Art by Jo Kelly
Fellow Instagram artist, Jo or @artbyjokelly is such a sweet, lovely soul, and did I mention she creates amazing things?!
Jo and I happened to be paired up for a Facetime date that the creative Instagram community @carveouttimeforart hosted back in 2016. Looking back, I remember being a little shaky to answer the call to meet this fellow “co-worker” in the arts. Jo was immediately warm and friendly and after the niceties, we began to share deeper stories. We’ve remained connected and I am so honored that Jo agreed to share some of her story here at CCA. Thank you for being our first Christian Creative Art Journal entry. Here are a few prompts and questions we’d like to ask you! So here goes…
1. Tell us about yourself and how you became an artist —
I couldn’t help but be an artist - but let me begin by saying I don’t have a career in art yet, rather I paint and draw regularly as a hobby. I’ve been a maker as long as I can remember. I grew up in the 60’s & 70’s in a middle-class city near Toronto Canada.
I am the youngest of 4 girls who had the privilege of living in a home FULL of making. My parents were the king and queen of DIY-ing. My father worked with his hands around the house, tiling the shower, fixing everything & making his own wine. And my beautiful mom - homemaker, baker, cook, seamstress… adorned my sisters and I with her handiwork as far back as I can remember. Given those genes, the reality is, if I weren’t painting and drawing most of my life, I would be sewing or building a table! All through school and my teen years, I would make posters, get craft kits for my birthday, or ask my mom to teach me something… then in my preteen years my dad signed my sister & I up for oil painting classes: 2 years with an empowering French Canadian artist stuck in me.. and though I’ve never picked up oil again, painting became something I knew I loved. Fast-forward a few decades, while raising our own four children, I think I passed on the art of DIY-ing also! Our kitchen table was always covered in crafting material and when my kids went to bed, I would have a sewing, furniture refinishing or crafting project on the go. In the 90’s I was caught up in the “trompe l’oiel” craze, and began painting on my walls, then on the walls of any friends who would let me! Soon I was painting throughout the neighbourhood homes and not long after, children’s murals became my favourite: dancing squirrels and make-believe stone window-frames lead to unicorns on the walls of my children’s rooms and their classmates. A deep desire is to return to painting murals in my current style has been brewing for a while… maybe by the end of this year I can find a wall to paint on! For now, I’m wrapped up in line drawing and painting acrylic florals on paper and canvas. Two years ago, with extra time on my hands, I pushed myself to learn to paint more consistently and begin an instagram account to document the journey. I’ve tried watercolour, marker, played with abstract style & botanical line drawing. In all of my experiments, I find myself returning to bold, bright coloured florals. I want to push myself to think of my art as a business - that’s my weakness for sure - and spread my wings with selling my art at shows, online and wherever I see opportunity.
2. How is your art influenced by your spirituality? How does one strengthen the other?
The best way I can answer that is to begin by saying I don’t think of myself as having spirituality, or being spiritual… at least not in the same way as I have children, or I choose to be a dog owner. I just am who I am: a follower of Jesus. I have been a Christian since I was twelve - that’s 44 years! I like to think of it this way: the basis & core of all I do, whether it’s being a friend, a mom, an artist; or whether it’s driving my car, cleaning my house, or drawing a flower - is reflective (I mean it can’t help but be!) of a life full of love, hope and faith in the God who created us and loves us. And you know this in no way means every day looks like fields of love-infused flowers!… nor does every piece of art I make have a magic touch to it. I believe I was given a life that includes the ability to make art, and all that pours out of my pens or paint brushes (or even other ways my hands make) can (somehow amazingly) reveal God’s creative power and the story of the life He’s privileged me to walk thus far. I need to make sure I’m honing my talent, practicing & experimenting lots, aware ALL I do is touched by Him, because I am.
3. Will you tell us how you become a believer?
I was eleven years old, and though we had been attending a traditional protestant church as long as I can remember, there came a crossroads for my parents, which spilled over to me. My parents, who had not been living as followers of Christ, visited a charismatic healing service and had a radical conversation, changing their lifestyle, and eventually changing the church we attended. I loved the new, upbeat style of passionate worship, and saw something I hadn’t before. I gave my life to follow Jesus and was baptized within a year. I’ve never looked back.
4. How is your creativity tied to Christianity?
I AM a Christian, so everything in my life is tied together. I’m not sure if this relates, but something I’ve thought of a lot is this: Christian artists don’t necessarily differ that much from non-Christian artists… because I fully believe that ALL creativity is a gift from God… it’s up to each individual if they choose to acknowledge where their gift comes from. Just like life… my friend who does not follow Jesus is physically just as alive as I am - they may have a fantastic marriage, parent wonderfully and give back to the community in many ways. All these things in their life are gifts from our heavenly Father because we are all made in His image… but not everyone has come to the realization the gifts are from Him. Another way I can put it is this: I believe ALL creativity is tied to Christianity because nothing is new under the sun. The only one who has the power to create is God… we, who are created by Him, get the privilege of making pieces of what already exists in His mind.
5. What is your favorite bible verse or book of the bible, why?
Favourite? oh my - - that’s tricky, depending on what my present life experiences are. Right now it’s any of the Gospels. I want to read about Jesus life while he was here on earth - - I have so much to learn from the way He lived.
6. What are some of your favorite Christian musicians right now?
I go back and forth listening to different styles of music, both non-Christian and Christian. I love love music!! Christian artists I’ve been affected by in the past while are David Baloche & Young Oceans. My husband’s occupation is touring Christian bands in Canada - so my influence is very broad and longstanding!
For me a “meaningful practice” equates to deciding regularly to follow my heart, passions & gifts.
7. Parting remarks to our audience on what it means to have a meaningful practice whether that’s in art or spirituality —
For me a “meaningful practice” equates to deciding regularly to follow my heart, passions & gifts. Being married for 35 years, raising four kids, nurturing friendships, being diligent in both the practical and the fun extras in life takes commitment, faithfulness and literally thousands of decisions. When I realize I get to live this life once - even though many days can go by that end up being mediocre, an exhausting mess, or even painful - I’m hit with the truth that every person, every action, everything, is a gift from our loving heavenly Father. His loving faithfulness to me is all I need to be reminded of, and I’m blown away with gratitude and humbled I get to live such a full life!
Jo, thank you for your thoughtful answers. CCA is praying for you and your creative journey.
You can find Jo’s work on her website firstname.lastname@example.org/artbyjokelly or on Instagram @artbyjokelly