OTTAWA — If you attended the Putnam County Fair this week, you likely saw Kirstene Adkins’ artwork on display. But her artistry wasn’t hanging in a gallery inside a booth, it was on the faces of smiling children who wished to be a princess or a superhero for a day.
Adkins owns Art Me!, a traveling paint and party studio that specializes in professional face painting and fairy tale character parties. The Ottawa-based business Adkins started three years ago was somewhat of a dream come true for the former marketer turned entrepreneur.
“I’m just so happy and overjoyed that I actually get to do this because it was always kind of a dream of mine,” said Adkins, whose cheek was painted like Dory, a Disney-Pixar character. “The smile it puts on little kids faces when they get their face painted or seeing their favorite character come to life — there’s really no words to describe the feeling I get.”
Adkins got her start in face painting around 10 years ago as a student at Columbus College of Art and Design. Through CCAD, she was hired as a caricature artist for Kaman’s Art Shoppes, an amusement and theme park concessionaire. During her six years with Kaman’s, she was able to hone her skills as a face painter.
Following her tenure at Kaman’s, Adkins moved back to Putnam County with her husband, had a son, and started doing parties on the side. Through word of mouth, Adkins began receiving a litany of requests for her artistic services.
“I had to bring on contracted artists to work with me because I was getting too much business,” she said. “I decided to quit my job and do this full time, while being a stay-at-home mom at the same time.”
Today, Adkins employs 13 artists and character performers who are mainly high school and college-aged students. She and her team travel all over Ohio and some parts of Michigan, performing as fairy tale characters and painting faces at birthday parties, county fairs, weddings, corporate events and more.
Adkins said she prides herself in being a mentor for young girls and boys who have the same artistic aspirations she did as a student growing up in Columbus Grove.
“It swells my heart that I can be that person for them because I didn’t have that (mentor) growing up,” she said. “I hope to show these girls and boys who, maybe they’re a little bit shy, that this is what you can become. I want them to know they can be something great and to have confidence in themselves.”
Along with being a mentor, Adkins said her favorite part of the job is seeing the smiling faces of children she encounters.
“I love kids, and I love to make them happy,” she said. “That’s the best thing in the world.”
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima