Francis Kelly was born in 1927 in St. Paul, Minnesota. He received his early education in Chicago and California. He served in the United States Navy from 1944 to 1948 when he entered the Art Center School, Los Angeles. During 1951 in 1952 he lived in Paris, attending the Academie de la Grande, Chaumiere. In 1953 he went to the University of Hawaii, Honolulu, and then to the University of California at Los Angeles, where he was graphic laboratory assistant to John Paul Jones.