Local

On the record with … 
Jeff Kennedy

Artist Jeff Kennedy sits for a portrait Thursday inside his studio at his home in Algonquin.
Artist Jeff Kennedy sits for a portrait Thursday inside his studio at his home in Algonquin.

For every day in 2008, Jeff Kennedy created a picture of a fishing fly. Every single day.

The project started as an effort to hone his craft but evolved into a way to connect with a loyal community of fly-fishing enthusiasts and artists via the blog to which he posted his work.

A majority of the flies were done with watercolors, but Kennedy also used food, hot glue and snow to design his art. The finished collection includes traditional renderings, a connect-the-dots fly, and one created on a Wolly Bugger magnet pad.

The work has been well-received. Kennedy’s flies have been turned into wine labels and tattoos and are available as a collection in his self-published book “Drawing Flies 365.”

As part of other projects, Kennedy also has designed Brook, fly fishing’s original pin-up girl, and has had paintings featured in the Algonquin Public Arts program.

For his latest long-term project, Kennedy and artist Jason Borger create individual renderings of the same fly and then post them online each Thursday.

The Algonquin resident recently met with Northwest Herald reporter Crystal Lindell in his at-home studio, where pictures of flies and fish dotted the shelves. Kennedy talked about his inspiration, blogging and being a fly on the wall.

Lindell: Tell me about the project.

Jeff Kennedy: I wanted to push myself artistically. ... I tie my own flies, and I wanted to fuse the two [interests], and I just needed a way to challenge myself. I did stuff in snow. I made stuff out of food. You have to get creative when you have to do 365 of them.

Lindell: Why did you decide to start the blog?

Kennedy: I wanted to hold myself accountable. Then people started reading it, and then I really had to do it every day. I couldn’t let them down.

There’s days when I’d be working all day and didn’t want to do it. But some of my best creativity came from those days. ... I still maintain the blog.

Lindell: Did you give the project a lot of thought, or did you just decide to do it?

Kennedy: I mulled it around in my head. I had a whole year in front of me. It’s daunting at times. The thing about it was, you do anything every day for a year, you get better at it. ... It was just experimentation and not being afraid to experiment. I posted good and bad. ... A lot of times, the ones I thought were terrible sold.

Lindell: Do you think some people kind of just think that people are either talented artists or they’re not? You seem to think that you can work at it.

Kennedy: Oh yeah. You look at any famous artist, they’ve been working at it. You just can’t get discouraged. ... There’s always the next day.

Lindell: How did you feel on the last day of the project?

Kennedy: It was mixed emotions. It was, “Tomorrow I don’t have to do a fly, and I accomplished a goal and I didn’t miss a beat.” And there was a bit of sadness. ... I could do this for 20 years and still never run out of flies.

You know, fly fishing is a lot like art. There’s a rare few that can say they are masters because it’s a constant journey. ... You have to fail to learn.

Lindell: If you could be a fly on the wall somewhere, where would you want to be?

Kennedy: In a fly shop, because you hear all the stories. ... It’d have to be out West, though.

The Kennedy lowdown

Age: 48.

Family: Wife Janine; sons Ryan, 18, and Colin, 14.

Web site: http://jeffkennedystudio.com/.

Blog, with all 365 flies: http://drawingflies365.blogspot.com.

Favorite food: Breakfast burrito.

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