Darren Doyle, story and photos
The next time you stop in at the Mammoth Cave Camp Store just before you get to the visitor's center, you'll notice some beautiful hand-painted murals. These murals weren't painted by some outsider for big money, but rather, a petite, soft-spoken local girl who loves her pet chameleon.
ECHS Senior Kelsey Janes, who lives near Mammoth Cave National Park, has been creating art since her 2003 kindergarten days with Mrs. Lesley Spainhoward at South Edmonson Elementary. Her parents didn't realize it at the time, but her pictures were way ahead of everyone else in class.
"We always liked Kelsey's drawings, but we thought all kids did that," said Kelsey's mother, Felicia Janes. "Mrs. Lesley called us and told us that her work was exceptional and had us come in to take a look."
Mrs. Janes said it wasn't until the teacher showed a comparison of Kelsey's art to the other students that they realized Kelsey had an amazing gift. "Mrs. Lesley told us that Kelsey was very gifted and we should encourage her art. We just didn't know how special it was because we saw it everyday. Thanks to Mrs. Lesley, we really got behind her then."
Although it's been several years since kindergarten, Kelsey's love for art has only grown since then as she now draws, paints, uses colored pencils, and also sculpts a little, too. Most of her work focuses on animals, nature, and music, which is to be expected since she talked about her love for those things, all while holding her pet chameleon, Pascal.
Kelsey learned about an art contest held by Congressman Brett Guthrie's office where students in each of Guthrie's districts could submit their original art for a chance to be displayed at the U.S. Capitol. Kelsey didn't place, but her piece, a pencil drawing of rock musician Gerard Way, received an Honorable Mention, and was the winner from Edmonson County.
Guthrie extended the contest to each county winner on Facebook, where he is currently allowing folks to vote for their favorite piece by clicking "like," and "share." The winner will have their artwork displayed in Guthrie's office in Washington D.C. Each like earns one point, and each share earns two. Currenty, Kelsey's piece is leading, thanks to a boost from local Edmonson Voice readers after we tried our own Facebook promotion yesterday to try to help Kelsey's numbers. The contest is scheduled to end Friday, April 29, at 5pm. You can vote for Kelsey by clicking here and then selecting her piece "Gerard Way."
While she was excited for the opportunity to have her art displayed in a U.S. Congressman's office, she seemed just as excited as she showed me pictures of deer, cats, a beach scene, a sea turtle, and a colored photo of Simba, from the Lion King.
"Things just come to mind, and I'll start another piece," she said. "I like creating new things...I like to challenge myself," she said as she pointed to a picture of a long-haired girl with no face. She had several pieces from her portfolio spread out on a picnic table.
"I did this one to work on drawing hair," she said. "That's why there's no face. I used a paint brush for shading, that's a new trick I learned. Shading is so important; it gives you the depth needed that make things look real."
She says Mrs. Lesley wasn't the only teacher that has positively influenced her art. Her eyes lit up when she talked about her high school art teacher, Edd Williams. "Mr. Williams is awesome," she said. "He's been a really big influence on me."
Although art is clearly one of her passions, she also is realistic when it comes to deciding where her career paths may take her after high school. She plans on pursuing a marine biology degree with a minor in art. "I know I'll probably have to move, but there's a possiblilty that I could also work with wildlife here at the lake, so that's something I'd be very interested in."
She said winning the contest to have her art displayed at Congressman Guthrie's office would be nice, but it's obvious that her art drives her in becoming successful in whatever she does. "Mr. Williams would never let me say I can't," she said sternly. "He seriously will put you out in the hall if you say that. And it's a good thing."
Her mother Felicia, chimed in. "He's not the only one, either, she said. "There have been so many good influences on Kelsey..so many teachers, and so many good people in Edmonson County."
I started to leave, still amazed by the incredible work that was spread out across the table. I asked her if there was anything else she wanted to add, or if there was any advice she could give to aspiring artists.
"Don't let people tell you that you can't do something," she said as she let Pascal go from her arm to her shoulder.
Kelsey is available for commissioned pieces if you'd like to give her some work. You can email her mother, Felicia Janes at email@example.com.