Kelsey Montague, Street Artist. | Instagram: @KelseyMontagueArt
Interview by Chris Lucas
Chris Lucas: How did you first realize you were onto something with #WhatLiftsYou?
Kelsey Montague: Watching the public reaction and response to my first #WhatLiftsYou mural in New York City was when I really knew people not only enjoyed the art but the message as a whole. At first, I wasn’t sure people would want to share something personal with others online. I’ve realized people are not given enough opportunity to be creative and share what inspires them with others. I aim to change that.
CL: How did you go from street art to making coloring books for adults?
KM: With street art, my focus has always been to create art that is highly interactive. I love giving people the opportunity to step into a piece, become part of the art, and share their own creativity. Coloring books for adults was a natural next step for my work; they are not only relaxing and fun, but you can take them anywhere and use them at any time. Whether you are trying to get through a creative block or taking a five-minute break to decompress, it’s an easy way to slow everything down.
CL: What is it about the act of coloring that you find meditative?
KM: Coloring gives us the chance to focus completely on a task that’s enjoyable and relaxing. It provides an escape from the day-to-day grind and encourages exploring and revealing our natural creativity. It helps clear my head and reset my attitude when I’m feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Like my street art, it’s so important for me to give people a moment to pause and be in a moment. With coloring, that moment gets to last much longer.
CL: MC Yogi once told me that when a street artist sees a wall, it’s like a big wave surfer seeing a huge set come in. How do you choose your spots?
KM: Coming across a good wall with high foot traffic is like Christmas morning for me, whether it’s on a busy NYC street with cars honking, locals rushing to work, and tourists exploring, or a quiet corner in a smaller community. A good wall with a good community is the best thing a street artist could ask for. For all my street art pieces, I focus first on identifying and partnering with vibrant communities in different cities around the world. Meeting new people and exploring new cultures is a huge motivation for my work, and is also the ultimate reward.
CL: You’ve partnered with large companies like Facebook and American Greetings, and huge events like SXSW. How do you balance the goals of working with partners and your own goals as an artist?
KM: Whether I’m working with a large brand or drawing in my studio, my goals as an artist are always focused on fun and interactivity. As long as I’m creating art as a tool for community engagement and interaction and I have a pen in hand, it’s easy for me to balance the goals of my partners and my own, because we are aligned from the start.
CL: What goes into creating one of your pieces?
KM: Each day working on a mural is always different, which is pretty exciting. Different cities, communities, and even the weather all play a big part in creating these pieces. I like to start drawing early in the morning and I usually won’t stop until the piece is finished. Sometimes it’s a window, and other times cranes and lifts are involved! No matter what, letting myself go and staying in a good flow is the most important part for me. Sometimes people interact with the piece while I’m still in the process of drawing it, which is an amazing feeling.
CL: I notice you sometimes include a small set of wings in some of your murals. Who or what is that for?
KM: I think everyone deserves a pair of wings, and that includes kids, babies, and dogs! It’s a fun way for everyone, big or small, to participate in #WhatLiftsYou.