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Check out Kelly Maryanski’s Artwork

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelly Maryanski.

Kelly, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I have been drawing and making things ever since I was little. I remember around age seven, I hand-drew and catalogued every outfit worn by Melissa Joan Hart on Sabrina the Teenage Witch. I drew every costume in CATS the Musical. I reinterpreted manga illustrations (and had one of my Sailor Moon illustrations published when I was 11 years old by Tokyopop Magazine – remember them?) and sewed my own clothes and pillows, made jewelry and other odds and ends. In middle school, I got very involved in charcoal and chalk and would draw these very large-scale portraits of The Beatles (and won a few awards with them at The Fest for Beatle Fans in the early 2000s). I would get very involved in the details of each current topic and obsession. In high school under the mentorship of Thom Kapheim, I was introduced to the works of John Tenniel (of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” fame) and to the magic of Staedtler refillable ink pens and liquid watercolor.

I attended Denison University where I started to develop my own personal illustration style, blending meticulous line work and washy watercolor overlays. I also created a number of site-specific installation pieces, using elements of visual merchandising, ink and watercolor, and porcelain work. I also wrote a picture book about Michael Jackson and created a solo exhibition about the dangers of celebrity consumption and the power of self-creation using MJ as my vehicle (but maybe there is another place and time for that discussion!)

Post-graduation, I freelanced as a makeup artist briefly and was hired by the Westfield Group to paint their holiday company cards. Subsequently, they asked me to paint holiday scenes and guests’ in-person at one of their shopping centers. After that event, a Chicago PR company contacted me about doing similar work for a private blogger event. From there, I ended up illustrating for more events: independent start-ups, dog socials, benefits, galas, and store openings. Also weddings, I paint a lot of weddings during cocktail hour! A lot of the events I book are due to word of mouth as well.

I am also an actor/dancer/choreographer/aerialist and recently graduated from circus school. But more on that another time.

We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
Primarily, I work in small-scale ink and watercolor. A majority of the work I do is live, quick, fashion illustration. Each subject I paint usually takes under five minutes to complete.

A lot of clients want a more personal touch for their guests than having a Polaroid photographer or photo booth at their events. My work is also very much fashion-based (think Miles White, John Tenniel, Edith Head) and slightly abstract. I don’t paint “caricatures” as you would see at an amusement park or boardwalk. I love being able to give clients and guests something just a little extra to make their event a bit more special. To me, it is these small details can be the things that matter the most.

I also design tattoos, logos, provide illustrations for authors, and take just plain old individual commissions.

Do current events, local or global, affect your work and what you are focused on?
I am going to answer this question by providing two quotes from of the most brilliant speakers on the topic of art and education that I have had the pleasure to meet, Sir Ken Robinson:

“Creativity is as important now in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.”

“You cannot predict the outcome of human development. All you can do is like a farmer create the conditions under which it will begin to flourish.”

Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
I will be collaborating with XO Marshmallow from December 4th-12th. The XO Marshmallow Cafe in Roger’s Park will be hosting a pop up gallery of my work and I will be doing a live illustration event on Sunday December 9th in the cafe.  A more comprehensive collection of my work can be found on my website:,  on good ‘ol Instagram @kellypaintswithwater, and on Redbubble. I also am represented by FLATS STUDIO and I am a member of the Chicago Writers Association. You can see some of my work in the latest publication of the Write City Review published by the latter.

I am also an actor, dancer, and aerialist, and when I’m not illustrating you may catch me on stage or in the air!

One of the most supportive things others can do for artists is to hire them and don’t undercut or undervalue their work. I believe in the importance of supporting local artists and businesses.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Mike Rivera (Main Photo), Michelle Cox Photo (Profile portrait with blue train case)

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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