to quit my job,” Kelly said. “In retrospect, the growth I’ve experienced has shown me that this was a perfect decision.”
What began as a challenge became an opportunity to use naptime as creative time in her studio. “I grab a couple of hours before the children wake up,” she explained, noting that her 4:30 am rise afforded her time to write in her journal, read her Bible, sip her coffee and plan her day. Fueled by two cups of caffeine, her early morning creative time is energized and productive.
Later, during naptime, she grabs an-other couple of hours. For her, it’s been a blessing. “I have 2-3 paintings going at one time, usually one for commission work and one just for me. I can’t paint all day, even if I had nothing else to do,” she says. “This is perfect.”
Kelly can never remember a time when she wasn’t drawing, first with crayons and later, with paints. She chose the university because of its strong art education program. It didn’t hurt that both of her parents graduated from the school and it offered a large university atmosphere. “They had renovated new studio spaces in 1999 and 2000 and that helped as well.”
And there was more. “I chose a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Education,” she said. “It offered a heavy concentration in studio courses and I had great professors.” Kelly particularly remembers Professor David Voros, who helped her discover more about painting materials and processes. She also learned much from Professor Philip Mullen, distinguished professor emeritus, whose work is found in museums and col-lections worldwide. “Both of them taught me something all the time,” she said. “I remember Philip reminding us to always mix something with your white paint, and to use textures – even scraping the back of our paint tube across the canvas. David taught us plein air landscape work, where I learned to use oils, although I am not currently painting with them.”
As with most things, all of those learning opportunities have contributed to her development as an artist. Her faith is important as well, as have been her own life experiences. “I had two miscarriages in 2018 and I discovered, in the midst of my grief, that painting could be a form of worship and catharsis,” she said. “There is joy in the middle of heartbreak, and celebration, even in mourning.”
There are a number of artists who continue to inspire her own work. “I love the art of Joaquin Sorolla, a Spanish painter who bridged the 19th and 20th centuries,” she said. “And I, like so many others, have gravitated toward Mary Cassatt, with her portraits of mothers and children.” Monet, Van Gogh, and Matisse also figure prominently as influencers.
But there are contemporary impressionists who inspire her as well, including Colin Page, Marjorie Hicks, and Maggie Siner. Their work ranges from gentle and subdued to active and vibrant, much like Kelly’s paintings.
Recently, her collections have been reflections of her life in that moment, includ-ing Green Pastures, Hope, Timeless and Sanctuary, as well as the sold-out Peace collection. Kelly’s work can be purchased through the Christenberry Collection, an online gallery, as well as through her Ins-tagram account.
She is currently strongly drawn to still life paintings, incorporating old ceram-ics and vessels of all kinds into her paint-ings. “I love the patterns and color which emerge,” she said. “There is a renaissance of old items being appreciated once again.”
And Kelly has much joy to celebrate in her life. “I paint as my response to beauty,” she says. “I am an unapologetic optimist, even though it’s easy to be distracted by what people are experiencing now. As an artist I love to show what’s beautiful, to say,