Kevin Pettit, an art teacher for Irmo High School, has painted two murals in Lexington County, including a mural for Ballard Law in West Columbia and Mrs. Goodfoot, a nail salon in Cayce.
Based in West Columbia, he said he has wanted to be an artist ever since the first grade, telling the Chronicle that he can’t remember a time when he didn’t think like an artist.
He said art makes a place more beautiful, interesting and culturally relevant, adding that public art is a way to make residents proud of their community.
The first mural the teacher ever painted came about in 2021; he calls it his “big break.”
The mural in Elloree for Vintique Boutique came through the help of Andrea White, an attorney and yoga studio owner who heard of someone looking for a muralist. According to Pettit, White reached out to him and that was that.
He said Austin “Slim” Gee, who painted a mural for Planet Vapor in West Columbia, helped him prepare for the Ballard Law mural.
“He told me about the doodle grid method. I went home and researched that, and honestly, that changed everything for me.” Pettit said, “I owe that dude a lot, he’s a great guy and extremely talented.”
When sharing his process, Pettit said the first thing he does is research, sketch and do multiple revisions. The next steps include diving into the mural and immersing himself to “find the zone” and “get into the flow” and ride that until exhaustion; the artist will then step back, sleep on it, and fine-tune his project.
He told the Chronicle that the final step for him is one many artists participate in – signing his artwork.
His experience painting his peacock mural for Donna, owner of Mrs. Goodfoot, was a great one, telling the Chronicle that people would often stop and chat with him about it. Pettit said that once a man on a riding lawnmower came by to chat.
“Art is an escape as well as a profession.” the artist said. “It’s about making life great, it’s about hard work and constantly challenging yourself to do things that are a little above your skill level so you continue to improve.”
He also said two artists who changed his life were Paul Martyka, his painting and lithography teacher at Winthrop, and Khaldoune Bencheikh, an artist from Morocco who he met while teaching.
Both died before they had the chance to see the art Pettit made for the community.
Some words that the artist used to describe his work were experimental, naive, unfinished, colorful and rhythmic.
At the time Pettit is not currently working on a mural as he is focusing on finishing his master’s in administration and supervision, though he said he is “chomping at the bit” to do more.
Pettit told the Chronicle that he finds inspiration in everyday occurrences, from looking at trees to light reflecting on different surfaces.
“Inspiration is everywhere for an artist so long as you can see and hear,” he said.
In the coming weeks, the Chronicle will continue to take a look at public art and its influence in the area, profiling more local artists.
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