Robert Kelly could always draw. Even as a kid, he never really gave it much thought. Copying out of Roger Tory Peterson’s Field Guide to North American Birds, he painted birds on the walls of his childhood basement. In high school he loved adding characters like Mort Drucker and Don Martin from Mad Magazine into his friends’ yearbooks.
Even with this innate love for creation, an education in art wasn’t on Bob’s list of career options after high school. Instead he chose engineering and quickly discovered how it didn’t mix with his passion for five-string banjo playing with friends. Before leaving college, Robert walked through the architecture school and knew instantly what he wanted to do — architecture, a perfect marriage of drawing and engineering.
In 1967, with his high school drafting skills in hand, Robert got a job at an architectural firm in downtown Chicago. Working at a firm with history reaching back to the redesign of Chicago after the great fire, Robert received the best exposure he could and realized this was the path he wanted to take. After a year of experience, Robert left and went to architecture school in Montana. A delineation class in his fourth year sealed the deal and allowed him to land jobs in architecture firms and later architectural commissions when self-employed.
For many years, architecture’s creative process mixed with problem solving and technical knowledge was a fun challenge for Robert. Figuring out how things worked, taking stuff apart and putting it back together was elemental to the interests that formed his career. However, as the field changed and computers took over the drawing process, Robert sensed it was time to make a change himself.
Leaving the field of architecture, Robert decided to return to his first love and natural skill of drawing. He found his way back to capturing the things he saw and loved in everyday life. Today when not drawing, he can be found proudly playing one of his eight banjos — another pastime he’s found his way back to with joy.
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