Johnny Kelly Poster Artist


Written by James Read
29 Friday 29th January 2010

The latest poster artist to create free art for your walls is Johnny Kelly, who drew on Democracy. This one's got quite a story. Rather than just opening Illustrator and vectoring out something about Obama and his dog, he created a super-detailed paper sculpture of the human head as a giant machine, and then photographed it. We like people who think differently, so we got in touch for a chat about the project.

Democracy poster sketch

Could you tell us about the process you went through designing your poster for us?

The model was first sketched out a number of times in my notebook (see above). Once that was fully worked out, I planned out the model more rigidly on computer, then got cutting! After everything was stuck into place my friend Linda Brownlee - a photographer - came over and shot it with a Hasselblad camera. The actual model is A1 in size so we needed to shoot it on film rather than digital to make sure we could capture as much detail as possible.

Poster in progress

And how does it relate to Democracy?

My first idea - using the theme of Democracy - was to represent the human body as a voting system, with the head or brain being the government, and the lights being off. This became pared down as things progressed and it made more sense to just focus on the head. This is sort of a simplified version of the idea that's swimming around in my own head, so maybe its better if people make their own interpretations.

The Seed from Johnny Kelly on Vimeo.

Your Seed video is excellent - are you a keen gardener?

Thanks! Actually I've managed to kill two spider plants recently and according to the internet they can't be killed. So I wouldn't describe myself as green-fingered unfortunately. The idea for the seed came from sitting in our back garden last year when I noticed how nice the leaves were on the apple tree there. I started eating an apple and that's where the idea came from.


Your film, Procrastination, is currently on the independent film festival circuit. Could you tell us a bit about it, and your favourite procrastinations?

I was doing an MA in Animation, and was very excited/frightened at the prospect of making my graduation film when it came to my final year. So after stumbling around with an idea that wasn't working for half the academic year, I decided to start from scratch and make dozens of tiny shorts - each one about a different form of procrastination. Then once I'd finished a bunch of them they seemed to work well together even though they each were quite different - so I continued working this way. These days the company I work with, Nexus, keeps me busy so I don't have time to procrastinate. I still manage to consume an extraordinary amount of tea though. I am the Mrs Doyle of our office.

 Why papercraft?

It's the quickest, easiest and cheapest way for me to make these things. I'd love to explore other materials like plastics, woods and metals, but with paper you don't need a belt sander or welding helmet. It does have its own pitfalls however - don't try to take your contact lenses out when your fingers are covered in superglue. This is something I have learnt the hard way.

Havana Club

What upcoming projects have you got?

I'm working on two animated advertisements, which is fun. Also I am doing a collaboration with Glaswegian genius James Houston (who made this incredible Radiohead remix) for an exhibition being held next year.

 See more of Johnny Kelly's artwork, alongside that of his brother Mickey, at

You can pick up the Democracy poster with Johnny's artwork completely free at these outlets now. If you miss it, you'll soon be able to purchase it from here (or, if you can't wait - email us).

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