Over the past few years, Kelsey Brookes has worked to a place where his art is known in Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, and beyond, but his lack of major attention in his hometown of San Diego doesn't seem to bother him at all. For Kelsey, San Diego holds the elements of home and it is obvious that his pursuit of success in art has little to do with recognition or significance, but rather stems from a desire to enjoy life fully and spend his time in meaningful ways. His painting is full of passion, but it doesn't overshadow his passions for surfing, adventuring, and sharing time with friends, whether new or old. To see that balance is a reminder that good art is an expression of deep and interesting experiences, and the evidence of time well-spent drips out beautifully on Kelsey's canvases.
When did you decide that you wanted to pursue making art full-time and how has the process been?
I started full time in 2006. I honestly had no idea how it would happen. I had confidence in the fact that I could cover rent by doing free lance illustration work but that was as far as I had thought. Mostly I just knew that I wanted to have fun in my life and what I was doing at the time for money was not very fun.
What are some of the key places you draw influence from and do they continually change and reshape?
Hindu art, Easter folk traditions, American quilt making, spirituality or lack of spirituality maybe, so many things really and it is constantly changing. Lately I have been interested in appropriated imagery.
How did you get started with RVCA and how has that relationship helped your career?
They emailed me a few years ago right around the time I went full time into art and asked if I wanted to be involved. Since then, they have helped out in so many ways. They helped me pay for rent and paint, they have taken me around the country painting but probably the most important thing is the networking aspect. RVCA is the common meeting ground for so many people (bands, artists, athletes curators etc.), which naturally encourages cross pollination, new ideas and new opportunities. They have been a great help to me and I consider them family.
What music have you been listening to lately? How does music interact with your art and your process of making it?
I have music and audio books and stories playing all day on my computer. NPR, The BBC, American Public Media, Librivox.org and the advent of Podcasting has revolutionized the way I consume information. It all does have influence on my paintings. Lyrics or themes I listen to while I paint sometimes creep into the paintings details.
What keeps you in San Diego?
Surf mostly. San Diego has some great waves and surfing offers a nice balance to painting.
What would you like to see happen here?
San Diego and art are not two words I would partner up in any real significant way and I kind of like that, to be honest. I get a healthy dose of art gossip and rumors when I go to London, NYC or LA. It makes coming home to a place like San Diego a welcome relief. So I kind of like the fact that we are a little sheltered from the larger art world. It makes it difficult to get things going but as long as you have a computer and access to the internet you are as close to those big art capitals as is necessary… or at least healthy for me.
All photos above courtesy of Joshua White, taken at New Image Art.
What are you working on right now and what’s coming up on your calendar?
I’m working on a new series of prints for my website and for Pictures on Walls. I've got two group shows coming up; this summer at White Walls Gallery in SF and fall at Lazarides Gallery in London. Also, my first San Diego solo show at Quint Contemporary Art in La Jolla this fall, which I am super stoked for.
View more of Kelsey's work on his website.