In Our World
A hidden world tucked behind a wardrobe that was depicted in a children’s book has enchanted many, even finding its way to film. C.S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia” could be considered the “Harry Potter” of its time and corresponding literary significance. The books have inspired a couple in Groesbeck to create a special living space for their daughters.
Tyler Kay, a Texas native and painter, challenged both herself and her patrons’ expectations with a Narnia Room complete with entryway as described by the book and acrylic paint featuring characters, locations and more.
With a twist of the wrist, the doorknob turns and the door of a wardrobe opens to an unexpected alcove. The room, which is multi-leveled and fit for a grade-schooler to early middle school student, is multi-tiered with bunk beds fit for four and crawl spaces on levels throughout. David Burkeen, a local carpenter, demonstrated brilliance in fitting furniture in the space and developing the room vertically, with a wraparound walkway, ladders, hatches and railings. Burkeen shaped and created the canvas for Kay to continue.
She was working on the mural for downtown Groesbeck when the owner of the home approached her and asked if she did indoor painting. “We have this house, and this room,” she says they said, noting that they had original intent of making it the Narnia Room. “It’s hard to find a muralist who can be gone for months a time working. They wanted me to paint with the girls a little bit.”
She’d say, “Okay, I’m starting on a spring wall” and the kids would color it in. Kay would follow up after with a final layer and touchup from the base the children painted. They drew flowers, mushrooms and other animal roughs. Kay worked to include characters from the book, including the four children, beaver family and satyr, Mr. Tumnus. Scenes included the broken stone table, the White Witch’s castle and an entryway to Tumnus’s house that opens up into another room entirely after moving through a crawl space.
She did the downstairs portion of the room a year earlier, returning to finish the ceiling and top features. She worked for 50 days with at least eight hours contributed during those. She says that moving around the space and finishing portions was fun, but she had to leave the space every so often.
“I’d get stir-crazy,” she laughs, leaving for some time to return working. “It’s mentally strenuous but luckily it’s pretty, so I recharge and keep working.”
Intricate textures mark animals and other details throughout the room. A lamppost wired to the wall extends with a base in paint, in addition to outlets camouflaged throughout.
Her assistant full-blood Weimarainer, Shasta, who travels with her during projects, is even painted in “Where’s Waldo?” fashion in the room.
She’s finishing up a dragon in the top half of the room, which features a fan with leaf blades and blue sky extending with a vaulted ceiling. “I’ve never painted a dragon before,” she said, pointing to the greenwinged creature taking flight. From the top walkway, the room takes on the illusion of a castle.
So how does she know she’s finished? “I want to be able to look back in 30 years and say that I did my best work,” Kay says, noting that she’s learned along the way and that the art outlives you. “I’ve never painted 90% of what I’m painting now. This house will be for generations to come and I want to be proud of the work I’m doing.”
Part of the process for Kay is self-learning, or autodidactic, painting. She got her start painting strokes from an early age, first commissioned by her sister (and parental permission) for a wall in her room. She painted a relative’s game room and continued to perfect her craft, though fine detail and realism in fantasy characters demonstrates Kay’s prowess as a creator today.
“I never painted or drew in junior high or high school,” she said. Kay picked up the brush again after changing majors in college, having an epiphany of her life goals following the death of a loved one. She hasn’t looked back since.
“All of my [more] challenging pieces have been this year,” she says, noting an outside vertical mural she did at the Austin-Bergstrom Airport for Million Air via cherry picker earlier last year. She completed it in spray paint, a new medium for Kay at the time. Kay has painted numerous works of public art and community murals. She is known for completing the Groesbeck mural at Ellis and Navasota streets.
“My portfolio is expanding because I come across clients that value art, value my ability and they’re able to monetarily support,” she says, balancing student loans, the living expenses of where she’s working and financing project supplies. “As my project budgets increase I am able to devote more time into my work and I believe that is when I even surprise myself with my capabilities.”
She was involved in an Arts Leadership program for her graduate practicum called community mural project. She obtained her Master’s degree in Arts Leadership from the University of Houston. “As part of my graduate practicum I conducted a series of community engaged mural projects on the island of Skopelos, Greece with a non-profit called the Skopelos Foundation for the Arts,” she said. Kay has showcased in Los Angeles and her work is featured across Texas.
She was born in Texas and has remained, working with art across the state and farther away in the country. She’s lived in both Columbus, Texas and Katy, considering both home while family lives in Bernardo and parts of the Houston area.
So what’s next? Public art bids are going out online, which Kay researches to submit proposals to. She never knows what she’ll be working on until proposals are accepted.
“January is my only month of calmness for the entire year,” she said, noting that the time is when she returns to paint Narnia. “After that, I hit the ground running.” She starts painting in February for a restaurant in Houston for interior wall art.
More of Kay’s work can be found on Instagram @TylerKay and www.Tyler-Kay.com.