Born in Scotland into a seafaring family, Kelly emigrated to Canada as a young boy. His experiences as a Merchant Marine seaman sailing off the coasts of Canada and Alaska would later be the subject of his art. His career as a musician included performing in nationally known performers The Echoes and The Dolphins and Don Ho. He returned to his art career, displaying precocious and prodigious talent and advancing quickly to study at the Art Center College of Design.
A true renaissance man, John Kelly today is widely respected and honored for his past and present work as a painter, lithographer, multimedia artist, lecturer, instructor, and musician. He continues to lecture worldwide, and consult for numerous universities and art centers. He has received awards from the mayors of Atlanta and San Francisco, and was presented with the coat of arms of Glasgow, Scotland for his work of “Britain Revisited”. A former winner of the Quesnel Drawing Award, he was named one of the top 100 artists in America by American Artist magazine, and Best Artist of the Malibu Festival of Arts, Malibu, California. He is also a long-time Associate Member of the New York Pastel Society. Currently he resides in Los Angeles.