e it drawing or painting on canvas, curating a stellar cactus garden, knitting squares
for playful yarn bombings or designing intricate tile patterns, Mary Kennedy exudes
creativity. The Ojai native has her hands in many pursuits and lives the life she wants.
Originally from the North Dakota badlands, which Kennedy calls “devoid of
inspiration,” she spent welcome summers riding horses and drawing just about everything.
Her artistic side also surfaced through her talent making three-dimensional ceramics and
quilting. Kennedy says, “While I was involved with various creative pursuits, I always believed
deep down that to become a
artist I needed to paint.”
Kennedy studied Fine Arts briefly at the University of North Dakota then switched her
attention to raising her children. In her thirties, she did freelance work, which hinted at her
artistic talent: graphic design, portrait drawing commissions in vintage
settings and merchandising displays at a high end department store.
Upon moving to California in 1990, she began working with famed
tile maker Richard Keit. He is known for his gorgeous Cuerda Seca
style tiling. First introduced in southern Spain in the 15
painstaking decorative style can be seen in fountains, murals and homes
across southern California and throughout the world.
Today Keit and Kennedy are the talent behind RTK studios,
whose clients include municipalities, kings, rock stars, architects and
schoolteachers, among others. Kennedy explains, “Some clients have
endless budgets, while others have very modest means. We love working
with them all to express their vision and create something to enhance
Never forgetting her admiration for painters, Kennedy began taking
classes from notable still life artist Carlo Grasso, then attended courses at
the Los Angeles Figurative Arts Academy with master painter David A.
Leffel. Through this journey, she discovered that while she enjoyed the
richness of still life work, she fell in love with figurative. Her early work
sketching portraits came full circle as she began painting rich, expressive
Kennedy continued to take courses in lighting and painting
techniques from Bulgarian Master painter Ignat Ignatov to further refine
her work. She spends most days in the tile studio, located in a 1920s
renovated structure in Ojai, and the remaining hours on her own work,
by Jenn Kennedy