Speaking to...Kelly Anna London

In an art world that can sometimes feel overcrowded, it takes something special to stand out, but Kelly Anna London certainly does, at least enough to have her prints worn by people like Beyonce and Cara Delevigne. 

With a Matisse-esque style that combines strong, bold colours with striking patterns, all tied together by a sense of movement and athleticism in her subjects, her work catches the eye instantly and keeps you interested with it's never ending detail. 

With her recent collaboration with Nike, she's created an amazing looking running shoe as well as a range of running clothes that incorporate her signature colour palette and patterns, which basically means the whole range looks wavey as fuck in the best possible way. 

We sat down and had a chat with this rising star of the art and design world to see what makes her tick. 

WG: How did you get into art, print and design? 
Kelly Anna: I've always been into art as my father was an artist himself. So its always been around me. Dad was a really big critic. I grew up being told "No thats crap, try again!" In the nicest way, he was just quite strict when it came to drawing. He is the most incredible figurative sketcher I know. He just understands how to capture the figure without hesitation.

I would put my skills into practice at Ballroom and Latin competitions and sketch the dancers as they moved around the floor. My whole family are Ballroom and Latin dancers, Its how my parents met. I did this for years and ended up becoming a fashion illustrator at London fashion week at the age of 20. I would sit front row and sketch the looks coming down the catwalk. I ended up doing this 4 seasons running. 

Thats where I started to fall in love with print design too. I loved the way print told the story behind each collection. After uni, I then worked my way up to head of print at Illustrated People. 

 

You're from south, like us at Wavey Garms. Why is south London better than north for you? 
South is where I live and my studio is. I think I have a little connection here because my dad was going to go to Camberwell art school when he was younger so for me it was always on my list to live here. When I moved to London at 18  (originally I'm from Suffolk).  I lived in East London,  when I moved there it had a good vibe but over the years it just became more corporate. Less raves happening in shitty buildings. I feel like South still has a fun vibe to it, Its not as done up. Its obviously going that way and has been for a while, but for now it still feels exciting! 

I'm not an art buff or anything, but a lot of your work reminds me of Matisse, who and what are were your biggest influences growing up?
I'm not either! All I know is that I love colour, and bold graphics. Matisse was my dads favourite artists so we had the work around our house when I was growing up. Maybe thats why it stuck! I also loved that he never stuck to just one medium. This has been really important for me. I love to work in different forms. From clothing, to set design to packaging! 

And what inspires your art today?
I'm obsessed with sports graphics, skating, snowboarding, gymnastic! Old olympic stamps. Anything sports related tend to have really great graphic artwork that I'm really drawn to. I'm also inspired by the figure. I love how much it can be exaggerated into weird alien powerful forms. 

What's your creative process like? As a writer I'm always talking in my head about potential lines or paragraphs to use, is that the same with visual creativity or do you just sit in front of a blank canvas and go HAM? 
I never start by just staring at a blank canvas. Thats probably the scariest thing to do! I have to get really inspired and pump before I even put pen to paper. Sometimes that means doing a bit of collage paper work. Literally just cutting up paper. Or I'll do lots of visual research, pinning my favourite images. Going to a show, or going for a run or workout really helps. I actually find it hard to start the day without some form of exercise! If I don't I feel pretty shit! I think its important in London to stay mentally healthy.

How have you seen your art develop over time, and how has that affected your life, either positively or maybe negatively?
My artwork has developed lots over time. I think as an artist it has to. You have to have your own style but also move with the times and stay relevant. We should be using our art to say something. I don't necessarily create art to say something specifically, but usually because I am drawing from what I am seeing around me its hard for it not to have some sort of messaging. 

Your recent running range with Nike looks really amazing, how did that come about?
Nike global were looking for artists from around the world to represent their city for the new free run upper fabrication. The London team sent my work over as I had worked with them on an international women's day project which went really well and they picked me. 

Is exercise (or maybe movement if I'm being super pretentious) something that motivates you a lot? 
Pretentious doesn't come in to anything these days, We are all pretentious in some way so just own it. Movement and exercise 100% motivates me. To do anything creative these days you need energy, There are too many people out there with a shit load of fire and energy. So I need to keep up! 

You like to put empowering messages into your work, what kind of values would you say are most important to you?
Confidence is the key to success for me. I used to struggle a lot with work confidence so its been a long road fro me to try and gain it. I'm not losing it for anyone. So this is what I want to get across. 

You've had some huge names like Beyonce and Cara Delevigne rock your prints, what did that feel like, and how has that affected your day to day? 
I didn't even know they had worn the pieces until mates messaged me. It was a good feeling but to be honest seeing anything I have created on paper, to see that on anyone or anything just feels me with a lot of pride. 

In terms of fashion, how would you describe your style? 
I love menswear more than womenswear. I have always been more boyish in terms of style. But thats just because I really appreciate the detail that goes into menswear. Even though men say women have more options, I actually like having less options and focusing on each piece being special. I love a graphic tee too! 

What kind of music are you into, does that have a part to play in your art at all? 
I love afrobeat, Jungle, garage, house, hip hop. R'n'B, I also love Latin American because I danced Latin for 18 years. Basically anything I can dance to!! Yeh music influences a lot of my work. I just put TSVI on my soundtrack for the Nike BTS film because his track was the only one I listened to when I was designing. 

What's the modern art world like, both in London and I guess globally? 
It's fun! Competitive but fun if you allow it to be. I think the online world has made it so much easier for people to find art they like, and allows them to follow the journeys of each artist which can be really exciting and creates a really authentic relationship between the artists and their buyers. 

How has social media affected your career, both positively and negatively? Do you think now that it's almost untenable for a modern artist to not have some kind of Instagram etc?
It's impacted it positively for me for sure. I wouldn't be working with half the clients if it wasn't for Instagram. However it does have its down side! A lot of people doing a lot of the same thing! And also - It creates a very samey world. People tend to put up the things they know will get a good reaction. But the problem with that is, Most people love to see what they have seen before. People get uncomfortable with new. But Art has to be uncomfortable to move forward I think. 

You can check out Kelly Anna's Instagram here, and her website here, or cop her new Nike collab here.

Written by: Tom Usher
Photos and art by: Kelly Anna