Kelly A. McGrath: Loving the Challenges of the Artistic Process

When did you first know you were an artist who wanted to teach art?
I’ve been interested in teaching since completing my undergraduate degree in 2007. I had the opportunity to train with R&F Handmade Paints in 2009 through their Instructor training program. Shortly after that, I was able to start teaching using their program template and also developing my own programs. 

Favorite medium(s) you use to make — and teach — art.
I love being challenged by materials and process in general, and that’s what draws me to casting and mold making. You can produce endless combinations of models, mold materials and castings. I’ve also worked with wax since 2009 as a painting and sculptural material. The range of textures, surfaces and objects that wax can achieve makes it a complex and intriguing material. 

Talk about your teaching philosophy and how you work with students.
My desire to teach comes out of a love of learning. When I am teaching, it’s a chance to explore a subject over again from a new perspective. I believe that teaching and student learning is an exchange that is most effective when participation is active from both sides. I encourage participants I work with to bring personal knowledge and experience into the discussion and their projects to contribute to the overall class experience. Likewise, as an instructor, I feel it is necessary to be receptive to learn about my students, their needs and ways I can make a lesson as accessible as possible. 

Who was your most influential mentor and why?
I have been lucky to have three great mentors in my life. Carmen Lizardo has been my friend and teacher since 2002. She laid the foundation that I have in looking and speaking about art as well as a desire for my work to remain a lifelong pursuit. Laura Moriarty gave me my first chance to explore teaching as a part of my identity as a professional artist with knowledge to share, and she is continually available as a guide and sounding board as I continue to navigate my career as an artist and educator. Lorrie Fredette has been such a huge part of my ongoing professional development. She has helped me weather many storms and sets the bar for how I would like to operate as a professional in the art world and beyond. 

What are you teaching now?
I currently teach through R&F Handmade Paints and a variety of other art organizations in the northeast as well as private consultation. I teach painting techniques with encaustic and oil paint; sculpture techniques for mold making, modeling and armature work; and monotype printmaking. 

How has teaching enhanced/inspired your work as an artist?
Teaching makes me very conscientious about best practices. I can also become very analytical about my process as I work through it so I remember interesting details of challenging experiences to share with my students. 

What do you like best about being involved with The D.R.A.W.?
I love meeting other artists in the community where I live and being able to share skills in a communal environment like The D.R.A.W. 

Do you show/sell your art in galleries?
Most recently, I was in a group show called  Hot/Cold: Expressions in Wax at the Arts Mid-Hudson Gallery.

Other information you wish to provide.
I am currently employed at SUNY New Paltz as the Instructional Support Technician in the Sculpture Department.

Kelly A. McGrath