Owner of ArtMe! says she hopes to mentor future artists in the area
Kirstene Adkins started painting faces when she was in college.
“I started at Columbus Zoo with Kaman’s Art as a caricature artist and got cross trained in face painting and liked it more,” she explained.
She worked for 6 years with Kaman’s Art Shoppes, Inc. and traveled to parks around the nation to train other face painters.
“One of the places I went was Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, that was really fun. Then my husband and I decided to move back this way, we are from here originally but there were no Kaman’s Art Shoppes here so I worked for Texas Roadhouse in marketing for a while.People knew I did face painting and asked me to do parties for them so I did it on the side and it grew from there.”
“My husband and I came up with the name. Originally we thought we would like to do a lot more selling because I’m a fine artist as well. So we were thinking along the lines of buy me, paint me, etc and it was a traveling paint studio as well so we came to ‘Art Me’ and it just seemed to capture it all and was easy to say.”
The next step seemed natural, to embody a princess.
“I was doing parties and someone asked me ‘If I rent a princess dress would you dress up while you paint?’ I said sure and then I wondered why did this two and two not come together sooner,” she laughed.
First came the ice queen, who is still the most popular and it grew from there. But Adkins had previous experience portraying a princess, and had auditioned to play a princess for a certain group of large theme parks.
“It was amazing, I went through this 6 hour audition and there were 2,000 people there; they weaned it down to 46 and there were all shapes and sizes and colors. That was probably one of the funnest things I ever did,” she added.
It took 3 months to hear back about the audition and friends and family encouraged her that she got the part, “I told them to stop saying that!” she laughed.
She found out she did not get the part, but before she could audition again she and her husband learned they were having a baby.
“So we said, well that’s not going to happen,” she remembered. “So then we had our son. But now to bring a character to life for a kid and to do it at their house is great. Sometimes the kids can’t afford to go see these characters at the park and sometimes they do get to go 3 times a year, but to have them in their house it’s just a magical experience for them.”
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Adkins and those who work with her make character integrity their main focus.
“The older they get they really test you as the princess to see how you answer. I was so nervous when I first started but then they started saying things like ‘mom it’s the real…” or “I just met Cinderella.’ I love to play the character well enough that the kids believe it and they go away awestruck.”
The kids are the biggest fans and also the biggest critics and the ones that Adkins and her employees strive the hardest to please. She fine tuned many of the costumes from kids telling the princess at their party that her shoes were not the right color, or her hair was not styled correctly.
She said that she loves seeing the smiles on the kids faces.
“The face painting is always the best when the kids see it after we are done they are so happy. It’s something that I really love. Another thing that makes us different is a lot of people do face painting but they don’t have a team of people that do it with them.”
Adkins also has an eye to the future and mentoring others.
“I love to train new artists, high school and college students because it’s something that they can do other than working at at a fast food job. They can work 6 hours on the weekend and make enough money to save up for college or pay off their car. I’m continuously training new girls and guys that have an interest in art but don’t have an outlet in this area. This is something creative they can put on their resumes or college applications and they can take pride in that.”
Art Me! is now in NW Ohio, Eastern Indiana and Southern Michigan with artists all over the area but Adkins has a goal of expand from NW Ohio to have artist in major districts and cities and continue the growth.
“We are always hiring. I encourage anyone and fill out application and we are definitely looking for male performers. I’m constantly getting requests for male characters, we don’t use copyright names but we do have a a lot of superhero requests. We love taking requests for characters and keep adding on to what we offer,” she explained.
TheArt Me! team can be seen every other Monday from 5 – 8 p.m. at Buffalo Wild Wings at 2948 Allentown Rd in Lima. Next event is July 25.