Artist Spotlight: Kelly Degnan

Artist Spotlight: Kelly Degnan






How would you describe your art? Next Generation Abstract Expressionism. My paintings are part homage to the original Abstract Expressionists I adore, part celebration of color.

Who or what influences you/your work? Where do you draw your inspiration? Studying the work and lives of Cy Twombly, Helen Frankenthaler, Willem de Kooning and Joan Mitchell in particular has been a major influence on my work and process, as well as the landscapes and colors around me or remembered from travels. Colorado has some incredible natural colors I swear you can’t find elsewhere and it’s a joy to mirror them in my work.

Describe the process of creating your art? How do you begin? How long does it typically take to complete a piece? How do you know when something is done? I typically work on several pieces at once and begin by mapping out a vision for the series including sketches, color swatches and images of past work. Each morning before I begin, I pour over inspiration online and in art books until I will burst if I don’t start painting. When the composition and colors have passed my ‘living room’ test (i.e. would I want the painting hanging in my own living room every day) then I’ll call it done. This can take days or years!

Which of your pieces are you exceptionally happy with/proud of? Why? “Molto Bene” is a large scale mixed media piece I worked on with my daughter when she was 4. I let her help with some of the abstract flowers on the painting and we both signed our initials. It’s a wonderful memory and a beautiful piece.

What are your goals for this year? The next 5 years? My goal for this year is to finish 2 pieces each week and exhibit in new galleries. My 5 year goal is to have the opportunity/venues to work on and show very large-scale pieces. It’s not your average client who wants to commission a 12-ft painting!

What is your favorite part of being an artist? Least favorite? Waking up in the morning and realizing that I have a full day to paint. It’s like I’m 5-years old and have just been handed the keys to a candy store…and a puppy…and it’s Christmas morning. For me, there is nothing better. I utterly adore the entire process of creating a painting, from the first stroke to the final varnish and feel incredibly blessed that it’s my profession. Least favorite part is how self-conscious it can make me. I am my own harshest critic and every show feels like putting my heart on a platter.

Fill in the blank: I wouldn’t be caught dead putting ____ on my walls? A print of a painting. Whether it’s my own work, another artist I’ve splurged on, my kids’ sketches or a painting from a thrift shop, there’s nothing like original work.

Which contemporary artists to you admire? Jo Davenport, Lana Gomez, Sally King Benedict, Claire Desjardins and Bridgette Martin-Pyles to name a few.

What are some of your other interests/hobbies? Anything Colorado! Trail running, skiing, snowshoeing, hiking. We have a little cabin in the mountains and it’s incredible to drop everything and unwind in nature without any cell reception, just the sound of a river rushing by.

In a fantasy world where ALL of the world’s art was available and price was no issue, what piece would you like to own? Easy, anything by Cy Twombly. Maybe one of the panels from his Lepanto series…but then I would have to build a new house to fit it!