Artist guided by divine hand in creating patriotic series
In the days following Sept. 11, 2001, Naples artist Rick Kelley found himself at his easel creating what would become one of the most important and impactful series of art in his career. The piece, “On Freedom’s Wing,” would be the beginning of his “American Freedom Series.”
Frustrated like most Americans with the cruelty that had been bestowed on his country, Rick felt he had to do something. The seemingly simple search to buy a flag for display at his house became an exhaustive ordeal; all stores were sold out of Old Glory. When Rick’s wife suggested that he paint a flag, he poured out “On Freedom’s Wing.”
“Usually I have in my mind what I am going to paint before I start, but with this piece everything seemed to come automatically. It was like something divine was guiding my hand as I was painting,” the artist recalls. And when he finished painting the flag in the mountain, he adds, “I knew I had truly created something special.”
“I knew I would sell a few prints that would make for a small donation,” he says. He’s still shocked that four months after ccompleting p“ the painting, he was able to present a check for $40,000 to the cause. “I’m so glad I could help out,” he says.
Among those who proudly display “On in aJ Freedom’s Wing” their homes are actor Joe Montagna and Maj. Gen. Joe Engle. In 2003, Rick presented former President George Bush Sr. with a Master Edition canvas of the painting. Two years later, he met the former president in his Houston office to present him with Master Editions of “Reflections of Freedom” and “Liberty’s Flight,” the remaining pieces of the “American Freedom Series.”
Rick began his quest to be an artist out of a love for nature when he was just 10 years old. He continued to paint through his studies at Eastern Montana University and in 1980 began painting full-time as a professional.
Rick paints from his emotions and creates images that depict the beauty and mood of nature. An avid outdoorsman and naturalist, he donates much of his artwork to conservation fundraising efforts and other charitable organizations.
His newest project entails giving Southwest Florida families of fallen soldiers of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq their choice of one of the three prints in his “American Freedom Series.” Find out more by calling him at (800) 949-4945 or by visiting www.KellyFineArt.com. ¦
Talking points with Rick Kelley
Mentor: My high school art teacher, John Grengs.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? I always wanted to be an artist.
First job: At 14, I was a dishwasher at an Italian restaurant in Minnesota.
One thing on your bucket list: Scuba diving for lost treasure with my son Adam.
Next vacation destination: Whitefish, Mont., in August.
Skill or talent you wish you had: I would have liked to play professional hockey or baseball. I was good at both, but I pursued my art instead.
What makes you laugh: My children. They also make me cry tears of joy.
Advice for kids: Love everyone and pray for your enemies
Guilty pleasures: I don’t have any yet.
Something you’ll never understand: Wow. So many things: How people can take from each other knowing that a greater satisfaction comes from giving. How the dignity of human life has become minimized to a point that our wants are more important than doing what’s right.
Pet peeve: When someone leaves the cap off the toothpaste.
What are you most proud of? My children, watching them grow in faith, values and morals.
What the Paradise Coast really needs: More industry to help lessen the tax burden of its citizens.
Favorite thing about the Paradise Coast: Saltwater fishing.
What you miss about the Paradise Coast when you’re away: My kids, and the warmth when I do shows up north for too long.