We had the good fortune of connecting with Kelsey Irvin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kelsey, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
It has changed a lot. It is a very hard balance, that is a lesson I continue to learn even today. In the very early years of working as a full-time artist I could sense that I was building a career step by step. I knew that every hour in the studio mattered towards the outcome of that career and I didn’t want to miss any of those hours. So I found myself passing up social invitations for studio time. I missed out on meeting up with friends in order to paint longer hours. Not all of the time, but enough to notice. Looking back, I’d call it a sacrifice for my career. No regrets, but the balance was skewed because I was reaching. Many years later after my career had developed further, I still found myself pulling crazy work hours, but at that point I wasn’t sacrificing anything, it was just normal studio hours. Burning the midnight oil was commonplace. Once my husband and I got married and started having kids I basically had to reinvent how to balance life as a parent with that of a full-time artist and gallery owner. We have three kids now. I will say that as of a few years ago I’d finally figured out the perfect work-life balance. It was a puzzle that I’d finally completed. How to do it all and not feel like I was missing out on studio time, or quality time with your kids. I’d figured out how to do both, separately and rewardingly instead of simultaneously with inner conflict. I had it down. A solid work week and uninterrupted time with family. But, in the Springtime of this year the Covid-19 pandemic seemed to pull the rug right out from under me, just like everyone else. No longer could I rely on the work-life balance I’d worked so hard to figure out. I know this feeling was shared by the masses. So, I had to start fresh and again reinvent how to find a balance. I’m still working on it. But I feel extremely fortunate that I have so many great things to have to balance in the first place.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My career is one I feel so grateful to have. It came serendipitously and it still feels like a bit of a dream. I’ve worked very hard to make my work unique, especially in terms of technique and materials. I started selling and exhibiting my work in 2004 and it has changed and evolved a lot since then. What I’ve developed most is a style that involves drawing, painting, and a strategic use of vintage ephemera collage as a medium. The collage has become more painterly in the way that I use it, it almost becomes one with the paint so the viewer often has to get very close to see what is collage or assemblage, and what is paint. I use vintage ephemera in reverence of the past and the people that came before me. Preserving bits of history in my work has been, and continues to be a meaningful practice in a world becoming more digital each day. I’ve also learned to stick with my vision no matter how long it takes. I had a longterm vision for my panels when I started them, and I’m so glad I’ve seen it through. They were created to symbolize people and the truth that individuals are both entirely unique as well as often enhanced by community and companionship. The panels can stand alone or together. I started making my panels over 13 years ago with the intent that a single panel from years ago could hang next to a panel I completed in the current year. They’ve evolved, as they should, but I’m glad I’ve let them evolve and continue rather than stopping the series when it felt like I’d been doing it too long. It still feels relevant now. And I’m excited for the ways they’ll shift again in the near future.
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.
I’d be sure to take them to the Zoo or the Safari Park eat in Little Italy! I recently had the chance to spend the night at the Safari Park for the Roar & Snore and I’d say that’d make the itinerary!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My husband, Michael, has been my constant supporter. We met in 2005 and he was my art dealer. He has always backed my ideas and been an important advocate of my work. He’s seen me through every series and evolution of my work and encouraged me at every turn. We worked so well together and had so much fun together that the idea was born to join our strengths, while acknowledging our weaknesses. We could do more as a team. In 2007 we went into business together and we now own Kelsey Michaels Fine Art, with galleries located in both Laguna Beach and Corona del Mar. We represent many extremely talented artists and we both get to do what we love every single day. Including ours, my own work is represented by eight galleries across the country and Michael has also been pivotal in helping me with the shipping of my work to other galleries as well as helping me keep up with consignments & inventory. We wear many hats for one another so that we can each spend most of our work time doing what we do best. Hard work is most fulfilling when you do what you love and in turn get to see people enjoy the outcome of your labor. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I know he feels the same.