We had the good fortune of connecting with Penny Kiel and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Penny, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
When my husband of 50 years passed away in 2012, I decided to retire from the company I’d founded, The Events Group, and relocate to the Atlanta area. My daughter, son in law, and my two youngest grandsons (of five!) were in Sandy Springs and after many previous visits, I knew I loved the area.  

I dedicated the first two years after arriving to getting situated, developing a strong supportive social circle, exploring the many delights Atlanta has to offer and deciding what my focus going forward would be. I was fortunate to come across a home in Roswell (almost opposite the Historic Roswell Square) with a fabulous view of Big Creek from the back balcony and a spare room with just the right lighting for creating art.  I happily immersed myself in sketching, journaling and painting with my loved ones (hopefully happily) becoming the recipients of many of the completed pieces.  

Travel has always been at the top of the “Things I love to do” list and after settling into my new home, and with my camera and journal in hand, I was fortunate to be able to visit South Africa, Italy and the south of France.  Trips to Mexico and the beaches of Florida rounded out my recent travel activity.   All that to say that I was armed with enough visual inspiration to literally last a life time.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I settled into painting with a vengeance and for a period of time watercolor became my medium of choice.  Well known international and local Artist and Instructor, Kathy Rennell Forbes was responsible for that.  I am happy to share that over time my painting style has emerged and friends say they can recognize one of my paintings without seeing the signature.  As it is for many artists, I was faced with the dilemma of what to do with the finished products of my labors.  Let’s face it…there are only so many times you can gift your close ones with your finished pieces and so the idea of developing an art business appeared on the horizon. During this time, I discovered the Roswell Square Gallery and Artist Studio (just minutes from my home) and decided to rent a small space there where I could display my various completed works. That was in February, 2019…….and then the Virus appeared. I continue to display my pieces there and I along with several of the other artists are committed to keeping the Gallery open to visitors at least four days a week. Several other artists use their rented space to actively paint in and are there frequently during the other times. Unfortunately, with the cancellation of many of the annual ‘fests’ and the consequent loss of foot traffic, it became apparent that I needed to put Plan B of my budding business into action. Over the summer and early fall I worked with a Web Designer to create a Website, Etsy Shop and a presence on Instagram. All of this with a goal of developing an online art business focusing on selling my original watercolor and acrylic works but more especially, reasonably priced prints. 

I know I’ve been non-traditional to say the least with my timing. I’m hoping that 78 is the new 58 and there isn’t anything (within reason) that I can’t do. As anyone who ‘puts their creative prowess out there’ knows, it’s hard to promote one’s self. I don’t mind selling, but I don’t like asking friends to become customers so I’m delighted to have Social Media and an on-line presence as my ‘place to do business’. I’ve been told that my art is “worthy of a professional designation”, so we’ll see what the marketplace has to say. So far, I’ve been pleased with the results. Even though I’m beginning this adventure into art as a business late in life, and without a list of credentials and recognized accomplishments, I already feel successful. I wake up each day with a sense of purpose and a very real goal to strive for. That’s a valuable possession at any age and I’m grateful for the focus it gives me.  

I hope that others may be encouraged by my artistic adventure and will be inspired to try something new or to develop a skill they’ve ‘danced round’. Perhaps they’ll awaken that sleeping entrepreneur and create their second, third or fourth career. I do believe that God given talents should be explored for the benefit of others.  I also believe that being ‘older’ should not impede discovering where one’s talents might lead.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Day one: Breakfast – Sandy Springs Diner (best breakfast in the area!) On to High Museum and then lunch at No Mas Cantina on Walker Street downtown Atlanta.   Dinner – Stirred Fried Shrimp with vegetables at Café Kiel (otherwise known as my dinning room).  Day two: Walk about on Marietta Square for shops and art galleries, then lunch at WR Social House (for their pimento cheese fritters among other items). Marietta Museum of Art after lunch.   Day three: Day trip to Blue Ridge to visit art shops and gift/clothing shops and beautiful vistas. Lunch at Harvest on Main.   Day four: Explore Old Mill Park and the covered bridge, walk to the waterfall on Big Creek. Lunch at Souper Jenny’s up the hill.  Dinner on the deck at Adele’s on Canton. (best Cajun and best fried oyster po-boys).  Day Five: Leisurely walk up Canton Street – Visit shops and the Antique Gallery then lunch across the street at Zest. (Great small plates and Sushi) Dinner at Amalfi Ristorante , Atlanta Street in Roswell, (voted Atlanta’s Best Italian Restaurant), located almost across from my home.  Day Six: Day trip to the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville.  Lunch: The City Cellar and Loft, (southern inspired food) Day Seven: Rest and order pizza ‘in’.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My love for creating art surfaced at a very early age and really became something of a passion in my junior year of high school. I was fortunate to be assigned to the class of Mr. (Myron) Miller who apparently saw some latent talent in me. He decided to mentor me for the two years I attended his class and so removed me from the standard curriculum. He gave me instruction in pastels and oil painting and then just ‘let me go’. I will be forever grateful to that wonderful teacher who mentored each person according to their abilities and interests and gave me the courage to stare down a blank sheet of paper or canvas and just create. Fast forward to the present and my mentor Kathy Rennell Forbes, well known International Artist and Instructor and more especially a friend and trusted advisor. I’d also like to give a shoutout to my sweet family especially my sister Joan Hargate (professional artist,  entrepreneur and my dedicated cheerleader), my friends and to my P.E.O. International, Chapter AQ ‘Sisters’ who have also championed me along the way.

Website: www.fromthe550studio.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pkiel2
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/p.kiel5
Other: Etsy: fromthe550studio

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