Kerianne Shepley illustrates luminescent dreamscapes and fantasy creatures, which are her daydream companions and protagonists. She paints self-portraits which are vibrant and sensual, and her colour scheme is bright – infrared and pastel visual treats.
We drank ginger tea surrounded by crystals as she provided a glimpse into her neon fantasy world.
“One of the most important things I’ve learned over the years as an artist is how to manage my energy,” she confessed. “I’m very empathetic so it’s very easy for me to get lost in other people’s energy and habits. When I first started getting involved in the Ottawa art scene, I had a friends that were extroverted and consistently doing things with their community.
There are so many different types of people and I happen to be one who needs a lot of solitude to be able to process and rejuvenate, so I ended up exhausted from not giving myself enough time to be by myself, and be with my thoughts.
I had to learn how to take space for myself to digest everything that was going on in my world. I want to make sure that I have the energy to do the things that give me life and inspiration.”
Kerianne’s artistic journey
Kerianne’s diverse background in art started at an early age. “When I was young I couldn’t stop making stuff. I loved school and learning and doing projects and having creative leeway in them. My first real love was storytelling, I would draw characters with my friend after school and I would write us into a story that we acted out during recess. We loved the world so much we thought it was real.”
She went on to briefly study fashion at Ryerson University in Toronto for just over a year before she came home to Ottawa, exhausted both physically and spiritually by situational events that were telling her to go deeper and to acknowledge the part of herself that she had left behind. The demanding program and being away from home for the first time is what aggravated these feelings to a level where they could not be ignored.
“The more you do it the more you’ll able to do”
When she was ready to enter a program again, she picked up her paintbrushes to study at the University of Ottawa’s Visual Arts Program. Visual arts formalized her education and solidified the core fundamentals of her practice. After a year of that she felt inspired to move to Montreal for a summer to try and make it as an artist in one of Canada’s most flourishing and diverse art communities.
What happened to her plan to be in Montreal? “The city was full of inspiration, but one of the most important things for my overall mental health is for deep nature to be easily accessible. Without a car in Montreal, I wasn’t able to get to nature frequently enough. Toronto was similar in that way, these cities can be really overstimulating but also fruitful for opportunity and are amazing in their own right.”
The end of that summer marked an important adventure for her. “I had a challenging adventure out to Burning Man where I biked through the dessert to Black Rock City. I met one of my favourite artists, Android Jones,” said Kerianne. After learning that they shared an artistic practice of drawing a self-portrait every day, he encouraged her to get into digital art.
From a paintbrush to digital art
She was motivated to try her hand in Graphic Design at Algonquin College. “Graphic Design is what introduced me to playing with vectors. I had a field day vectorizing my drawings and playing with all of the colour combinations that were limitless in Illustrator,” she said. “I loved learning how people interpret and process visual information, taking photography and getting introduced to coding. After a year, I realized that I could find a glove that fit me even better.”
An older sibling suggested she try Illustration and Concept Art, where Kerianne currently finds herself in her final semester before graduation. “I love world building and bringing my stories to life. The program is a two year program condensed into one full year with 7 classes a semester. It is extremely intense and really pushing my limits but I’m improving quickly and developing such a good work ethic with my practice.”
When asked if she had any advice for people wanting to study digital art, Kerianne replied “Draw every day! For art it’s important to get your fundamentals tight, once you have good technical skills, value and colours and anatomy you can apply those skills to everything. Find out what you’re excited about and explore. Create a larger breadth of creativity by cultivating consistency in your practice. The more you do it the more you’ll able to do.”
Kerianne hails from Ottawa, Ontario and currently studies Illustration and Concept Art at Algonquin College. You can follow her on Instagram @koala.snugslug