Artist Kelly Pankey enjoys working with scratchboards, etching designs like this one in ink and clay. | Submitted
Kelly Pankey, a local scratchboard artist whose careful etchings in ink and clay embody her mental musings, finds creativity is the ideal stress-reliever.
"I actually find that I'm better at [my art] when I'm using it to express something that I'm anxious about or just something that I need to think about further," Pankey told the Kern Valley Sun.
She enjoyed art as early as kindergarten.
"The painting was always my favorite," Pankey recalled. "Back when you just had no stress."
Later on, after a five-year stint in the U.S. Navy, where there was little time for creative pursuits, Pankey eventually found her way back to the Kern County area and to art.
Pankey says post-Navy she painted church murals, dabbled in art classes at Cerro Coso and ultimately received a bachelor's degree in English.
Soon, she began to fall back in love with being creative. Finding woodcarving satisfying but messy, she decided to pick up a scratchboard kit at an art store instead.
"It was terrible," she said, laughing. "It was the first scratchboard I ever did and I chucked it in the trash. It's very unforgiving. You can't make mistakes."
Something about the style called her back, though, and Pankey continued to work with the ink-covered clay tablets until she knew how to use knives for deep, dramatic cuts and tattoo needles for small, intricate details.
While Pankey's work often depicts skeletons, ravens and other somber subjects, she encourages people to examine what the morose renderings mean and feel like for them as viewers.
"It's beauty and it's pain," Pankey said. "You walk up to a painting and if you see something in it, the artist has no control over what you see or feel. It's a very personal experience, and I as the artist have to let go and let you feel what you're going to feel."
Pankey was featured in the Kern River Valley Art Associations May 2021 Armchair Art Show, a free virtual art gallery.
"My goal is just to keep doing art," Pankey said. "It would be really nice to make a living off of my art, but I'm not sure that's attainable. But for as long as I can keep doing it, I'm satisfied."
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