Sitting on a chair with brush in hand in her kitchen, Kellie Breaux intently painted the fine details of an alligator against a twilight swamp scene on an aged cedar plank.
With soft light pouring in from a window and her TV nearby, this is where her creativity pours onto the canvas.
“I love painting on wood, “ Breaux said applying another stroke to the alligator. “I love the wood grains.”
Swamp scenes are a favorite for this Des Allemands artist, but her work is really only limited by her imagination. And it’s pretty open to new ideas as shown by a menagerie of paintings on her walls and fireplace mantle, and even her cedar kitchen tops made from wood she got from an old mill nearby. It showcases Breaux’s ability to turn nearly anything that catches her eye into an artistic piece, which includes sculpting, woodcarving, porcelain dolls and furniture.
“I’ve always done art since I was young,” she said.
She attributes her creativity to her mother and why she signs her every work as “Patiki” in lasting appreciation and memory of what she taught Breaux. It originates from her mother’s name of “Pam” and Breaux’s nickname, “Tiki,” and her every work bears this signature.
“Every time I paint a painting it reminds me of my mom,” she said. “When I worked with my mom, she would sculpt and I would do the painting … all the fine stuff I would finish. It was so special. My signing the Patiki name keeps her in my heart. She’s my inspiration.”
Breaux said she took after her mother with art, but her dad the carpenter helped, too.
“If I needed anything, my dad would just run out to the shed and finish it,” she said. “It was a family thing and it was pretty cool.”
By age 25, she was dabbling in more painting and soon decided it was time to put her talent to use.
“I did a sculpture of Ellen DeGeneres and sent it to her show, she said.
Breaux’s work wasn’t displayed, but a screen freeze revealed it did make the show and showed it in the background on stage.
“What I really love most is what people want me to paint for them,” she said of designing personal pieces. “They send me a photograph and want me to do something for them.”
Breaux enjoys painting to order, and it became clearer to her that painting was so relaxing it was like therapy.
From there, her claim to fame has become based on staying true to her developing eye for painting and it’s paying off.
Her folk art style has generated attention.
Breaux said the Louisiana paintings (literally a painting on Louisiana-shaped wood) are varied with collages.
The Revival Art House in Ponchatoula has contacted her about displaying her work there. There’s a demand for her Louisiana work, but there is here, too.
A piece of driftwood given to her became a swamp scene with a wood duck, bearing nature’s beautiful colors in the plumage.
Reclaimed or leftover parts of cedar planks from a nearby mill, like the one she is painting the alligator on, are becoming prized works. One of them bears her original work of the “beer swamp” with bottles of beer depicted with roots like cypress trees, and another bears the LSU stadium and tiger.
Breaux has a piece of piling from her mother’s house and plans to paint the Des Allemands bridge (big bridge and little bridge) on it. This would rank among her favorite projects because of the family connection, but she also singled out the Fleur de lis with a football because she’s a football fan and the entryway table at her home.
“It’s my passion. I love being creative.” — Kellie Breaux
“I just make things I want,” she said. “I’m always painting my walls. I’m all about color.”
Her artistic eye seems to be always roaming about for the next interesting project.
“I’m a starving artist,” she mused. “It’s my passion. I love being creative.”
And for those who want to share the experience, she offers the opportunity to have a “paint party” with a per-person charge where she supplies wood and paint to any individual who wants to paint, too.
“Usually it’s signs, including Santa Claus, the Grinch, the Saints or flower,” she said of groups that have gone as high as 21 people. “It takes a couple of hours. It’s fun to do.”
And Breaux hopes there will be many more times she gets to sign “Patiki” to her work. With every one completed would come her mother’s joyous affirmation. “Every time I would finish a piece, I would sign it,” she said. “She’d always say, ‘Damn, we’re good.’”