Today we’d like to introduce you to Keirsten.
Hi Keirsten, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start, can you share some of your backstories with our readers?
Hello and thank you for having me! byKeirsten was born out of years of doodling. It became a mindfulness practice and a space of joy when words would come up blank.
For as long as I can remember, art was my frame of mind and the world was my toolbox. I grew up in a small-town doodling pictures and dancing my fingers across piano keys. Creativity was a way of life in my family. At an early age, I was introduced to anything and everything art. If I wasn’t drawing; I was baking — If I wasn’t baking; I was writing a song — If I wasn’t writing a song; I was dabbling in fashion design. And, the list continues. In addition to creativity; my parents instilled in me an entrepreneurial spirit. With both of my parents being business owners – it was pretty natural for me to see the ebbs and flows of running a business. I had my first business at the age of 12 and saved up enough money in my first two years to purchase two appaloosa mares with my own earnings. That may shock some, but I was a pretty determined little girl back then. My Dad always told me if I wanted anything, I would have to work for it. So, I did.
Fast forward to years later… I graduated with a BA in Graphic and Website Design with a double minor in fine art/ music. Out of the gate, I landed a job as a Website Designer for a large corporate brand. And a year in; I knew corporate life was not for me. I left the company and also walked away from a serious relationship. This changed the course of my life. With zero regret for either; I made plans to move to New York City. I submitted an original illustration to a local theatre company for their playbill, “The Color Purple.” This became my ticket to NYC. The theatre hired me on the spot as their visual designer for all marketing. My request to them, “I plan on moving to NYC, so is there a way for me to work remotely?” And, there was my launching pad to the best city in the world and confirmation that my art mattered.
New York City invited so much potential and excitement – It made me come alive. My first year was probably the most challenging. It was a Saturday afternoon that my apartment was set on fire while I was home. Yes, it was frightening and I thought that was the end of New York for me. But I fought to stay. That day ignited two things: my greatest passion was storytelling, and the fight to stay strengthened me for many obstacles to come. After the fire, I solo traveled Europe for a few weeks and when I returned, I decided to take my music career more seriously. I was part of numerous auditions (including The Voice and American Idol), music showcases, performed all over NYC, and launched my first EP of original songs. It was a dream. Now, you are probably wondering, “Where does illustrating fit into all this?” Illustration was where I went when I came up blank with songwriting. I called it, “Let’s go back to the drawing board.” I would alternate between the two. If I felt visually blank – I went to the piano and vice versa.
byKeirsten was officially launched in 2019. That year I was juggling so many things from music to modeling, to working events all over NYC. It was a busy time, yet I started sharing my visual art with the world ever so slowly. I began pitching my work to magazines and taught myself animation in order to add movement to my work. That summer, I had my first gallery show in Nashville and was featured in Apartment Therapy. I met so many great people, Nashville truly has a strength for welcoming you and building community.
Insert 2020 — when the world stood still. Like many — a lot of what I had been building was lost. I sat in my tiny apartment in Manhattan filled with that booming question, “what now?” And, you guessed it, I went back to the drawing board. It started with small steps of just finding JOY. I found it in the sunlight that streamed through my windows, the choir of voices that would celebrate medical workers every day at 7 pm, long bike rides, and I found it in messy strokes across bare canvas. In those months, I re-established purpose. It was sharing JOY. That JOY became countless paintings that found homes on walls of so many spaces. What I felt was dead became a lifeline of JOY for me – and magic happened.
My journey to Nashville wasn’t entirely planned, but it happened – after months of quarantine and isolation, I knew I needed more community. An offer to have a two-month artist residency was presented so I packed my things and went. That residency led to another artist showcase, so many friendships, launching another song into the world, and so much more. It also furthered my vision and growth for byKeirsten, and reminded me again – art does matter. Share it. Today, I am thriving as I continue to gain traction and notoriety in the art community. The game-changer for me was when I began collaborating with other artists and small businesses. I recently created my own wholesale store on Faire.com, and am so excited to partner with brands and shops worldwide!
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I wouldn’t say my journey has been entirely smooth. There have been various forms of obstacles along the way. Being multi-disciplinary sets its own challenges of feeling pulled in many directions, and I have had to learn where to put my energy. Where to say NO. I recently heard a well-known speaker say, “It is not a matter of saying NO to what you don’t want but to say NO to what you DO want.” Saying NO to what you DO want will hone in on where your focus needs to be. The truth is we can’t do it all – as much as I want to at times.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about what you do?
I am a multi-disciplinary artist whose passion is for visual storytelling through digitally hand-painted illustrations, murals, and Graphic/Web Design, and am currently exploring paint on recycled canvas.
My illustrations awaken your curiosity with their free yet sophisticated rhythm of playful lines and color. Each piece inspires a sense of wonder and reminds you to find joy in the day-to-day. With an uncanny practice of empathy and expertise; I specialize in showcasing stories around the world.
“When you look at my art, I hope you discover places and faces that feel familiar; that you find yourself to be an active participant in the story I’m telling.” _bykeirsten
I am most proud of not giving up — for finding the courage to keep going and sharing my JOY in both art and music.
I think people that didn’t know me in New York City are always surprised to hear that I am also a singer-songwriter — that always seems to create added interest and surprise. I actually just dropped another single at the end of October called, “JOE” by Keirsten B.
Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
My advice for finding a mentor would be: “Don’t be afraid to reach out to the person you admire that is living the life you are looking to create. Ask them questions, but also find where you can add value to them as well.” There will also be seasons where you don’t have access to mentors and in those seasons my greatest mentors have been via podcasts/ books. There are so many creators within those podcasts/books that have lived through every up and down. I think it is wise to learn from those who have gone before you — they know a thing or two about the road up ahead. Also, don’t be afraid to put yourself in spaces where new friendships can be created. One of my best friends was a stranger in Central Park until I said, “hello.” Kindness and generosity go a long way.
- Website: www.bykeirsten.com
- Instagram: @keirsten_b
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