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How I Went From Friday Night Lights to Live Wedding Painter

Updated: Sep 2, 2022

For those that know me well, my journey from a full-time Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) to a full-time Artist was not as big of a shock and question mark. But for those who don't know me, you are probably wondering how I went from sports medicine to art??? Other than the obvious... dresses are far more cute than khaki's and a polo! #jakefromstatefarm

Here's how it went down...

My whole entire childhood was revolved around arts and sports. I was drawing, painting and playing pretend business owner as far back as my memories go. When I wasn't in an art class or drawing up my dream home, I was either in gymnastics, volleyball or track season. I always seemed to get hurt though and rarely made it through a single season without time off or a season ending surgery. That crushes the psyche of a teenager! A lot of times, I had to use my art as a way to express myself and it was always my constant when sports were not.

From second grade through twelfth grade, I was preparing myself to go to college for interior design, wanting to follow in the footsteps of my very successful uncle and cousin from Florida #GatorNation . I wanted all things architecture, interior design, and styling. I wanted my projects and creations to be published in the magazines that sit on your coffee table as decor because they are THAT nice.

A whole entire lifetime of planning (only 18 years lol) came to a halting stop when I had my second knee surgery just before Christmas of my senior year. CUE EARLY QUARTER LIFE CRISIS!!! If that's not a thing, I've made it a thing. Too much time recovering on the couch let the fear of not making it and being a struggling artist eventually change my mind on my future profession. My high school athletic trainer saved my life more than once, so I decided that is where I will make the biggest impact and be my happiest. Once I was off crutches, I had my parents drive me to three different universities to visit their athletic training programs, despite already having applied to a handful of other schools based on their interior design programs.

I ended up attending the University of Toledo in the fall of 2012 and graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training in 2016. T-O-L... E-D-O #GoRockets ! During Christmas and summer breaks through college, I would always paint commissions for gifts as an outlet from whatever hell'ish clinical rotation I had just completed. Toledo was great and I met my lifelong best friends and soon to be husband, but the athletic training program was nothing short of difficult. After a one year residency and a year of the "first job scaries" at a small high school with no previous athletic trainer, I settled into a new position as the athletic trainer at a division 1 high school in Ohio, with off time spent as an assistant to an orthopedic surgeon in office.

Two years into my "dream job", COVID hit. All sports stopped, kids went to remote learning, and the clinic slimmed down its visit to orthopedic emergencies only. I went from 40-50 hours/week of fast-paced orthopedics to 10-20 hours/week of shredding old files in the basement of the clinic and taking patients temperatures at the door. After being cussed out by a woman in a wheel chair who didn't want her temp taken and not knowing when normal life would resume, I decided I had had enough. All my extra time at home was now spent figuring out alternative business ideas and painting commissions for extra income. I started embracing my inner artist again and this is where the live painter in me was born!!! #YOLO

*** Start singing “Dream On” by Aerosmith!!!! ***

Live wedding painting at the Arcade in downtown Cleveland, OH in December of 2020.

My art business "Event Artistry by Kelsey" was created in the summer of 2020 and I painted from photographs until my first live wedding in December of 2020. See photo above. I ended up rebranding my business in 2021 to "Art by Kelsey Rae", which I was happy about, but my husband wasn't necessarily thrilled to go through the hoops of re-registering my business with the state. He did it without complaint though, because he is the absolute best person in the whole world and loves me to death (and is used to all my crazy ideas and changing my mind every week!!). I continued working as an ATC juggling the demands at the high school, running a business, and traveling to weddings on my only weekends off. I completed the year with four styled shoots and 16 weddings under my belt.

After two years of long days, hard work, trials and tribulations, I left healthcare in the beginning of 2022 and officially obtained my full-time Artist status!! (or #stayathomedogmom depending on who you ask). I couldn't be happier and am ALWAYS learning and changing. This is a textbook "what is meant to happen will happen" or "life always comes full circle" kind of moment. I was put on this earth to be an artist and make an impact through my artwork. Every morning I wake up (when I want to wake up!!!!) and get to enjoy every part of my day with my golden fur baby Koa, aka my coworker and studio groupee #vincentvankoa . I am more energized and fulfilled at the end of my workday day, and also get to provide more for my family than before.

As of now, I will finish 2022 with 52 live painting events in seven different states... and it has only just begun! Please continue to follow along through social media and on my website. Link below :)

Instagram and TikTok: @artbykelseyrae

Live painting at the Westin Great Ballroom in downtown Columbus, OH.

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