About Hannah O’Kelly

Hannah O’Kelly was born in London in 1974, and spent her school years living in Thailand and The Netherlands, returning to the UK to start further education at the West Surrey College of Art and Design in Farnham, Surrey, where she completed a Foundation Course in Art and Design, then going on to a Combined Degree in Art and English at the University College of Ripon and York St. John in York. She gained a 1st in her dissertation on Paula Rego and a 2:1 with honours for her degree.

Her childhood was one of adventure, exploration, eccentricity, random animals, a rainbow of cultures, languages, stories, friends, magic and fairytales, with some genuine peril in the mix.
She has always been fascinated by fairy tales and the supernatural, and has been very much influenced throughout her education by the study of various art and literary works including “Possession” by A. S. Byatt, Angela Carter’s works including the “Bloody Chamber”, the Victorian Fairy Painters, Edmund Dulac, Samuel Coleridge Taylor’s “Ryme of the Ancient Mariner”, and discovering the dark and disturbing origins of the fairytales we know today.

Hannah was fortunate to be taught by some inspirational teachers, including the art teacher, Mr Cunliffe, at the British School of the Netherlands, and the English Lecturer, Dr Umemoto, at The International School Bangkok, Thailand.

She has been influenced particularly by the artists Frida Kahlo and Paula Rego, but also by Georgia O’Keeffe, Leonardo D’Avinci, Alfonse Mucha, Klimpt, Vincent Van Gogh, MC Escher, Tony Hart, Quentin Blake, the list could go on and on.

She likes both types of music.

In 1997 Hannah accepted a 1 year position as Artist in Residence at King Edwards School in Witley, Surrey.

In the interim years, she has trained and qualified as an accountant and has recently been working as a senior finance contractor. However her passion for Art and everything creative has remained a crucial facet of her identity, and she has recently taken the decision to move towards becoming a professional Artist.

Hannah O'Kelly Profile Photo

Do what makes you happy!

Hannah has a strong held belief that anything is possible if you are prepared to put the time and effort, and a lot of hard work into it and she has thrown herself into many artistic endeavours, including taking a life cast of a human head in order to make a disturbingly life-like severed head for a theatrical production of Anne Boleyn (for which she won an award).

In lock down, inspired by the theatrical displays created by her Art Teacher in the Netherlands, she created a life sized wolf from chicken wire, papier mache and finished with needlefelting. She is still working on this piece.

Hannah and her husband, have regularly attended Vintage events for many years, and in about 2015 they decided that going back to their normal clothes after a vintage weekend made them sad, so they don’t bother doing that anymore. They now wear 1930’s to 1950’s style clothes all the time, and smile politely and grit their teeth when it is referred to as fancy dress.

In recent years she had mainly concentrated on pencil drawing in her fine art, and has produced a body of very accomplished pencil portraits and landscapes. Her skill in portraits is to capture a likeness and bring a real depth, life, and character to the work.

Having talked about going back to oil painting for years, during the first lockdown in 2020, she finally forced herself to step off the cliff and jolly well get on and do it. Well, what’s the worst that could happen?

It turned out not to be as scary as envisaged and the result was not bad either. She followed this with a portrait of the dapper gent that is her husband, two portraits of Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth II from 1951 and 1953, and another self-portrait, and then went on to work on some landscapes in oil of Spain and Stroud.

Hannah tends to work with a variety of yellows, reds, and blues, and white, and mix up all colours and tones from there.

She likes to work on a base coat of yellow acrylic, and spends a lot of time mixing tones and shades before touching the canvas. Her painting is textured, and she likes her paint undiluted. She normally works on several paintings at the same time, and feels that the time taken looking and contemplating is as important as the act of painting itself, and the conscious and subconscious processes that take place in the emergence of a painting through the canvas, are crucial if difficult to articulate.

Hannah is passionate about the works of Terry Pratchett, and was devastated when Death took him away from us, although Sir TP and Death probably had a jolly good chat, about bees, cats, orangutans among other things. However, while his name is still spoken he is never truly gone. If you listen carefully to the bees, you can hear them saying his name, that is, when they’re not discussing the meaning of life, the universe and everything.