KATHRYN O'KELL studied at Wolverhampton Polytechnic (1984-87) and Mid Cheshire College of Art and Design (1983-84). She now lives and works in Worcestershire. Her carved relief panels in English lime make use of traditional hand-carving techniques to depict mainly birds. She occasionally depicts other animals or fish but birds are clearly her passion and are beautifully observed. Often images are cropped and only glimpses of the bird are seen, as if in passing. Colour is achieved with watered down acrylic paints, layered and rubbed back.
She has received many commissions including eight large panels for the Royal Caribbean Cruise Liners and a carved lintel for the Usher Gallery, Lincoln.
Her work is featured in numerous private and public collections world-wide.
I have been making woodcarvings for over 30 years, initially three-dimensional and then moving on to the relief carvings I make today. This change came from a love of drawing, where I enjoy exploring composition, colour and texture, using the gouges and chisels as well as paint.
Birds have always fascinated me, there were bird watching books on my childhood bookshelves and they’re still on my shelves today. I only need to look out of my shed window when I’m working and my inspiration is flying past, circling overhead or resting on the woodshed.
Wood, specifically English lime, is my chosen medium. Transforming a rough cut plank into a finished piece is a methodical, almost meditative process and incredibly satisfying. Painting can often take even longer than the carving, where paint is applied, sanded and re-applied until I am happy with the piece.
I’m never entirely sure what I want to make until it is made. The initial idea may be : species of bird, its’ landscape, a colour and the resulting carving develops organically from there.
Knowing when a piece is finished is pure instinct. Sometimes I can overwork a carving and then I need to re-carve it and re-colour it until I can look at it and say “Yes, that’s better”. Then I’m happy.
Kathryn gives an insight into her fascination with birds in an article on our blog — In the artist's own words: Kathryn O’Kell.