Beachy Keen

Artist Jen Kelly’s paintings capture the essence of summer and bring joyful pops of color into local homes.

Written by MARIA ALLEN
Photography by KJELD MAHONEY

Hingham artist Jen Kelly has painted many seaside landscapes over the years, often taking an easel down to World’s End to paint en plein air with a small group of artist friends. However, it is her latest collection of contemporary impressionistic works celebrating the essence of summer that has really been turning heads.

“My best memories from my childhood revolve around spending days at the beach,” says Kelly

who grew up in the seaside town of Point Lookout, Long Island, and took her first painting class at the age of 13. After studying psychology and art at Boston College (and also taking art courses while abroad
in Florence, Italy) Kelly opted to put painting on the back burner to pursue a career in social work. As
a busy working mom, art continued to be a muchneeded stress reliever and creative outlet. About 20
years ago, she decided the time had come to follow her heart and focus on art full-time.


Whether you’re a professional decorator commissioning artwork for a client or a homeowner searching for a one-of-akind painting to hang over your sofa, custom artwork can help tie together different elements, colors and textures in a home’s interior decor. Here are a few of Jen Kelly’s tips for bringing custom art into your home.

Set the Tone

When commissioning artwork, be sure to work with an artist who has a style you already love. Go through their archives and highlight your favorite images. Bring these and other photos of artwork you like to your meeting to discuss the type of painting you’re looking for.

Art Before Pillows

If at all possible, consider your artwork before selecting your furniture. It is generally easier to find a couch to coordinate with a unique piece of artwork than the other way around. However, if you already have furniture you love, be sure to bring photos and possibly a fabric swatch to your artist
meeting so they can see what would work best for your space.

Easy on the Frames

When it comes to framing your artwork, avoid overly ornate frames that will appear heavy and dated. Instead, opt for thinner frames with clean lines, which are less distracting and keep the focus on the art.

Keep An Open Mind

Even when you’ve clearly communicated what you’re looking for, it’s important to remember that no two works of art are completely alike. If you have an extremely specific expectation, you might be better off shopping for a piece of ready-made art.

Working out of a sunny studio in her historic Hingham home, Kelly creates large-scale works of art inspired by the serene beauty of ocean waves and also the eclectic array of people who flock to New England beaches each summer. “I’ve always been obsessed with color,” says Kelly, whose popular “Beach Peeps” and “Beach Bums” paintings celebrate the simple joys of summer in a lighthearted and humorous way. “Beach Peeps,” for example, pictures an assortment of tiny swimsuit-clad figures lined up in rows and holding candy-colored towels, surfboards and umbrellas. Similarly, “Beach Bums” features an array of colorful board shorts, bikinis, and even a few bare bottoms. The paintings exude positive energy and offer a refreshing change of pace for interior decorators looking to add a pop of color to a coastal home.

“I like to use a lot of paint and build up the layers,” explains Kelly, who uses a palette knife and ruler to give her paintings texture and a grid-like pattern. “The boxes create a sense of order, which lends itself to interior design,” explains Kelly. She also paints ethereal seascapes, where the ocean and sky seamlessly bleed together. “More than anything, I aim to convey an emotion and I usually lean toward peaceful, happy feelings,” says Kelly, “I’ve had homeowners tell me that my painting makes them smile every time they walk into the room–and that’s what it’s all about.”


View more of Jen Kelly’s work on her Instagram @jenkellydesigns and at If you’re headed to the Cape this summer, be sure to check out her art show at the Chapman Art Gallery in Cotuit.