If you’ve come face to face with a tidal wave of dusty pastel pigment, wavy fronds, floating black specks, and fluid lines while crossing the street or placing an order here in Rhode Island, chances are good that you’ve encountered a mural by Liz Kelley. At last count there were ten around the state – some on sides of buildings, some on interior walls – all providing a welcome infusion of color and whimsy to their surroundings.
“The scope of work varies from a simple black and white linear mural to a full wall of color,” explains Kelley, who is also an illustrator and creative consultant, and a former visual manager for West Elm in Wayland Square. While in school for illustration, she became very interested in painting, especially using gouache, a form of watercolor that dries with a matte finish. “I was used to working small-scale, but the pull towards larger and more impactful pieces was always there.”
The push to “go big” came from colleague Jayna Aronovitch, owner of LORE, a handmade lifestyle shop on Brook Street, who asked Kelley to design and install a temporary painting. Kelley accepted and found the experience to be liberating. “I fell in love with working on an art piece that was taller than me, that required buckets of paint instead of small tubes.”
Kelley explains that a mural can take anywhere from one to three weeks to complete installation. She does all of the design work herself, and until her son was born last May, did the painting as well. “Since then my husband Bobby assists with executing murals. This works out because he is also a designer and has a meticulous eye as well as a steady hand,” she says. To transfer designs from computer screen to paper to building, she once relied on the commonly used grid method – an involved process that she enjoyed – however, to accommodate the growth in her business, she now uses a time-saving projector.
“I love partnering with my residential and commercial clients to understand their vision and how we can bring it to life through color, texture, and statement pieces,” says Kelley. When asked, she admits that The Nitro Bar mural in Newport is her current favorite for a few reasons, including painting during late-spring weather, the texture of the wall, and the pleasure of working with the owners for a second time. “I am so grateful for the work that has come my way and I look forward to sharing current and future projects.”