Hetton artist hopes to paint a brighter future for Ukraine

A North East artist is helping raise money for the victims of the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine through the magic of art.

Kelsey Wilson, 29, is selling prints of a painting of Ukraine’s national flower ahead of Mother’s Day, with all proceeds being donated to the British Red Cross.

The sunflower prints, which come in A4 and A5, are based on watercolour paintings Kelsey produced at her home studio and are now being sold via leading online arts store Etsy.

She said: “The crisis in Ukraine really brought home how fortunate we are to be in the position we are in here in the UK and like a lot of people, I wanted to help but just felt powerless.

“I started searching for ways I could help out and saw that the British Red Cross was raising money to provide first aid, water, medicines and shelter to those impacted, so I decided to take it upon myself to do what I could to support its efforts.

“After painting a sunflower, which, as well as being the national flower of Ukraine, also represents hope, peace and happiness, I thought it’d be the perfect way to help raise money for those affected by the crisis and I’ve been blown away by the response so far.”

Kelsey was inspired to paint the sunflower after experiencing first-hand how the magic of art can help pull people through testing times.

Having had a passion for art since she was a young child, it took a personal tragedy of her own for Kelsey to finally pick up a pencil and picture her future as an artist following the passing of her late grandmother.

Kelsey’s love of art was something her grandmother, Catherine, always encouraged her to practice and one day pursue and it wasn’t until she was made redundant from her previous job as a payroll assistant that she decided to finally heed her advice.

After being signposted to the North East BIC, Kelsey set up her own business, Kelani Art, four months ago and has since gone on to sell drawings and portraits to customers across the North East and beyond.

“I set the business up following the passing of my grandmother who always encouraged me to put my talents to use,” she said. “We were really close, and losing her hit me hard mentally.

“Serendipitously, I was also made redundant from my job and it made me realise that, if I didn’t do it now, I’d probably never do it. So, I decided to give it a go.

“I was put in contact with the North East BIC through Job Centre Plus and after enquiring about the support on offer to start a business, I was given my own business adviser, Janice [Marsh].

“She was a huge help. Not only did she help me get to grips with registering the company and mastering the basics such as bookkeeping, but she also gave me the confidence I needed to keep going.

“I also attended a couple of their Flying Start workshops, such as ‘how to promote your business online’ and ‘branding for beginners’, which have really been key to helping me get going.”

Janie Marsh, business adviser and trainer at the BIC, said: “It’s been a real pleasure working with Kelsey and helping her use her talent to not only start a business doing something she loves, but also to support such fantastic causes.

“Starting a business is always a challenge, especially when it’s taking a leap of faith by following your passion, however Kelsey is proof of what can be achieved when you really put your mind to doing something you love and keep pursuing your passion. We’d like to wish her all of the best for the future.”