We had the good fortune of connecting with Kelly Gilleran and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kelly, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
It wasn’t until the start of the pandemic that being an artist became my full-time job. I went from working full-time, to part-time over the course of about 7 years, and when covid happened, my part-time job just… stopped existing. After the initial panic, it was actually a good thing, and it helped me realize that if I was able to focus on art full-time, it could be my sole source of income. The switch definitely changed my work-life balance. When I was working a day job, art was both my passion and my hobby. There was a good 6 year period that I didn’t have much of a social life, and I was focused on creating artwork in my free-time. Since my artwork is now my job, I have this other pocket of time in my days where I’ve got time hobbies. There’s always ebbs and flows of creative bursts, and waves work, and there’s time where I’ve got not a whole lot going on. It was an adjustment to learn that I don’t always need to be productive, but I think I’ve settled into it nicely at this point.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I moved to Colorado right after I finished college. I grew up in Connecticut, and I didn’t really see myself fitting into the picture of what was going on in New York. I was given the piece of advice “do what you love, and you’ll always find the people that love it too.” For me, that was vintage advertising, particularly food. There was a time in history 40’s-70’s, where a lot of advertising was done with hand-painted illustrations, and it made small moments seem important and historical. I found this style of illustration very intriguing, and decided if I couldn’t be hired for this style of illustration, I would emulate it anyway. So for the past 8 years I’ve been focusing on vintage-inspired pattern design and pin-ups. I’d like to think my artwork stands out from others by virtue of being traditional media and nodding to traditional vintage illustration techniques and processes. My artwork exists in the realm of pop-art eye candy, and above all else I hope people see the humor in it. I don’t take myself too seriously, and my artwork isn’t serious either.
It was important to me to create the art I wanted, and have it be accessible to a wider audience at different budgets, so I started selling online through print-on-demand websites like RedBubble & Society6. Not everyone can afford an original painting, but just about everyone can afford a sticker. As printing technologies improved, there were a wider arrange of products available, which led me to pattern design so I could easily cover just about any product available.
Starting out selling online is more of a marathon than a sprint. Because you are essentially licensing your artwork, you get paid in royalties, which are usually $1-$5 depending on the product. For the first years selling, it was nothing to write home about, much less a viable source of income. Once you find your audience though, things snowball. It was years and years of working silly full-time jobs, and continuing the belief that art would be my career. I’ve learned that making what I want to is always a better use of my time and passion than selling myself short doing work for others. I’ve gotten better at saying no to projects that I’m not interested in, and advocating for myself when a client is being demanding or exploitative.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well, I’m based in Colorado Springs, and while we can compete with how cool Denver is, I’d say it’s getting a little cooler down in the Springs. Check out the Fine Arts Center, & Cottonwood Center for the Arts, if you want to see what’s going on art-wise. If you’re looking for good eats, Urban Steam for breakfast, Colonel Mustards for lunch, and 503W for dinner. I’m not big on the outdoors & sunshine, so I’d seek shelter at the Penny Arcade in Manitou. For nightlife, just head downtown and you can bar hop, Super Nova is my favorite bar/arcade.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would give a little credit to my partner. He is also a wildly creative person who creates music under the name DVS NME. He’s always there to encourage me, bounce ideas off of, and he understands that creativity comes in bursts. He’s my best friend. We’ve got a real great groove where we each go off into our “creative corners” and do our own thing, while admiring what each other is making.
Other: kellygilleran.redbubble.com (For prints & product)
“Tiki Cocktail Pattern – Yellow” “Sushi Pattern – Blue” “Fruit Girl Pin-Up Pattern” “Rainbow Cake Heads” “808 Dream Date” “Sundae Best: Banana Split” “American Snack Cake Pin-ups” “Gumball Machine Pin-Up”