BY: Richelle Putnam
Kelsey Pearce, a recent graduate of Mississippi State University, and soon-to-be student at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, knows firsthand the arduous, hectic schedule of a full-time student with a biological science major and an aspiring veterinarian shadowing a professional veterinarian for seven years. She was both…at the same time, and the stress associated with both helped to change, not her schedule, but how she spent her free time.
“I started painting for the walls in my own apartment as a stress release,” said Kelsey, who was in her sophomore year when she applied paint on her first canvas. “I realized that I really enjoyed it and it helped take my mind off school, the rigorous workload, and the very structured way of medicine. I could be creative and let the freeform way of art let me release that side of my personality.” Kelsey has never taken an art class and is completely self-taught, although she did take advantage of YouTube to learn various techniques to create her own. Because of the strict organization in her life as a student and vet assistant, she wanted her art to be different. “I want people to recognize what the thing is, but I also want there to be some interpretation to it.” And the things she painted, people wanted to buy, “so I started painting more frequently and was selling off my Instagram and my apartment.” She prefers her art pieces to be imperfect, “which is very odd because I am a perfectionist.” Art is the one place in her life that can be messy and for Kelsey that is very freeing.
Kelsey describes herself as an abstract artist drawn to a subdued color palette of earth tones and soothing colors. Southern landscapes in rural Alabama and Mississippi inspire her, so many of her pieces portray bridges, churches, cotton fields, barns, and wooden structures.
“One thing that I don’t do that a lot of other artists do is use a lot of brushes. Most of my work is done using palette knives, or something I can sculpt with, like a cake decorating tool.” Kelsey uses sculpting paste and paint to create a textured look. Even a blind person could enjoy a piece because they can feel the different depths of what the piece is, she said. “I think that is why my florals are my favorite, because they have that thickness to them.”
Kelsey decided that art shows would be a good way to reach more people, so she sought advice from the Entrepreneur Center at Mississippi State. They helped her build her brand, KP and Canvas, and build a website.” She also applied for a key capital expenditure grant. “They basically gave me $2,000 to be able to do art shows. They were very supportive in helping me get the business started.”
In November, Kelsey opened her small KP and Canvas Art Studio in downtown Starkville, which provided a place to be creative and space to work that’s not cluttered with life. Her studio is not open like a normal 9 to 5 retail store, but when it is, people are welcome to come in and shop around. The largest segment of Kelsey’s business is custom pieces, especially pieces relating to the wedding industry, like custom wedding bouquets, venue paintings, and the homes of clients.
“People can pick their own size and look at the different colors and we can kind of talk through what they’re looking for. That’s my favorite part of having the studio is getting to work with people one-on-one in the creative process.” For instance, a bride-to-be might come in with her wedding bouquet, her grandmother’s lace, and her father’s locket, all important pieces in her life. “To be able to put those together in a painting means a lot more that a random painting bought somewhere.”
With Kelsey starting Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine in the fall, she will be closing her studio in Starkville, but plans to continue offering pieces through her website, Instagram and Facebook. “Painting isn’t something I ever want to give up. I won’t be able to do full-time painting anymore while in Vet School, but I’ll definitely still paint and have a studio somewhere in my house.”
For more on Kelsey and her art, visit her website (https://www.kpandcanvas.com), Facebook, and Instagram. Feel free to text or email her.