Painting as a Way to Capture Memories

Kelly Micca (BFA ’20) likes to capture what she calls the underestimated, ordinary world.

The arch of a telephone pole on a street corner won’t garner a second glance from most people but Micca is happy to spend hours painting a sliver of the world.

“Landscape painting is slowing down and appreciating, being able to really immerse yourself into that one image and building a relationship with it,” said the third-year painting student.

Micca had been making art through most of high school but an opportunity to study in Rome the summer of her junior year sealed the deal for her future as an artist.

“Once you go to Rome there is no turning back. I thought, ‘Yea, I’m going to be an artist,’” she said. “A lot of my plein air painting started there and I’ve been painting landscapes and people ever since.”

  • Kelly Micca (BFA '20) in the studio.
    Kelly Micca (BFA '20) in the studio.
  • Sculptures and paintings by Kelly Micca (BFA '20).
    Sculptures and paintings by Kelly Micca (BFA '20).

Thousands of miles from Rome, Micca’s studio space in the 9th floor gang studio at PAFA is decorated with her landscapes, the occasional self-portrait and a sculpture of a dog that is waiting to be bronzed. The dog belongs to an art teacher of hers.

She’s been able to study animals in PAFA’s animal drawing class with John Horn.

“I love the animal drawing class, we’ve been going to the zoo and they brought a horse into class one day,” Micca said. “It’s perfect because I’m sculpting this dog and I was able to study dogs moving when several therapy dogs came to class.”

When she’s not studying dogs or painting landscapes, Micca often looks to herself for inspiration.

“I’ve been doing self-portraits often, mostly because I’m the most readily available model and I’m also always in my studio so I’ll say okay I’ll do a self-portrait in my studio,” she said.

Her most recent self-portrait is a simple pose alongside a sculpture in her studio. She quickly took a photo of herself on her iPhone and then went to work improving the blurry selfie, taking it from screen to canvas.

Working at a slower pace in her studio is a welcome change from landscape painting and Micca says the different experiences influence each other.

“Being able to mix colors on site quickly and furiously with light changing is really complicated so being able to sit down in the studio and focus on the composition of a painting is nice.”

Working outside with a changing environment presents challenges but it’s an experience Micca loves. She often gets a group of friends together for landscape outings and says the work they produce is a way to capture the memory of a day.

“Some people snap a picture because they think something is beautiful but I take the time to stand there for 3 hours and look at it.”

It’s in those small moments of study that Micca remembers why she’s chosen art for her path in life.

“There was a moment when I was doing a painting in Washington and there were dead birds all around me, I’m on the edge of a cliff, and there’s this bug attacking me like it won’t stop biting me. I could easily fall off and I’m a few feet from a train track and I think I’m trespassing on the property and it’s all to get this one view. The sun is beating on me and I’m sweaty and gross but this is what I do, I love this!” Micca said. “I love the experience of being in this crazy chaotic environment but then producing something that's meaningful.”