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Life and Work with Ellen Kelley-McHale

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ellen Kelley-McHale.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Ellen. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I have always lived a creative life of drawing, dreaming and designing but mostly as a backdrop to my professional life in healthcare or as a mom, wife, daughter, and friend. It wasn’t until our last child was in the process of being launched that I decided to put myself “out there” creatively and see where that journey would lead me. I launched a website and blog before I turned 50 to document a project where I created 50 works of art before my 50th birthday. To my surprise, that blog attracted the attention of a number of magazines featuring my art and interior work and opened the door to an exciting collaboration with the lifestyle expert, Matthew Mead, which still is strong today.

The journey of creativity is never ending for me – it is always evolving. I started out as a collage artist and then began to incorporate my drawings into my work. From there, I began to explore the process of painting and found that I loved everything about it. For me, the art I make is all about the artistic journey and the desire to translate my observations onto paper and canvas.

The artwork that I create is a direct reflection of the people and the places that I love. I use paintings kind of like a journal to tell my story and to articulate how I view the world. My work is inspired by my family travels, our summer life by the sea, and the long cold New England winters.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Being creative is never a smooth road. At the end of every day in the studio, you have to face your biggest critic – yourself – but you have to power through the good, the bad and the ugly to get to the place of peace. Sometimes, good work happens in one sitting and other times it can take weeks and months of revisiting to get to space where you can call it complete. I find that accidentally discovery has produced some of my favorite pieces so I’m all in for the ride on the artistic journey of highs and lows in the studio.

As for advice to other women just starting out? I would say “just do it”, get out of your head and start making marks on a paper, take a class (in person or online), visit museums, observe the world around you, engage with other artists and then show your work. Remember that your work is completely original for you – no one else can translate what you see and how you see it.

Please tell us about Nelley Kelley Designs.
I am an artist, a designer, and an avid treasure hunter and I love to marry my paintings with antique and vintage frames that I find along the way. I’m known for my abstract flora and fauna paintings, whimsical portraits and paintings inspired by surfing and the seaside. My style is loose and imaginative with my images suggested rather than being realistic. I use a lot of layering of both scribbles and paint to build up interest on the canvas.

My work hopefully communicates a sense of optimism and joy.

I also am a member of The Umbrella Regional Arts Center Board of Directors in Concord, MA. with a mission to enrich lives and build a vibrant community through the arts.

Do you think there are structural or other barriers impeding the emergence of more female leaders?
As a creative person, the biggest barriers have been having to wear so many different hats that have nothing to do with the act of making art in order to be seen. You have to work hard to develop a community of people that are willing to share their knowledge and connections. It is one of the reasons I am connected to The Umbrella Regional Arts Center so that I can be part of an artist community that lifts each other up and supports the creative journey.

Contact Info:

  • Website:
  • Phone: 978-505-8866
  • Email:
  • Instagram: @nelleykelleydesigns
  • Facebook: nelleykelleydesigns
  • Twitter: @nelleykelley

Image Credit:

Matthew Mead (artist portrait), Pitchblack Editions (artwork photography)

Getting in touch: BostonVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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