Stevenson's offerings impress at Blyth Festival - Jan. 17, 2019
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
As 2018 turned to 2019, Blyth artist Kelly Stevenson began sharing her newest creations with the world: posters for the Blyth Festival’s five main stage shows for this upcoming season.
Stevenson, a young artist who lives just a few doors down from Memorial Hall itself, was tapped to create art for the 45th season of the Blyth Festival last year. Her creations began with the season image of the newly-renovated Memorial Hall and now she has rolled out the posters for Jumbo, Cake Walk, Team on the Hill, In the Wake of Wettlaufer and Bed & Breakfast.
While Stevenson has become known locally for her unique and compelling sketches, she hasn’t often worked with colour, which was one of the challenges presented to her by Artistic Director Gil Garratt for this year’s artwork.
Garratt says that Stevenson rose to the challenge and that he’s blown away with the images she presented to him. He said that she was presented with either scripts or partial scripts and she was able to encapsulate the stories in one image, keeping her unique style ever-present in her art.
Though a young woman not far removed from her schooling, Stevenson is already an accomplished artist. Her first individual show was produced at the Bainton Gallery through the Blyth Festival Art Gallery. She has since shown her art around the province and curated several shows locally as well.
Stevenson admits that her style of art, working with fine-tipped pens to create mostly black-and-white drawings, isn’t the Festival’s traditional fare when it comes to its posters. With established, traditional artists like Greg Sherwood, Ron Walker and Randy Jones, as well as photographer Terry Manzo, working on season images and production posters in recent years, Stevenson said she was surprised when she was approached, but also extremely honoured.
However, Stevenson’s work has been included often at the Blyth Festival Art Gallery’s community show and she has been awarded through the Huron County Art Show and Sale as well.
Artistic Director Gil Garratt first approached Stevenson about the project in the summer, e-mailing “out of the blue” and asking if she would be interested.
Stevenson said her art has been very personal in recent years, not to mention black and white, so being commissioned for a series of images that would have to be in colour represented a number of changes to the way she normally works.
While it would be difficult, Stevenson said that didn’t dissuade her and she was immediately intrigued. She accepted and began crafting some ideas right away, although the season’s productions had yet to be approved by the Festival’s board of directors at the time.
Garratt said that Stevenson has a quickly-emerging signature style that greatly intrigues him. Her art, he said, is playful, but with a hint of mystery to it. The style is very clear and it has a simplicity to it that attracted him.
Garratt said it was Stevenson’s work on a calendar in 2017, which featured landscape images, many of them including barns, that really made him think that Stevenson would be a good fit for this season’s Festival images.
Stevenson’s season image, a stylized creation featuring Blyth Memorial Hall, was presented in October at the Festival’s annual fundraising dinner. She then had until Christmas or so to turn in her production images.
Thanks not only to her history of showing art at the Blyth Festival Art Gallery but also her family’s long-time involvement with the Festival, Stevenson said it is a true honour to join the list of artists who have contributed their art to season images and production posters.
She added that the season image only took her about three or four days to complete, but that came after a lengthy period of thinking and conceptualizing the piece in her mind before physically getting to work. Stevenson said this has always been her process, not just with this new commission.
Stevenson also said that, because of the way she draws, the season image is a lot smaller than the images that have traditionally been used by the Festival.
Her work with the Blyth Festival will help her to reach audiences that Stevenson feels she may never have reached on her own. On one hand, she said, that’s exciting, but it also makes her nervous at the same time.
While she feels under pressure, she’s also excited about the possibilities afforded to her by the opportunity.
For more information on the Blyth Festival, visit its website at blythfestival.com.