Constraints inspire creativity.
At first, Chelsey’s path seemed clear. She always loved both drawing and photography. She’s been drawing since she was a kid and took black and white film photography classes in high school. She was able to land an internship with DreamWorks Animation, a childhood dream of hers, while earning her BA in Drawing and Painting from Cal State Northridge.
It was while in college that Chelsey met her husband Chris. He talked about joining the Coast Guard, and ended up proposing just before he left for boot-camp. As an engaged senior, with a desire for things to work for her relationship, Chelsey realized she would need to explore her professional options beyond the borders of Los Angeles. Luckily, she was fulfilling a biology credit at the time, and was given the challenge of linking the subject to her art major. Her research led to her discovery of Art Therapy!
After graduating, and moving twice, Chelsey completed her Masters in Art Therapy. Finally settled (for a few years) in Washington State, she traveled to Indiana 3 times a year for 5 years to complete residencies, while also completing internships, observations and practicums. They had their first son during year 2 of her program, and she graduated 5 months before they moved again_ all the way across the country to Florida. This time, however, she was pregnant with their second son.
Her Art Therapy career had to be put on hold while she focused on family after the move. Though, it wasn’t before gaining a lot of experience back in Washington doing trauma work with cancer patients and foster children, creating a therapeutic group for anxiety at a local church, and even publishing a chapter in a textbook. The work she had been doing was difficult and fulfilling, and she left hoping she’d find a place for those skills again.
In 2019, when the government was shut down, and not knowing how long the stall in pay would last, Chelsey decided it was time for a back-up plan (or two). She began creating illustrations and doing photography again.
Friends of hers invited Chelsey to be a second shooter for their wedding photography business, while also training her along the way. She took to it, and is now taking on clients of her own. One client, in particular, asked her to capture the announcement of their upcoming adoption. The celebration was also an acknowledgement of a tragic loss, and Chelsey was particularly grateful to help them through that experience. She’s now done several adoption announcements and says they’re her favorite type of family photo to do.
Chelsey’s portraits and drawings are custom made. The images often tell a story or imagine a person in a different way— like a superhero, a rockstar, or a helicopter pilot. She can produce an image of someone doing something they may have only dreamed about. One drawing, made for a young boy who’d lost his father, conceptualized a grown-up likeness of the boy; of him and his dad enjoying coffee together in front of the cabin his father had built.
“There’s something very beautiful about building something out of brokenness.”
Her photos and drawings provide meaning to her clients. She can tune into a person’s identity, individuality, and be a part of that person’s story and how they tell it. Her artwork provides a way for her to channel the empathy that came naturally to her therapy, with a talent she’s had her entire life.
Now expecting their third boy this coming March, Chelsey and Chris are up for transfer again this year. Whether they are able to extend at their current unit, or they move to the next adventure, Chelsey is excited to keep building her photography and illustration businesses wherever they go.