Portraits of Joy with Tracey Keller
Embedded in physical and virtual art landscapes, Tracey Keller paints with purpose. Georgia Beard sits down with our cover artist to unearth the infinite source of joy behind her creativity.
Tracey Keller’s art gallery is the only space on Hastings Street with a grass floor! A menagerie of animals pours out onto the pathway, their stories told in a kaleidoscope of colour – a vibrant sight we’ve known on the seaside strip since 2021.
Children are often the first to wander in. Tracey still finds little fingerprints on her glass doors, left by captivated kids peering in past their reflections. When they enter her painted paradise, the first thing they do is smile.
It’s the childlike whimsy of her artwork that catches their attention.
Over the decades, Tracey has watched these little customers grow up as they return every holiday to encounter her colourful creations available as prints, paintings, placemats, aprons, coasters, cushions, mugs, phone cases and more.
“As far as I’m concerned, life is about positive experiences and connection,” Tracey said.
“I get up every morning to create a better world through my art, because when people look at my art, they smile. It ripples out into their community, and the world becomes a better place.”
It has always been that simple for Tracey. From growing up on a farm and living on K’gari to working a myriad of jobs in design and marketing, art has followed her everywhere – even into the darkest parts of her life.
After a series of accidents that resulted in more than 50 surgeries and chronic pain, the only force driving Tracey each day was purpose – the brush in her hand and the happiness on her clients’ faces.
As a self-taught artist, she began putting paint to paper 25 years ago and has since exhibited with galleries in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and New York with subject matter evolving from abstracts to animals.
In 2011, she collaborated with author Katrina Logan to illustrate A Fish with a Wish, a children’s bestseller with 20,000 copies sold and a staple on the Australian Curriculum for Queensland Schools.
“I paint animals because I see the connection they have with humans, and how humans get so much joy out of animals,” Tracey said.
This reciprocal relationship between human and animal inspired her to paint portraits of pets, now her signature service for people seeking to memorialise their furry companions.
All she needs is an essay from the owner about their pet and a few reference images, and the finished piece often inspires joyful tears, admiration and above all, love.
“It’s an obsession. I always paint a piece at least two or three times in my head before I hit the canvas,” she said.
“It’s all about building up. Most of my paintings have about 10 layers.”
After studying an animal, the first thing she paints are the eyes – a source of connection for herself and her audience. Then the creature takes shape with a fluid patchwork of acrylic, resin and even hessian.
And the rainbows scattered across the animal’s features in impressionist strokes?
“It’s a highly technical term called ‘blobs’,” she laughs. “I don’t know how to explain where I put those. Blobs are intuitive.”
The result is a flamboyant and life-filled portrait where colour, pattern and light capture the animal’s personality.
From native birds, koalas and kangaroos to elephants and lions to sharks and turtles, each creature contains a unique story, one we often share and see reflected in their gaze.
Such a story can be found in our dazzling cover art, Black Palm Cockatoo – a portrait containing more than meets the eye. For the first time at IN Noosa, we can experience our front cover on both physical and digital planes of existence.
When we hold our mobile devices over the cover, the Artivive app will unveil an animated layer of art through augmented reality or AR.
Tracey first experimented with this new artistic landscape several months ago when artists began voicing concerns about AI’s impact on their work.
“I wanted to learn about everything, and so I stumbled across augmented reality,” she said. “I thought, instead of fearing this beast, why not make this beast work with me so I can enhance the customer experience?”
To assemble the layers of AR, Tracey uploads an original piece into an AI image generator and chooses from the resulting digital art. She then fuses each image together to form an ever-changing recreation of the animal on her canvas, enriched with lifelike animations.
“Now I am the first shop in Hastings Street to feature augmented reality, and my goal is for every piece to be recognised in AR,” she says.
As her practice evolves, she’s ready to explore all corners of Australia, sharing the joy of art from her brightly branded caravan. Her work will also reach the gallery walls of The Other Art Fair in Sydney from 12 to 15 October.
No matter where her creativity takes her, this uplifting connection with the canvas is an experience she will always seek to share with her community.
Bring Tracey’s artwork to life! Simply scan this QR code to download the free ARTIVIVE app, open the app on your mobile device and point your camera at the artwork on these pages or the front cover to experience Tracey Keller’s virtual zoo!
1/42 Hastings Street,