From making digital illustrations for The Bachelor franchise all the way to starting her own commission-based abstract painting business, Makenzi Smith built her love of colorful art into a thriving local business. The founder of Kenzi Creative and small business advocate caught up with PaperCity to talk about everything from her favorite park in the city to realizing that being kind doesn’t mean that you don’t need boundaries.
PC: What’s your Dallas-area coffee order?
Makenzi Smith: I love going to White Rhino, and I get an iced Sebastian with oat milk.
What is your favorite Dallas wellness spot?
I don’t really go to any fancy yoga classes or gyms, but I love walking on the Katy Trail.
What is your favorite hidden Dallas gem?
Griggs Park is my absolute favorite. I love to go there and eat, run, walk, work out there, play with my dog — that’s my favorite.
How did you start and grow your art business?
I have always really loved and enjoyed art. I admired it, but never really thought I could do it myself, until I got an iPad for my college graduation and started drawing on it. It’s funny to see how far I’ve come because my first initial sketches and designs were awful — I didn’t know how to use it.
But I slowly started getting better, and I actually did an illustration for an influencer who made it her profile picture and posted it about it. It was awesome, and I got a lot of followers from that. Then, I got reached out to by The Bachelor to do a drawing for them for a campaign last summer, and that gave me a lot of exposure and new clients.
View this post on Instagram
I was furloughed in March of 2020 and was just paying my bills by doing art. I did illustrations for quite a while, and in August I decided I’d like to try painting. I had always wanted to try, but I was always too scared to buy the canvases. They’re kind of expensive, and I didn’t want to mess them up and waste money. So my grandparents actually gifted me two canvases that their late son had started painting on and never finished — two big 30×40’s.
From there, I played around. The first painting I ever did I did was on my floor with some beginner acrylic from Michael’s and a few brushes I had, but a lot of the time I painted with my hands. That’s how I painted my first painting, Margo. People were like, “I actually really like that — would you sell it?” I was like oh, maybe I should paint a few more!
I’ve been painting since December, and it’s been great. I have a very steady pool of income from it, and have been able to double my pricing from when I started. Painting is a place where I go to feel relaxed — I lose sense of time and it’s really enjoyable to me.
How do you prioritize your own mental and physical health as a busy artist with another full-time job?
That’s a great question, and I’m going to be transparent— it’s something I’ve really struggled with. Painting in a way is its own source of help for me because it’s very therapeutic. Prioritizing is something I’ve been trying to figure out — I don’t have it organized yet and don’t have a system. I’ve tried a lot of things and have luckily figured out what doesn’t work.
I also go to therapy, and I think everyone should go to therapy. It has greatly impacted my life for the better. Although it’s been a really, really awesome couple of years. I also had a lot of my life change in the span of six months. Everything about my life as I knew it kind of flipped on its head in regard to relationships, family, job, friends — and going to therapy has really helped with that.
What advice would you give to Dallas women?
You always, always want to think the best of people and be kind to others, but it’s also OK to stand up for yourself and have boundaries that protect you and your business. You can do great business while also managing your safety and health.