Photos by Jamie Alexander
For local artist Kelly McClelland, known for her “happy art” and use of colorful patterns, a booming business grew slowly from a creative hobby.
Formally trained as a speech-language pathologist, a career field that she pursued for five years, she decided to be a stay-at-home mom when her first child was born. Kelly realized that she liked to paint and decorate to make her home more beautiful, and a friend who was trained in art encouraged her creativity.
“She started teaching me, and I started pursuing painting as an art,” Kelly said. “It lit a fire in me to be creative.” At first, she would paint for friends and neighbors as gifts. “I joke that for five years, everything was $20. It didn’t matter what it was—paintings, furniture, you name it.”
Today, the five kids she stayed home to raise are graduating and getting married, and her painting skills are in demand, with literally dozens of orders in her queue.
“It’s been a slow build-up. It used to be for fun,” Kelly said. “Now it’s something we depend on.”
She spends most of her time in her attic studio, which her dad finished for her. “There’s a portable air conditioner and space heaters in the winter,” she said. “I look like I’m in a storage shed that’s full from floor to ceiling, but it’s my creative space, and I love it. I think it’s motivating that you can make any little nook your special place.”
Inspired by everything, especially color, Kelly has always been drawn to youthful, happy art. “I usually never know what a painting is going to look like when I start. Sometimes I have a picture in my head, but it takes a life of its own. It all has to do with my mood and timing, but it’s different every time.”
And she doesn’t just paint on traditional canvases. She tackles wood, kitchen decor, fabric—anything that’s paintable. “My dad says, ‘I don’t want to put my hat down at your house; it will end up painted.’”
That try-anything spirit has helped her success. Currently in line at her studio are a shadow box, a wooden tray, a bowl, a picture frame and a 30×40 canvas, and she recently completed a large mural at Cecil Farms. “It’s everything,” she said. “When I first started, people would have me paint over things to repurpose them. They’d say, ‘I have this painting over my couch, can you paint over it?’”
She also encourages others to try their hand at art.
“I learned to be creative,” Kelly said. “I don’t think it’s instinctual in me. I was always drawn to clothing and jewelry or cooking and changing up recipes. That’s how I was creative. So just get started. We all learn from trial and error.”
“Whatever it is that makes your heart pitter-patter, just do it. Don’t hold back.”
Before the pandemic, Kelly taught kids art camp and the occasional adult class. She hopes to offer them again in the future. She also does some interior design work, often creating art to match client’s paint and fabric choices.
If you’re interested in seeing her work, select pieces are available in local stores such as Willow and Pine, and Kennise Salon. A large volume of her paintings are custom orders, which can be ordered simply by reaching out on Instagram
@kellymcclelland or at KellyMcClellandArt.com.