Kelsey’s sister Courtney here. I wanted to share a bit about where Kelsey’s wings come from. A lot of people have asked, over the years, about why Kelsey did that first set of wings in NYC (see above photo with the incredible Taylor Swift). Kelsey and I didn’t initially realize why she was so drawn to draw wings until many months after we started. Here’s the story…
Kelsey and I grew up in an art focused family. Our mom, grandpa, uncle and great grandpa were all artists. Our grandfather was a water-color artist. Known for his stunning paintings of landscapes and specifically birds. He taught our Mom and our childhood home has always been filled with art. When we were kids we can remember going on a gallery road-trip tour with my Mom and Grandpa throughout the mid-west. Mom and Grandpa were showing their work at galleries throughout the center of America and as kids we used to play behind the easels and sneak coca-cola from the catering staff.
Our Mom’s work is feminine, graceful, beautiful and sometimes quirky. Mom won a prestigious award for this piece called ‘Get off my back.’
An ode to her sense of humor and artistic prowess.
Unique and beautiful art always graced every wall of our house. We were privileged to grow up in a house that respects art. I grew up watching my dad brag about his brilliant, artistic wife and watching my Mom cultivate the talent my sister exhibited at an early age. My talent, for business and for people, was also always encouraged. And investing it, as I have in my later years, in furthering my sisters reach as a genius artist seemed a natural transition for me. Something that was only possible because of our parents encouragement, love and support.
As kids when we weren’t roaming galleries or making up stories about who exactly lived in the ‘Get off my back’ painting town, Kelsey and I were roaming our Grandfather’s art studio and looking for birds. His watercolor style was much more masculine, realistic and classic. He hid a bird in almost every piece he did. To him birds were a testament to his Christianity. Birds represented God, freedom, love and faith.
Kelsey and I would compete in his studio. Who found the bird in a painting first? How many total birds could we find? We would also sit and admire his expensive paint brushes. Careful not to touch them. Even when arthritis made it impossible for him to paint they were still sacred. Still an extension of the man who’s faith and art grounded 2 generations of our family.
Grandpa ultimately died of a stroke. But I know that he waited for me. Or maybe God waited for me…
I had been living abroad, I moved home to Colorado and the next day he was in the hospital in a coma. I got to say goodbye to him alongside Kelsey. In fact he stuck around for 12 hours. A steady stream of people came to say their farewells. Kelsey and I both got to be with him when he took his last breath, in a ‘coma’ but with tears streaming down his face.
Nearly a decade later Kelsey was given the chance to paint on a large rotating art wall in NYC and she chose wings. She wanted people to feel like they were in flight. Like they were strong and free and beautiful and powerful. Kelsey drew the piece (I stayed on the sidelines, prepped paint and chatted with New Yorkers as she worked) and immediately people responded. We were still working on the piece when people started posing and taking pictures and hugging Kelsey. And then, a week later, Taylor Swift saw them, something spoke to her so she posed with them and posted them on Instagram. And our business bloomed.
We both know that the faith of our grandfather is the reason we are here, living out our dream of creating art to uplift people around the world. And why are we so drawn to wings? Why does Kelsey intuitively understand a million ways to place a feather or sketch the bone of a bird in flight? It’s because of Jack Rankin. He stoked the artistic flame of his daughter, Linda Montague, who then raised and trained Kelsey Montague. Three generations of brilliant artists have come together in the genius art that flows from my sister on to street art walls around the world.
All Kelsey and I can really say is : Miss You Grandpa Jack and thank you,
Courtney and Kelsey