edited by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam
Bryan Kelly loves Denton as much as we love Denton. Having grown up in the town hasn’t detracted from his appreciation of the supportive arts scene. We’ve loved seeing him at the Denton Community Market on Saturday mornings, and his first Spiderweb Salon submission will be published in our upcoming zine, Book of the Dead. We will be releasing this zine at Spiderdead, November 3 at Dan’s Silver Leaf!
What do you love about Denton and the Denton arts scene?
I love everything about Denton except the pollen count. To start with, this town is filthy with talented artist, writers, and musicians. I reckon there is more talent per square mile in this town than just about anywhere, at least anywhere I’ve been. To be fair I’ve never been to Sarasota, Florida, so I can’t rule out them as a contender in the “talent per square mile” competition.
The townsfolk really support their local artists as well. It seems crazy but not every town does this. Denton is special.
I should say that I don’t count myself in either the supportive townsfolk or talented people with which the town is filthy. I don’t feel like I do enough in the community/scene to consider myself part of it. Lately I’ve been doing better though, and I’d do even more except for all these damned naps that keep getting in the way.
Your work is often funny. I’d love to hear about your own sense of humor and how that translates into your art.
I like puns and often draw them.
What subjects interest you most?
What have been some of the most rewarding experiences you've had as an artist?
I drew a really good elbow once.
Please tell us about the Cancer Slayer piece. I understand that the profits from sales of that one go to charity. Would you mind talking about the inspiration behind it and the charity you’ve chosen?
Just like everybody, I have known many people who have had to fight cancer. Some have beat it; too many have not. Last year I was speaking with an artist friend of mine named Laurie Morrison about her battle with breast cancer. In telling her story, she referred to herself, as so many have, as a “cancer survivor.” It’s a term I’ve heard many times, but for some reason this time it struck me as sounding kind of passive. Jokingly, I told her that rather than referring to herself as simply a “survivor,” she should instead call herself a “Cancer Slayer” to better reflect her cancer-beating badassery. She liked that and vowed to refer to herself as a slayer whenever she told her story in the future. The idea of slaying cancer in a Conan the Barbarian/Red Sonja sort of way stayed with me, and the next time I saw Laurie, I presented her with a drawing of a broad sword-wielding warrior woman (roughly based on Laurie) standing ready for action under the title “Cancer Slayer.” About this time, my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer (eerily 19 years to the day that it took her brother). Faced with the helplessness that one feels when a loved one is beginning their battle with the big C, I saw an opportunity to do something proactive. I asked Laurie if it would be in good taste to sell prints of “Cancer Slayer” to raise money for cancer research, and she said I should go for it, and so I have. In addition to the prints, I have had t-shirts printed up with the CS logo on them, printed by the awesome Nickie Blair at Robot Monster Prints. I sell the prints and shirts at the Denton Community Market and at fan conventions and through my Etsy store. When I’ve sold through the prints and shirts, I plan to donate the proceeds to the American Cancer Society. When I sell out the stock I have, I’ll do a new illustration and shirt design and begin again.
Who are some of your influences?
Jack Davis, Jack Kirby, Jack Daniels (but I’ve never driving under his influence, RESPONSIBLE!), Sergio Aragonés, Bill Watterson, Will Elder, Will Eisner, Will Shakespeare (not really, he’s great and all but NOT a talented cartoonist, TRUTH!), Joseph Keppler, Mercer Mayer, and countless others. I could figuratively type names all day (I would literally stop around 1:00pm, NAPS!).
Any upcoming shows or projects you'd like to share?
I'm just doing a (Denton) community market this weekend and next weekend I'll be at the CowTown Geek Fair in Ft. Worth on November 3rd.
As for upcoming projects, I recently finished my second children’s book called Monsters Who Walk the Earth. It’s a fun little book all about the monsters we know and what we call them. It is out for sale on my Etsy shop.
Bryan Kelly was born in Princeton, New Jersey, but moved to Denton, Texas, when he was 13 years old. He attended high school at Denton High before transferring to and ultimately graduating from Valley View High School. He studied art at North Central Texas College and completed his education at UNT, graduating with a BA in International Studies in 2008. Before graduation he was employed by the university as a graphic designer and illustrator for the journalism department and the Center for Learning Enhancement, Assessment and Redesign. After graduation he continued working at C.L.E.A.R. for a few years before his grant-funded sub-department (The Active Learning Initiative) completed its grant obligations and he was laid off. Since then he has worked as a freelance designer/illustrator for a wide variety of small business as well as some local governments. Seven years ago he began posting artwork to social media sites on a daily basis. After a few years of producing daily sketches, he began to market his original artwork directly to the public. He sells prints of his work, shirts, coasters, and bound collections of his drawings at fan conventions, art festivals, and, since 2017, the Denton Community Market. Follow him and his drawings on Instagram at @bryankellydraws.
If you’d like your work to be featured by Spiderweb Salon, send us your work through our submissions page.