Kelly Abeln’s Autobiographical Comics are the Meaning of Candid

What first drew us to Kelly Abeln was her candid approach to illustration. Her autobiographical comics turns the most mundane things into bite-sized illustration that pack a punch. Based in Minneapolis, MN, Abeln freelances full-time from her home studio, working on a variety of illustration and design projects for clients, alongside her more personal projects.

“I love that what I want to do aligns with how I support myself,” she once remarked in an interview with MCAD Alumni. “I also love seeing people’s reactions to my work and that I get to see things I create out in the world. The variety of working from home, working on a contract assignment, and personal projects keeps things interesting.”

Having received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration with a concentration in Graphic Design from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, she admits she chose illustration because she wanted to draw and paint but was more interested in commercial than fine arts as a career. “Illustration classes were pretty open and let you experiment and find your style,” explained Abeln. “I also liked the formality of graphic design classes; learning grids and rules was a good balance to the openness of illustration.”

According to Abeln, once she started making comics she found they were the perfect way to get her autobiographical stories all out and release them. But ultimately her work takes a lot of work. “Inspiration comes from working,” she says. “Just keep making stuff and ideas will come.”