What’s it like to be a woman in a “man’s” profession?

I’ve known Kelsie Gray for most of the time I’ve lived in Paducah. I’ve known her through a few transitions in her profession, first as a college writing instructor, then painting houses for a living after that gig disappeared, and then suddenly realizing that instead of seeing house interiors she’d painted posted on her social media page I was seeing a burgeoning window restoration business. It was sort of like watching a butterfly transform before my eyes. 

Kelsie Gray, Window Restoration, watercolor on paper

I looked up and wondered how all of that happened.

I watched her make over a lot of historic windows, and saw her go to workshops to hone her craft. She made a crazy trip to New York City right during Covid to work on a restoration project there. She accidentally cut herself with all those sharp tools routinely, wore a lot of bandaids on her fingers, groused about comments she got at Home Depot from contractors as she stood in line to buy materials, and celebrated her victories as she got better at her job.  All the while transforming decaying ugly windows that looked like they were ready for the junk heap into beautiful pristine pieces of history worthy of saving.

When I started this project I put together a list of professions I thought would be illustrative of some powerful things that women participated in. Window restoration didn’t automatically pop into my head, but Kelsie did. Because I couldn’t take my eyes off what she was doing and accomplishing. Every day there was something new on her feed about her latest job and some of the other things in her life. She’s single, owns her own business, is passionate about what she does, holds herself to high standards, and is as funny as heck. She also has a soft spot for animals which endeared her to me as well.

Using the heat gun

So I knew I had to include her.

Kelsie’s workshop is a short walk from my house in a nondescript storefront that has gone through several iterations, the latest before her endeavor being a hotdog stand and lunchette. You can’t see what’s she’s up to from the huge plate glass windows in the front because the mini blinds are always pulled all the way down. Inside is a place that brought back my childhood in my dad’s carpentry workshop down in our basement. Boards of various sizes, widths, and kinds lined the back wall while benches loaded with accouterments for her work hugged the sides of the room. On a pegboard above the workbenches hung saws, clamps, and miter boxes. A blackboard announced her business name, “Kiss My Sash” with the month’s work stats listed below. There was serious consideration going on behind the artistry. The place smelled of wood and glue and growth.

Kelsie’s business “Kiss My Stash”

While I took pictures and she worked on a window destined to return to its former home, we talked about what restoring windows was like from a woman’s perspective. Kelsie being young, single, pretty (there’s that word), and fit makes her an easy target for comments from others who work in the trades. Some are surprised to see someone like her at a worksite deep in the weeds, so to speak, removing old windows and working on restorations. Her opinion isn’t always heard or welcome unless it comes by way of a male ally. Whistles and unbidden comments are common. 

I guess they can’t see her work, that beauty of her craft, before them.

I had such a great time interviewing Kelsie and seeing her work firsthand. I loved getting a peek into her world. As far as I’m concerned she’s a rising star and someone I’m not only happy to have included in my project but a woman I’m proud of for all her strength, perseverance, and the beauty she creates.

A piece of history

Lessons

Onion Pair
Onion Pair

I’m in the middle of private lessons for a local woman who’s never painted or drawn except in school way back when. I like her enthusiasm, and she seems to have some natural ability in handling the medium. Our second class is this Saturday when we’ll talk about color and do another small painting.

Last week I did a demo of the two onions you see here. We didn’t have enough time left to have her do a return demo so I’m anxious to see her grape…. That’s what she said she thought she’d do.

I remember taking classes 30 odd years ago and thinking how much there was to take in. I think I’m still taking some of it in.

“Onion Pair”

10″ X 12″

Watercolor on paper

$125

Contact me for purchase

A Walk in the Woods

Buddies
Buddies

My failure to post for the past two days hasn’t meant I’ve not been painting. Ah, but I have! I’ve mentioned the commission I’ve been working on over the past week, and that has taken up a lot of my time and concentration. My dailies were quicker studies because of it. On Sunday I worked on the finishing touches for the background of the commission and tackled the ferns. Remember my fern study earlier last week? Well, here they are in final form. Yesterday I spent the day painting the two kids. There’s a lot of themes and repetition going on with them — the downward loop of their hoods and her pocket flaps match the downward swoop of her bandana. And then the biggest swooping curves are their arms around each other. The two of them walking together, almost touching, mimic the parade of double trees in the background.

Sometime compositions like this simply fall in your lap. This one came from a former colleague and friend who wanted this as a painting for her son and daughter-in-law. The children are theirs and my friend’s grandkids. It certainly helps that the mom, who took the picture, happens to be a photographer. So there’s all that wonderful light and the composition framed just right. It’ll go out this week or next once it’s framed. Here’s hoping they like it as much as I do.

Back to my normal dailies today, so stay tuned.

Ready for Christmas?

Glowing Lights
Glowing Lights

Sometimes it’s just fun to play with paint and salt. There are several little tricks you can use with watercolors and salt is one of them. Like everything else, you don’t want to use it too much because then your paintings begin to look gimmicky. But for things like frost and other things with a sparkly quality, you just can’t get a better effect than to use salt.

But why Christmas at the end of July? It’s already on my mind as Lower Town has started to plan for the December holidays. I got the idea of lights shining through a frosty window pane, and that’s what I’m going for here. I made two others, kind of an assembly line process which you’ll get to see in the coming days. All similarly done — just fast and fun without too much preconceived notion of what the finished product would look like. After several days of tighter compositions, this was a welcome exercise.

Glowing Lights

5.5″ X 4.5″

Watercolor on paper

$50

Contact me for purchase

Facebook Fascination

I finally did it. I joined the Facebook nation, that social networking tribe of folks out there sharing both mundane (terminally) and enlightening insights across the web to their chosen group of friends. I’d seen it as a time suck (as one person aptly called it) but have begun to see it as a potential marketing tool for my art. The more friends you know the more people looking at your work and telling their friends, etc., etc.

So if you’re a Facebook person, you can find me there too. Send me an invite and we can get connected.

Dave and I are off tomorrow for an outing to Louisville to check out Kentucky Crafted, a state-sponsored show for Kentucky craft people for both the wholesale and retail market. There’s a similar show called Kentucky Market for visual artists. We’ll see what Crafted is all about. Maybe the snow will stop by then.

– Stefanie