It feels like many moons ago when we first checked in on Kelly Anna, at the cusp of greatness. Ever since, we’ve watched her career grow by the day. But where did it all begin? The east London creative is a powerhouse in the London art and design scene, with a decorative studio in Hackney Wick, but her roots are in Suffolk. “My journey into art started at a very young age,” she tells It’s Nice That. “Growing up, my dad would take me on little trips around Suffolk to paint, and I learned a lot from him – I still use his techniques now in my own practice.” Her father, an artist, helped kickstart Kelly Anna’s creative ambition from a young age – but more importantly, inspired her artistic identity. “My dad’s work was always filled with texture, which I loved exploring, but I was also really attracted to clean graphic pieces too,” she explains. “I always loved that conflict, though.” Now, it’s safe to say that Kelly Anna’s work has been refined to the point of being a distinctly recognisable hand. Across her portfolio, we see a cohesive and beautiful tapestry of “strong silhouetted forms, with a focus on sport, movement, and empowerment,” Kelly Anna explains. Often circling these compositions are the strong currents of a feminist message, something that weaves in and out of Kelly Anna’s vision with skilful ease.
“My work is usually born from something I learned in sport and dance,” Kelly Anna explains. “Growing up I did everything from gymnastics to karate, and my parents were ballroom and Latin dancers.” It’s a pairing typically seen as contrasting to one another, but the mixing of sport and art is exactly what Kelly Anna holds dear to her heart. “These [mix of] influences are very present in my work today,” she tells us. “Whether it is a particular movement, mantra, or a direct reference, sport and dance are at the heart of most things I create today.”
Kelly Anna’s dedication to sport, dance, and movement in her art has not only amassed the following of tens of thousands of people across social media and around the world, but has also attracted an impressive client base. From Nike to Chelsea FC to this year’s Tokyo Olympics, Kelly Anna proves herself time and time again as a highly commissionable and endlessly productive illustrator. “During the year I always look for opportunities to create self-initiated work,” Kelly Anna explains. She’s found a balancing act between filling briefs and doing her own personal work, and sometimes even blending the two. On launching her own series for the Olympics, Kelly Anna found it to be the most natural choice for her illustrative career. “I’ve always been obsessed with the Olympics, I admire the mixed media approach that comes with creating Olympic memorabilia, the mix of illustration, photography, and typography yields a unique type of work that I love,” she explains. “The Tokyo games were definitely a moment I wanted to be a part of, it felt like a really pivotal year for the Olympic games with new sports being introduced and athletes challenging norms – so I felt really proud to put my work to this year’s games.”
Moving forward, we know Kelly Anna’s career will blossom as it has done over the last few years. She’s proven to be popular outside of the digital realm, and often has her work showcased across murals, garments, and more. “I think my work is best expressed in physical spaces and objects,” she says. “When I see my work on murals or product collaborations, I only hope that my work will continue to evolve in a way that allows me to create bigger and better products and expand into more exciting physical spaces.”
Kelly Anna: Tokyo Olympics Series, Volleyball (Copyright © Kelly Anna, 2021)