Kelley, Gary 1945-

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Kelley, Gary 1945-


Born 1945. Education: University of Northern Iowa, B.A. (art).


Home—Cedar Falls, IA. Agent—Richard Solomon, 305 E. 50th St., New York, NY 10022.


Artist, illustrator, educator, and muralist. Graphic designer and art director, until mid-1970s; freelance artist. Ringling School of Art, Sarasota, FL, member of faculty of Illustration Academy. Commissions include commemorative posters for 2002 Kentucky Derby. Lecturer at schools and other assemblies, including Smithsonian Institute, Society of Illustrators, San Francisco Academy of Art, Syracuse University, and Ringling School of Art. Exhibitions: Works have been exhibited at New York Art Directors shows, Bologna Book Fair, and Society of Illustrators shows. Mural installations include Barnes & Noble Bookstore, New York, NY.

Awards, Honors

Hamilton King Award, New York Society of Illustrators, 1992; Gold Louie Award for Best Illustration, 2002, for Kentucky Derby poster art; numerous other awards.



T Is for Toscana, Creative Editions (Mankato, MN), 2003.


Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein, adapted by Diana Stewart, Raintree (Milwaukee, WI), 1981.

Herman Melville, Moby Dick, adapted by Patricia Daniels, Raintree (Milwaukee, WI), 1982.

Joseph Heller, Good as Gold (limited edition), Franklin Library (Franklin Center, PA), 1982.

Ray Bradbury, The Other Foot, Creative Education (Mankato, MN), 1987.

Ray Bradbury, The Veldt, Creative Education (Mankato, MN), 1987.

Ray Bradbury, The Fog Horn, Creative Education (Mankato, MN), 1988.

Guy de Maupassant, The Necklace, Creative Education (Mankato, MN), 1992.

Washington Irving, Rip Van Winkle, Creative Education (Mankato, MN), 1993.

J. Patrick Lewis, The Christmas of the Reddle Moon, Dial Books (New York, NY), 1994.

Robert D. San Souci, The Red Heels, Dial Books (New York, NY), 1995.

Edgar Allan Poe, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, Creative Editions (Mankato, MN), 1996.

Bruce Coville, reteller, William Shakespeare's Macbeth, Dial Books (New York, NY), 1997.

J. Patrick Lewis, Boshblobberbosh: Runcible Poems for Edward Lear, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1998.

Maria Tallchief and Rosemary Wells, Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina, Viking (New York, NY), 1999.

J. Patrick Lewis, The Stolen Smile, Creative Editions (Mankato, MN), 2004.

J. Patrick Lewis, Black Cat Bone: The Life of Blues Legend Robert Johnson, Creative Editions (Mankato, MN), 2006.

Doreen Rappaport, Abe's Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2009.

Contributor of illustrations to periodicals, including North American Review.


Gary Kelley is an illustrator, educator, and muralist whose body of work ranges from picture-book illustrations to the two seventy-foot murals he created for a popular New York City bookstore. After earning an art degree from the University of Northern Iowa, Kelley worked as a graphic designer and art director for several years, moving to book illustration in the mid-1970s. He created illustrations for a series of fiction classics released by Midwest publishers Raintree and Creative Education before turning to picture books for younger children.

In 1994 Kelley teamed up with noted children's book author J. Patrick Lewis to produce The Christmas of the Reddle Moon, a fanciful adaptation of an English folk tale and the first of several collaborations between the two men. Praised by a Publishers Weekly contributor, The Christmas of the Reddle Moon benefits from Kelley's pastel art, and his "snow-softened landscapes and shadowy interiors … create a setting worthy of the tale." In Booklist Hazel Rochman wrote that the "vivid poetic imagery" in Lewis's narrative is echoed by Kelley's "soft pastel illustrations."

Kelley's other collaborations with Lewis include Black Cat Bone: The Life of Blues Legend Robert Johnson. The book focuses on the life of the musician who, born in rural Mississippi, died tragically early at age twenty-seven, leaving behind a musical legacy that has made Johnson immortal among fans of the Delta Blues. In the nineteen poems that comprise his text, Lewis notes the legend that grew up to explain Johnson's talent: that the young guitarist sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his musical gift. "Kelley's … handsome compositions" feature "translucent and opaque washes, gestural brushstrokes, scratched line and a judicious use of glowing white," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Bill Ott concluded in Booklist that "Kelley's striking paintings, heavy with multiple shades of blue and brown, capture all the emotions that swirl around the Johnson myth." Citing the artist's "beautiful brooding illustrations," a Kirkus Reviews writer maintained that Black Cat Bone is "a stylish and artful work that will hold appeal for adults as well" as a younger audience.

In addition to his work with Lewis, Kelley has also seen his work paired with texts by Robert San Souci, Bruce Coville, Doreen Rappaport, and prima ballerina Maria Tallchief. Appraising Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina in Booklist, Carolyn Phelan made a point of remarking on Kelley's pastel art. The illustrator "grasps forms with a cubist's awareness of the solidity of people and objects," Phelan asserted, calling Kelley's images "powerful and well executed." The book's "softly focused paintings underscore the lyrical tone" of Tallchief's life story, wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor, "enveloping the characters and settings in gauzy, dreamlike light." In 2003 Kelley also produced an original self-illustrated work titled T Is for Toscana, an alphabetical introduction to the people, places, and traditions of Italy's Tuscany region.

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, August, 1994, Hazel Rochman, review of The Christmas of the Reddle Moon, p. 2051; September, 1996, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Red Heels, p. 131; November 1, 1997, Hazel Rochman, review of William Shakespeare's Macbeth, p. 464; November 1, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina, p. 526; January 1, 2007, Bill Ott, review of Black Cat Bone, p. 93.

Horn Book, January, 2000, review of Tallchief, p. 103.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2006, review of Black Cat Bone, p. 906.

Publishers Weekly, October 4, 1993, review of Rip Van Winkle, p. 80; September 19, 1994, review of Christmas of the Reddle Moon, p. 32; July 22, 1996, review of The Red Heels, p. 242; October 19, 1998, review of Boshblobberbosh: Runcible Poems for Edward Lear, p. 80; October 25, 1999, review of Tallchief, p. 80; November 3, 2003, review of T Is for Toscana, p. 76; August 28, 2006, review of Black Cat Bone, p. 53.

School Library Journal, January, 2005, Wendy Lukehart, review of The Stolen Smile, p. 132; December, 2006, Nina Lindsay, review of Black Cat Bone, p. 165.


Illustration Academy Web site, (October 27, 2007), "Gary Kelley."

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Kelley, Gary 1945-

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