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Under the watchful eye of Courtney Ballard, the three children draw horizontal lines on the inside of the circle they created with colored Sharpies, designating the head of what will be a ladybug.
“It looks like a window,” Davis VanZant, 6, said.
“Good job, Emily,” Ballard tells 4-year-old Emily Bach, who draws eyes on her ladybug while beside her Mason Baldwin, 5, carefully adds color to his work.
Ballard was in fiddlesticks, a children’s store in Elizabethtown, conducting Sprout Studio, an art class for children.
Art teacher is just one of the many roles the Elizabethtown resident takes on. The mother of two has translated her knowledge, skill and creativity into a blossoming freelance art and design business that adds the titles of artist and graphic designer to her resumé.
It was only last year that Ballard’s sister, Neeley Hacker, owner of fiddlesticks, asked her if she could provide art classes at the store.
“Her talents and vision were, and continue to be, such a big piece of the fiddlesticks puzzle,” Hacker said. “From day one we always had the classes in mind for our little ‘fiddle fans.’”
The one-hour classes are held 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Tuesday and 3 p.m. on Thursday. Most class projects start and finish in an hour, Ballard said.
“We are always inspired by a favorite artist or designer,” she said.
That educational aspect is a big part of what Emily’s mother, Susanne Bach, appreciates.
“What Courtney Ballard does with and for the kids at Sprout Studio is truly wonderful,” Bach said. “We love that Emily gets to experience and discover new artists every week along with their different techniques, materials and styles.”
Sprout Studio is even expanding the class schedule to include summer camp in June and July due to such a good response to existing classes, a development Ballard is happy about.
Students typically fall in the 3 to 7 age range, Ballard said. Classes start with free draw, during which the children draw what they want.
Both washable and permanent markers are used, depending on the student, and that goes the same for other art supplies, like paint, she said.
“I have some kids who don’t like to make a mess,” Ballard said.
On the other hand, students are given that option to be messy. And the classes allow the children to “explore their creativity,” she said.
Being able to use her creativity to inspire and help others is what’s most gratifying, Ballard said.
It doesn’t go unnoticed, either.
“It greatly helps Emily developing her creativity,” Bach said. “She looks forward to art class every week and enjoys her time with Ms. Courtney tremendously. We are blessed to have someone like Courtney Ballard in our community.”
But Sprout Studio is just one area where Ballard exercises the creative energy for which she earned a fine arts degree from the University of Kentucky.
Ballard also does mural and canvas work and has begun dabbling in creating stationery in the “last year or so.” Her online presence includes a blog, http://studiocartanddesign.blogspot.com, and a Facebook page, Courtney Ballard art + design.
“I wear a lot of hats,” she said.
Ballard’s journey began about seven years ago after the birth of her first boy, Ethan.
That’s when she realized her artistic flair could be a bigger part of her life and decided to freelance, pursuing a career built from a lifelong interest.
“I think as a child I was always drawing and creating,” Ballard said. “Being creative was always a part of my life.”
As her freelance career took off, another son — Jack — came along.
Murals and canvas work have been mainstays, growing in the past five or six years, she said. Painting murals can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, she said.
“I’ve done a few commercial jobs, but primarily it’s for residences,” Ballard said.
Those murals are typically themed paintings or children’s names or initials, she said.
“A lot of the artwork I do is custom,” Ballard said.
In fact, Ballard has painted murals at fiddlesticks and has artwork hanging there, appropriately enough on the back wall in the area where she holds classes.
Ballard loves the flexibility of being a freelance artist and designer.
“It’s definitely a plus because I’m able to be there first and foremost for the boys,” she said.
Except for the class times, most of her schedule can be adjusted, Ballard said.
“You’ve got to learn how to manage your time and balance things,” she said.
Hacker called her sister’s ability to balance everything remarkable.
“Courtney is extremely passionate about family as well as art, so to see how well she balances both is very admirable as well as motivating,” Hacker said.
Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743 or email@example.com.
MORE ABOUT COURTNEY BALLARD
Family: Husband, Jon; sons, Ethan, 8, and Jack, 5.
Favorite movies: Thrillers, “Anything Alfred Hitchcock.”
Favorite music: Coldplay.
Favorite TV shows: “Modern Family,” “Parenthood,” “Southland” and “Project Runway.”
Favorite books: “Vera: The Life and Art of an Icon,” about designer and artist Vera Neumann and whatever her children are reading.
Hobbies: “I love to cook. I come from a big Italian family.”