Kelly Robitaille is a Canadian based retoucher, artist, and photographer known for her “Whimsy Waif” portrait series, which showcases out of the box imagery with exaggerated features and bodies.
DIYP: Tell us a little of how you got into photography, and who your influences are.
KR: I have always had a passion for art, but mainly focused on painting and graphite work. Art has always been an outlet for me, and something that has pushed me through the most difficult parts of my life. I decided to go to college for Graphic Design and ended up working in the home décor field which gave me the opportunity to do a bit of product photography. I knew right away photography was something I was interested in and dabbled with the idea of taking a course, but life got busy and I started to build a family which took over most of my time. When my second son was about six months old, my husband bought me my first camera and it sort of snowballed from there. Photography has literally become an obsession for me. I’m self-taught and worked at my own speed to learn the in’s and out’s of my camera and editing techniques. I have always loved darker themed films, books and art, so naturally my art took on that mood. My influences for my photography are quite like my influences for my art. I love the work of Tim Burton, Danny Elfman (music is a huge influence for me), and the artists Angelina Wrona and Sophia Rapata.
DIYP: Your body of work has a dark, surreal and cartoon feel to the portraits which is unusual but stunning, is this dark style something that evolved over time or a style you started with?
KR: It’s definitely an evolution. When I first started dabbling in photography, I felt like I needed to fit into the genre of family portraits and children’s photography. That work simply doesn’t speak to my soul. I met makeup artists and models through a local photography group and used that networking to my advantage by asking them to create more whimsical artwork with me. My digital photography work is darker and more somber then my general photography, but that’s MY art. Its an emotional outlet and a way for me to express myself. Strangely enough, I look at it as a form of therapy.
DIYP: How do you decide on a concept for each portrait?
KR: Little things inspire me. I could see a piece of fabric and I start to imagine all the things I could create utilizing it. I’m very inspired by literature and music and sometimes jot down thoughts while I’m reading or listening to music. Of course, other artists and photographers inspire me, it so I could see a concept, makeup, a hairstyle or costume that speaks to me. I don’t think there’s really a rhyme or reason, simply something that resonates with me on an emotional level.
DIYP: For anyone starting out with the desire to create dark beauty style portraits like yourself, what advice would you give them about finding inspiration?
KR: If dark portraiture is something you are passionate about and feel a desire to create, it’s deeply personal. You have to be willing to put yourself out there. Make a list of books, music, and artists you love. If there’s a theme, try creating art with a similar vibe!
DIYP: How important is Photoshop in your workflow, would you be able to create your images without it?
KR: Photoshop is my right hand. I literally could NOT live without it! I love feeling like I can take a photograph and by bringing it into photoshop can create a beautiful piece of art. I use it heavily in all aspects of my photography.
DIYP: Working in more of a niche market than the typical photographer, do you find this a benefit or a help?
KR: This is a question I’ve been asking myself a LOT lately. I don’t think I have an answer for you! I believe my work gets noticed because it’s out of the ordinary and I love that. It’s important to be different. That being said, I sometimes worry that I’m TOO different and don’t really fit in anywhere, so that’s a bit of a hindrance and a worry.
DIYP: Out of all your projects, which had the most impact on your life?
KR: The most impactful project thus far has been my collaboration with RGG EDU, creating a tutorial on my editing style. I’m not used to being in the spotlight in any sense, and generally, put my focus into my editing and art. Taping with RGG EDU was terrifying because suddenly people weren’t just going to be looking at my work, they would be looking and listening to ME. It has been so overwhelming to see how much my art impacts others and that people want to learn from me. I had already stepped outside of the box with my art, but this was the furthest I had ever stepped on a personal level. I have felt so blessed and touched by the response I’ve received. It has literally changed my life.
DIYP: If you were only allowed to give one essential piece of advice to a beginner, what would it be?
KR: You don’t have to fit in. Its ok to be a weirdo! Create work that feeds your soul, and don’t worry about how you will be perceived by others. What other people think of you is none of your business. Focus on what fills you with pride and contentment. Emotion and storytelling are SO important, so step outside of the box and create a story you can stand behind!
DIYP: What cool projects do you have lined up for 2018.
KR: I intend on planning some workshops for the end of this year, but as of right now nothing is set in stone! I want to find something that scares me, something that will push my boundaries and discomfort and take me to the next level!
DIYP: Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years time?
KR: Oh no! Toughest question of all! I have HUGE plans for myself. I know I’m meant to create and impact others, I’m just figuring out what path is best for me. I just want to keep learning and improving myself artistically and personally. I have really loved the teaching aspect and definitely want to delve into that. So much has changed for me in two years, I can’t imagine what will happen in ten.