Kristy Oakley has now painted her magic in Mt. Juliet.
Though just 5-foot-2, she sure paints big. Her broad strokes are enormous, but she manages to get in exquisite detail.
After painting signature murals in Donelson and Nashville, Oakley, 49, took her large strokes to Mt. Juliet this summer on Jennifer Osborne’s office building near City Hall.
The enormous letters sprawl across the facade and spell out “MT. JULIET”. The letters are filled in with images representing the town.
Osborne saw Oakley’s mural in Donelson near the Party Fowl restaurant and knew she had to find Oakley to ask her to pretty up her office building.
“I really love Mt. Juliet and wanted to showcase our building and let people know where we are,” Osborne said. “People come by all the time and ask about the mural and many have taken all kinds of pictures next to it. Kristy did an awesome job.”
As far as what’s tucked in the enormous letters?
“Jennifer left it up to me, pretty much, what should go on the mural,” Oakley said. “She was only adamant about one thing: Charlie Daniels must appear in it somewhere. Well, I am not a portrait artist, but I had to fulfill her request. My designs are typically very whimsical.”
So, she tucked a little Charlie Daniels playing the fiddle in the gazebo in the park that is named after him into the mural.
“I looked at several photos to get the stance correct,” Oakley said. “Although it’s a cartoon version of him, I think it’s pretty obvious who it is.”
Mt. Juliet High School and Mt. Juliet Christian Academy are represented. Long Hunter State Park was also included because of its beauty and recreational importance. Mt. Juliet Police and Fire Department of Mt. Juliet logos also were painted into the large letters.
“I included these because of the awesome presence and the great influence these men and women in uniform seem to have on the people of this town,” Oakley said. “Cedar Creek Marina was a must for me because my friends and I love to go there in the spring and summer to enjoy live music and the atmosphere. I hope the people of Mt Juliet enjoy the mural. It was a really fun one to create.”
Journey to Mt. Juliet mural
This motorcycle-riding lady has been painting since she was big enough to hold a paintbrush.
“When I was 5 and in kindergarten my parents put an addition on to our house and gave me the left-over wall board,” she said.
Those ragged white pieces of board were the young artist’s canvas.
“I used a cheap little children’s paint set and was in love,” she said.
Oakley has parlayed that talent into a full-time career as a muralist and house painter (walls and murals inside).
“You got to make money in between the fun stuff,” she said of the interior house painting gig.
Oakley said she loved taking art electives in high school and planned to major in art in college.
“It was a small college in 1989 and that’s when personal computers hit the big time and people could do art on them and didn’t need real artists,” Oakley said.
And, she didn’t see eye-to-eye with her college art teacher and so she quit.
“Dumbest thing I ever did,” she said.
She went to cosmetology school and “did hair” for years. One day someone at her church asked her to paint a mural the length of the hallway in the children’s wing.
“I painted Noah’s Ark, and, it was probably pretty terrible,” she said with a laugh.
This was 24 years ago. But she enjoyed it and the church thought it was fab. Oakley needed a portfolio if she wanted to launch a muralist career so while she “did hair” she asked her clients and friends if she could paint a mural in their home, for free.
“Just to get a cheap portfolio together,” she said.
Of course, they took her up on it. At that time Winnie the Pooh and enchanted gardens strewn across children’s walls were all the rage.
Her breakthrough mural was when the Donelson-Hermitage Family YMCA commissioned her to paint a huge mural in its swimming pool area.
“It was an ‘Under the Ocean’ theme,” she said. “It was a big deal.” And it was big, the length of an Olympic-size swimming pool.
“I think it still might be there,” she said.
And, so, a career was born and it’s been a fun journey. Her mother, who is retired, is her “helper” and provided assistance on the Mt. Juliet mural.
“We laugh and say for her it’s paint by number,” Oakley said. “She fills in the big places and I just love getting her out and being with her.”
Oakley did go back to college and got a degree in interior design, so she loves to also paint houses and sometimes do some fancy painting on the job.
“I was never really formally trained to be an artist,” she said. “I really think people get the talent sort of naturally.”