Kelly Ann Holmes

Kelly Ann Holmes is a self taught mixed media artist living in Nottingham with her two poodles. Kelly only really started her artistic practices back in 2012. Prior to that, she worked for about 15 years in the hospitality industry, covering everything from restaurant work to festivals, guesthouses and pub management.

How did this all start?

I came to art relatively late in life, I was 35 before I even considered it as a hobby, let alone a serious one, and the idea of ever making it into anything even resembling a career was ludicrous. But, 7 years later I have just been accepted onto a Fine Art degree at Nottingham Trent University, so I am very excited about what the future might hold.

For the most part I use recycled materials to create my pieces and my signature material is the good old beer can, used of course.

Why cans?

The use of can came from surplus materials I had around me, a love for upcycling and generally being a bit quirky.

This may sound a bit romantic, but it was while working at Glastonbury one summer. One thing you see there is a tonne of empty cans, the idea just kind of came to me. It seemed a bit of a long shot for someone with zero artistic background to be able to cobble together a portrait out of used beer cans, and there certainly aren't any lessons for such a niche subject, so I set about teaching myself how to do it.

The first one I ever made was probably well beyond what I was expecting, which gave me the motivation to crack the hell on and get good.

There is an army of artists in this country who use recycled materials, but as much as I tried, I couldn't find anyone doing it with beer cans, so the fact that it would set me apart from others was also a bonus.


Where do you get your inspiration from?

My inspiration comes from pop art, popular culture, a real passion for upcycling and from characters I find interesting. The reasons I find them interesting are probably a bit darker than why most people are attracted to them. Many of the portraits I do are of people who have had troubled lives, whilst at the same time balancing on a ludicrously high pedestal. I think it comes from an interest in mental health and addiction issues.  

I also draw a huge amount of inspiration from my peer group and the wider art community in general, there are some incredibly talented people out there, creating daily masterpieces, and they inspire me just as much as any famous artist you may have heard of.

What are the difficulties with using cans?

Using cans has its own unique set of difficulties. The deconstruction of them, taking the top and bottom off with a Stanley knife and a pair of scissors, is not only laborious, but pretty grim given that beer turns to snot like gunk in the bottom of a can in no time at all.  

I have often sat and lost the will to live whilst realising why nobody is daft enough to put themselves through cutting up hundreds of cans and developing carpal tunnel syndrome.

Needless to say, I have a massive stack (about 2000) uncut cans, stored down the garden, waiting until needs absolutely must.

Everybody asks if I cut myself, the answer being no, well maybe twice in 7 years. However, I hit my thumb a lot as I hammer the pins in. A lot!


Have you ever doubted your own work? 

I constantly doubt my own work, which is absolutely to do with my own confidence issues. For the most part I am proud of it, but with every single piece I find fault and have a crisis of confidence. 

That might sound like I'm a bit of a Debbie Downer, but it's not like that. It's really hard to articulate actually. I have bursts of self confidence , feeling really enthused and motivated but that can all be shattered by 5 minutes of self doubt. And then to go on and tell anybody that you feel like that, in turn makes you feel like you're fishing for compliments. You you’re your work's good, but it's not good enough for you. 

So yeah, I doubt my own work plenty.


The best compliment you have received about your work?

I guess the best compliment I have ever received is when I have been commissioned to make a piece and been told to make what I want. I think that's a huge amount of trust and confidence to place in an artist. On the few occasions that I have been asked to do that, I have enjoyed it so much, and been really happy with the results, as were the clients.

I have had so many amazing compliments about my work, both in person and online, I never take any of them for granted and they really do mean a lot, I see it as someone taking time from their day to give you a confidence boost. That is not to be taken lightly.