Kelsey Magnolia

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"I always loved making art as a kid, as early as I can remember. But I never finished a sketchbook. I loved it, but I didn't really put much effort into it."

Take us back to you as a kid. 

I always loved making art as a kid, as early as I can remember. But I never finished a sketchbook. I loved it, but I didn't really put much effort into it. 

School was always really easy for me. I was used to being able to get by with little effort while still succeeding, and I feel like that affected all parts of my life. I was a perfectionist, but a minimal effort one, if that makes any sense. I would get super duper upset if I made a mistake on something, but it wasn't because I put all this effort into studying, I was just upset that I couldn't just *be* perfect. Art was always my favorite class in school no matter the age. My elementary art teacher Mr. Grice was very influential and recognized my interest in art. I wouldn't say he gave me special treatment, but he was a little less tough with me than most other students. I joined band in fifth grade in the percussion section where my love of music really started to blossom. Mr. Miller was the jr. high band director and the best one EVER. His wife also happened to be the best high school art teacher ever. 

Who did you want to be?

When I was especially young I wanted to be a ballerina, and then a dance teacher. I felt out of place a lot as a kid, but I've always wanted to be genuinely unique.

What was last Monday like for you? 

My days are kind of all over the place, and I like it like that. I work a couple jobs with a different schedule each week while working on my art and traveling as much as possible. Lately, I've been consumed with getting ready for Too Broke For The Arts Festival Fest next weekend, getting my displays all put together and popping. I should be saying, "I watch Monday Night Raw every Monday!" but we kind of fell off of the bandwagon after Mania, whoops. NJPW all the way!

Walk us through the days leading up to you doing your own art?

I started "taking it seriously" in 2013, which lead to me booking the first Too Broke in June of 2014. I was always working on various projects before then, but never with any real consistency. As I started making more pieces I began looking into art shows in the area. Out of sheer curiosity I looked into what it takes to display at the Des Moines Arts Festival and quickly realized that was not an option for me. I was, you could say, Too Broke For The Arts Festival Fest. (I'm honestly dying inside at the cheesiness level of that last sentence.)

I decided to book a show so that real local artists could have an opportunity to display in downtown Des Moines the same weekend at the big fest, at no cost to the artist. I love live music as much as I love visual art, so it was natural to book a double show: a free art show from 2-5, and my favorite live bands for $5 from 5-9. By booking this little idea I had, I made it real, and I forced myself to keep working towards an actual, solidified goal. My journey as Kelsey Magnolia, the artist, really began when I decided to book Too Broke.

"By booking this little idea I had, I made it real, and I forced myself to keep working towards an actual, solidified goal."

Describe your art.

My art has changed a lot over the last five years. My first real projects were done primarily with dimensional fabric paint, AKA puffy paint. My partner was in the band Dark Mirror at the time and I painted a number of ashtrays and lighters for the band to sell at the merch booth. Outside of the Dark Mirror stuff I made some small mandala pieces as well. I was heavily influenced by the Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life at the time, which reflected in the primarily geometric designs I created. I can never seem to limit my color palette on a piece, so everything usually ends up rainbow.

My infatuation with puffy paint started to fade a little, and I began using good ol' acrylic. Neon, uv-reactive acrylic, in all colors of the rainbow, of course. The first big acrylic painting I did was from a drawing I made for an adult coloring book project through Weird Destiny out of Austin, TX. 

My next medium shift took me to Perler beads. You know, those beads you iron and melt together that you used as a kid. My partner Clint is super into Ninento retro video games, so I started making little Perler bead sprites of video game characters. Soon I was just drawing out my own pixel designs to bead with Perler beads. I'm super into heavy metal and pro wrestling, which is very much reflected in my Perler work. Initially, I was just making small logos for things like the Judas Priest, King Diamond, Undertaker, Bullet Club, HBK, Mankind, etc. I soon realized there was a lot more I could be doing with pixelated art.

I ended up stumbling upon a website that ran a Perler program where you could upload your own photograph to turn into a pixelated Perler bead design (http://dolkow.se/perler/). I started doing small portraits through this program, about a square foot each. I've done a variety of commissions in this style. 

Over time I started working bigger and bigger, working up to the three pieces I'm about to debut at Too Broke June 23rd. I'm really excited to share these new BIG pieces with everyone.

What artist and artwork has inspired you the most in your creative journey?

