Actor turned artist Katie Nesbitt turns her knack for drawing animals into a business dedicated to creating inventive pet portraits.
In the afternoon lull between crushes of customers streaming in for the next spin class at Flywheel Sports in Midtown, Katie Nesbitt found time to unleash her creative prowess. Part of her job as customer service coordinator involves listing the month’s classes and events on a giant blackboard, but she’s taken the responsibility well beyond numbers and dates. Instead, she embellishes the notice board with mini-artworks of animals, all made out of her imagination and pastel chalk.
The inventive works caught the eyes not only of Flywheel clients, but of others who started asking Nesbitt about doing chalk works of their pets. And voilà! An artist and a niche were born.
“It really started about a year ago when I took on the scheduling board,” Nesbitt says. “I wanted a way to get people to look at it, so I started developing different artistic themes every month. The animals were huge, and then someone asked me to do a picture of their dog, and it took off from there.”
Nesbitt, who lives in the Vinings area, had so many requests for original drawings that she recently launched Southern Chalk Design, her art company that focuses on portraits done completely in chalk. The commissions have kept her busy—a surprise to the trained actor who admits to having no formal art education.
“I went with chalk because it was what I had, and it was fun,” Nesbitt says. “The best thing about chalk is it gives me the opportunity to start over any time I want. It’s easy to erase, not like a mold that you’d have to scrap and start over.”
Instead of a slate board, Nesbitt’s custom creations are designed on cotton canvas with chalkboard paint. After the initial image is dry, she primes it with plain old chalk.
“Canvas is lighter and easier to hang than a blackboard,” she points out. “And when it’s finished, it looks more like traditional art. The only bad thing about it is that it is chalk, so if you put any friction on it, it rubs off. I’ve thought about putting glass over the work to protect it, but so far, people have been fine without it.” Nesbitt works from photographs to create chalk images in either a 16- by-20 or 11-by-14-inch size, priced at $100 and $75, respectively. So far, the only requests she’s had are for pets, but people portraits are not out of the question.
“I’m taking the business day by day, but so far the response has been incredible,” she says. “I never in my life imagined something like this would take off, but I’m following the momentum. The best part for me is being able to make people smile. I’m having a great time with it.”
Check out Nesbitt’s chalk art at Flywheel, 1217 Spring St. 30309, or visit her website, southernchalkdesign.com.
STORY: H.M. Cauley