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Alessandra Kelley

I am a Chicago artist and illustrator with over twenty years' professional experience. I paint allegorical paintings founded in classical mythology and Renaissance philosophy, and occasionally magic realist works based on Chicago. I have done cover art and interior illustration for mainstream and genre magazines and book publishers. I also design and sew clothing and lately I have been melding painting with textile art.

I matriculated at the University of Chicago and have a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

My artwork is founded in classical and Renaissance writings and mythology. My work comments on modern life, society and spirituality. My paintings refer to and invoke memory, self-image, and the wealth of past history and its abandonment. The images are internal, depicting emotional or philosophical states of mind, and external, reflecting my interest in movement and dress and social awareness.

While I utilize many different visual media, I have focused on egg tempera since 1990, using the ancient technique of mixing my own egg-yolk paint and applying it in thin, bright layers to plaster-gessoed boards. It is a medium with great depth and durability. The handwork involved in making my own paint and supports helps keep me mindful of the process of painting and connected to the sense of history that is essential to my art.


Because I use my own materials, I have worked to learn their characteristics, chemistry, and hazards. When I was pregnant I became concerned at the difficulty of finding information on the effects of art materials on developing babies. With the help of a genetic counselor, I collected information on common painting materials, particularly pigments, which I subsequently wrote into a paper, "Safety Concerns for Pregnant Painters", posted elsewhere on this site.

I have taught numerous classes, workshops, and seminars at Chicago and downstate colleges, art centers, and libraries. When I am teaching classes I will announce it here.


My curriculum vitae / résumé.


These pages are dedicated to the memory of Zbigniew Tadeusz Jastrzebski, a fine scientific illustrator at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and a merciless and talented teacher.

I took Jastrzebski's scientific illustration classes nights at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for three years. He was truly terrifying (My friends dubbed him one of nature's Mean Old Kung Fu Masters), brooked no nonsense and expected every student to work with everything they had.

But he was also humorous and compassionate once you got to know him. He was born in Poland in 1940, a very bad time, and learned art at the rigorous academies of Eastern Europe. He and his mother emigrated to the United States in the 1960s, and he soon took up work as a scientific illustrator for the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, where he produced thousands of illustrations. He also did commercial illustration, and taught classes at the SAIC and other area colleges.

He wrote an excellent book, Scientific Illustration: A Guide for the Beginning Artist, which is out of print but available. When I read it, I can still hear his deep voice, his thick Polish accent, and his slightly idiosyncratic grammar.

He was one of my best teachers ever, and a good friend. He died suddenly at his drafting table at the age of sixty, far too young.

Any friend or student of Zbigniew Jastrzebski who wishes to swap anecdotes will find me a sympathetic listener.


Inquiries may be sent to the artist at   Q word that rhymes with dairy care of this website.