An Elizabeth City teen is sharing her passion for art with younger children while pursuing her own dream of one day having a graphic arts studio.
Kiana Chitty does a variety of visual arts but oozes enthusiasm for melted crayon, a form of art she discovered online.
Kiana, a 13-year-old seventh-grader at Elizabeth City Middle School demonstrated the melted crayon technique to a group of older girls at Girls Inc., several weeks ago. In the next couple of weeks she is slated to return to Girls Inc. to make a presentation to a younger group.
Kiana also has donated two pieces of her artwork to Girls Inc., for the nonprofit to auction off as part of an upcoming fundraiser.
“If it helps the community, it’s good,” she said.
Deborah Hargin of the Artists’ Collective in downtown Elizabeth City mentors the artistic teen.
Hargin, who moved to Elizabeth City about three years ago, is an artist in several media — wire, fiber and textiles among them — and sells her own and others’ art through the Artists’ Collective. The artists’ collective has been operating out of the former lobby of the historic Southern Hotel.
Hargin also has taught classes through Serenity Studio Arts, and met Kiana when her parents brought her to the studio to paint pottery.
Hargin immediately was impressed with the girl’s talent.
“I saw her ability when I saw the pottery painting that she was working on,” Hargin said. “And she didn’t want to leave.”
Kiana began coming in regularly on Saturdays and working on various projects. Hargin became a mentor to the young artist.
Hargin’s sister, Freda Smith, who is a volunteer at Girls Inc., helped arrange Kiana’s visit to Girls Inc. to demonstrate the technique for the girls.
Kiana said she enjoys the demonstrations because they give her a chance to pass on her knowledge of the art and to answer questions about it.
“Most people don’t really know how to do it and how long it can take — and how many times you can burn your fingers,” she said, explaining why she enjoys demonstrating melted crayon art.
Although she would like to have her own art studio one day, she said she also believes she would enjoy being an art teacher.
During her previous visit to Girls Inc., some of the questions resolved around why she uses the colors she does and why she wasn’t using white or black crayons.
She explained that black works OK but she doesn’t use it very often. As for white, it can work if it’s matched with bright, neon-type colors, she said.
In the first step of putting together a melted-crayon piece, the crayons are fastened to the canvas using hot glue.
“That’s the most time-consuming part of it,” Kiana said.
The entire process, from hot-glueing the first crayon to getting a finished piece, takes about an hour and a half.
The selection of crayon colors depends on what kind of picture you want to create, Kiana said.
“I like to use blue,” she said.
Kiana also sketches pictures with pencil and paper, does chalk drawings, and has worked with Hargin in various media.
“I like the crayon the best,” Kiana said. “It’s cool because everybody has their own idea of what it looks like if you look carefully into it.”
Kiana explained that melted crayon is an abstract art, using crayons on canvas.
“You just have to move the crayons into a design — but then it does what it does,” Kiana said. “Once it’s melted you can’t control it.”
One technique that can be used in melted-crayon art is moving the canvas slightly to influence the way the melted wax moves.
Kiana — demonstrating the art last week at a table in Serenity Studio Arts — moved the canvas gently to guide the wax from a couple of crayons, melded into a new color — a bright pink that delighted her.
“See, I made a cotton candy color,” she said.
Watching her painstakingly place the crayons on the canvas after dabbing hot glue on one side, and then holding the blow dryer next to the crayon tips to melt the wax, it’s obvious this could be considered a tedious task.
But Kiana shakes her head “no” when asked if it’s tiresome.
“I love to do it,” she said.
Even though it’s a labor of love, however, Kiana also has discovered the thrill of selling of her artwork.
For Hargin, that’s all part of the plan. Hargin said she is trying to teach young people entrepreneurship as well as art. Kiana has made up business cards and has sold three paintings.
A teacher from Sheep-Harney Elementary School bought one of Kiana’s pieces during a First Friday Art Walk and one of the leaders at Girls Inc., bought another one.
Kiana moved to Elizabeth City about three years ago with her father Ronnie Chitty, mother Julie and her 11-year-old brother Cameron. The family moved here from Binghamton, N.Y., after her father took a job here as a sleep technologist.
Back in November, Kiana got a chance to meet Keosha Faison, a graphic arts student at Elizabeth City State University who was exhibiting her work in preparation for the December graduation. Kiana said she loved the poster that Faison had done and was inspired by the opportunity to meet the artist.
Julie Chitty said they took their daughter to the exhibition so she could be exposed to the work the college students were doing.
“We took her there and she fell in love with the poster that one of the design students had done,” her mother explained.
Kiana got a computer for Christmas and enjoys doing graphic designs on the computer. She said she would like to be a graphic artist and have her own studio.
Her dad said she already is investigating colleges she might want to attend, such as Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., and Cranbrook Academy, a fine arts graduate school in Michigan.
Kiana said art is her main hobby. She also is involved in the greeting ministry at Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church and used to participate in the dance ministry. She gave up dancing in order to focus more of her attention on her art.
Her mom credits much of Kiana’s success to Hargin’s support.
“We feel truly blessed to have found Ms. Deborah and that she was willing to take her under her wing and mentor her,” she said.
Hargin gives the credit right back to the parents.
“One of the things that really makes this easy is that her parents are really supportive,” Hargin said.
Contact Reggie Ponder at firstname.lastname@example.org