Jackson native shares life lessons learned while creating unique paintings


Mary Kathryn Wheatley works on one of her paintings.

Meredith Enger
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

Art has not always been easy for Mary Kathryn Wheatley.

“One day my clay flew off my wheel and hit the person next to me,” she said, recalling an incident in a high school pottery class.

Even though she initially struggled to make pottery, Wheatley is now a serious painter who sells her art in Oxford and at Inside Out, a store at the Renaissance at Colony Park shopping center in Ridgeland.

Jackson native Wheatley, 19, is a University of Mississippi occupational therapy major. Even though she is not an art major, Wheatley has had an appreciation for art from an early age.

“My mom is an artist, even though her main job is a nurse,” Wheatley said. “My nursery was full of murals that she painted.”

Her mother has also painted murals for homes, churches, restaurants, and her daughter’s elementary school.

Wheatley graduated from Saint Joseph Catholic School in Madison, where she was interested in art, choir and math. After the comical pottery incident, her art teacher allowed her to paint instead, and she finally realized her artistic talent.

Wheatley began selling paintings at her senior art show during which she made $500. She  has been selling her artwork at Inside Out since January.

“I have known the owner because I have shopped there my entire life,” she said. “I was talking to her one day, and she told me to bring my artwork in, and now I can’t keep it on the walls.”

Before moving to Oxford, Wheatley and her mother painted a gold leaf painting for her dorm room. Many admired the painting, and she soon had many requests to recreate it. Gold leaf paintings are now her best seller.


One of Wheatley’s gold leaf paintings she is donating to a silent auction to help Saint Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Most of Wheatley’s paintings have a light blue background with the gold leaf and a glossy top coat. She has class two days a week, but spends her off-days painting or helping in the community.

“On days that I don’t have class, I like to get breakfast, and then go to the Tri Delta house and paint in the basement,” she said.

Her paintings are not easy to create. “The top coat is really hard to work with,” she said. “That is the shiny part of my paintings. You have to mix two chemicals at exactly 72 degrees. It can’t rain that day, and everything has to be just perfect, but now I have it down.”

Wheatley said the four most important things she’s learned are:
1. Practice is good.
2. Mistakes are beautiful.
3. Imperfections are key.
4. Being different is a good thing.

Besides painting custom canvases for homes, apartments, and dorm rooms, Wheatley has also started painting on laptop and phone cases. Her next step is to start painting sorority canvasses for bid day.

Customer Anna Thomas bought one of Wheatley’s paintings this summer.  Thomas said she and her roommates wanted a painting that was fun and distinctive to put in their new house.

“She worked so hard to make them all unique,” Thomas said. “They were all made from the heart and were so different than anything that has been around town.”

Thomas said the painting has been a welcome addition to the house, and she has received many compliments about it.

Caroline Crunk bought five of Wheatley’s paintings for her new home in Oxford. Crunk said she was impressed by the way Wheatley conducted business and her character.

“Mary Kathryn is very mature for her age and very professional in her art business,” she said.

Crunk said her favorite thing about the paintings are the Bible verses Wheatley wrote on the back of each each painting. “She also put sparkles on top of the gold in the paintings, which I loved,” Crunk said.

Wheatley credits God for her talents. “I love how God makes us each so unique with different gifts and talents,” she said. “I am blessed that God gave me the gift to paint.”

Wheatley said it’s also important for her to use her talent to help others. Her art is about giving back.

“I have done things for inner city children of Jackson, like after school art programs for them, so the children can explore creatively,” she said. “I used to make flower clips and the proceeds went to that program.”

Wheatley believes “we each have talents that God has entrusted us with.” “He expects us to be faithful and use our gifts to glorify him,” she said.



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