I don't think I could really pinpoint it on any one artist, but rather a combination of all sorts of influences. Perhaps one of my downfalls is having too many interests and not focusing in on one particular thing. But hey, I can't help it if I equally love art, heavy metal, video games, and wrestling. But, to name some of my favorites: Alex Grey, Ul de Rico, Skinner, Moxie Saturday, Lala Abaddon, Jen Stark, Dead Petz era Miley Cyrus, Grateful Dead, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, King Diamond, TOOL, April Wine, Whitesnake, Link's Awakening, Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8, Tetsuya Naito, Kenny Omega, Y2J, and soooo many more in each category.

What keeps you busy?

I try to have a few projects going on at any given time to always keep me busy with art. Clint drums in two bands locally so we're always going to a gig somewhere in town. We also love to travel out of state to see our favorite bands and shows.

How do you stay focused?

Too Broke keeps me focused. I'd say once the new year hits I shift into show mode. I start thinking of what bands to book, what artists to invite, and what I can improve upon from the previous year. To be honest I'm getting a little antsy with the show. I like the venue, I like what it is, but I feel like I need to do something MORE. I have always talked about doing a second show sometime in the winter, maybe this year I'll actually do it.

"Perhaps one of my downfalls is having too many interests and not focusing in on one particular thing."

What’s been the biggest challenge?

It's always hard trying to balance work and fun (which I definitely consider making art fun). It's hard being a visual artist because it all comes down to YOU. With a band, there's always other people's opinions to consider, and schedules to work around, but with art, it all comes down to getting off your ass and DOING IT. I think I actually stay saner with an always changing work schedule, rather than a locked into a nine to fiver. I know I could be a little less broke if I succumbed and got a "real" job, but I also think I would lose my mind not being able to go to an out of state show and drive back the same night when I want to. But that's the challenge, I guess. I'm choosing the struggle and hoping I can keep getting my art out there to a wider audience.

How did you overcome it?

I try to not burn myself out on something by keeping things fresh. I think that's why my medium is always changing. I painted a piano for City Sounds last year and it was such a fun experience, and totally new to me. That work has bled out into other projects I probably wouldn't have done if not for that piano. I value variety and I despise mediocrity.

You get to redo something you’ve done. What would that be and why?

Oh man, is like, my entire childhood an option? Just kidding. I'd like to say that I wish I would have started being "serious" about art earlier, but I'm who I am now based on the path I took to get here. So all I can do now is try to stay focused and keep grinding.

"I'm choosing the struggle and hoping I can keep getting my art out there to a wider audience."

Someone is getting into art. What would you say to them if they came to you for advice?

MAKE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN. Even if you think it sucks. Just do it.

Why Des Moines?

I went to UNI for one semester after high school and met Mark Anderson, better known now as Marco Battaglia. We both had tickets to an upcoming Megadeth show in Milwaukee that Mark's band, Dark Mirror, was one of the opening bands for. I mentioned that Clint was a drummer and Mark said Dark Mirror was in need of a new drummer, and the rest is history. Mark graduated from UNI and moved back to DSM and Clint and I moved there for Clint to join the band. Dark Mirror had a hell of a run as the best metal band in Des Moines before calling it quits a couple years ago. 

What’s one new thing that has caught your eye?

All of the markets and shows popping up in Des Moines in the recent years. There are so many opportunities to get your work out in Des Moines, it's amazing!

You can grant Des Moines one wish. What’s that wish?

To get rid of the age ordinance at music venues.

For someone new to DSM where do you suggest they go?

To the Vaudeville Mews June 23rd for Too Broke For The Arts Festival Fest!

The most underrated thing in DSM is ________. Why?

Clint Blomker. He's honestly the best drummer I've ever seen, and I'm not just saying that because we've been together for twelve years. Check out his Des Moines bands, 3 Finger Better & The Sleepover, as well as ThorHammer from St. Louis.

"There are so many opportunities to get your work out in Des Moines, it's amazing!"

What are you most proud of and why?

I'm very proud of Too Broke FOr The Arts Festival Fest. I love helping out other artists and meeting new people. Each year the show has grown and each year I get inspired to do even more. 

It’s been six months, what do you hope to have accomplished?

Hopefully, I will have just put on/am about to host another Slap 'Em In The Chest Productions art show!

One thing that matters most to you is what? 

Being genuine. Striving to excel. Abolishing mediocrity and complacency.

Derek Jensen