As a second grader, artist Kollet Probst sat in front of a mirror and drew a self-portrait. The task was busy work assigned by a teacher during a school open house, yet it blossomed into a passion that grew from a sheet of paper to a city wall.
Probst’s murals are spread throughout Tallahassee, including the windows at the Challenger Learning Center of Tallahassee.
The glass reflects her face as she paints scenes that correlate with the center’s IMAX film showings. For all these murals, including her most recent for “Superpower Dogs 3D,” Probst wants patrons to see themselves reflected back as well.
“There’s always some type of negative space where the child will walk up and see themselves interacting with that wall,” says Probst. “I remember with ‘Cuba,’ I painted a car and left the window blank so it looked like they were driving the car.”
Probst completed her first mural at age 17. Her handiwork left paw prints trailing the walls of Griffin Middle School’s front faculty office. Later that year, she painted the drywall facades at the Tallahassee Mall.
Probst looks up to gritty underground artists like Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat who paved the way for muralists and fine artists alike. Similarly, she finds joy in diverting expectations as a five foot two woman up on a scissor lift.
“It’s hard with new development and construction to go into a man’s world,” says Probst. “When I first show up to a job, they may not think I’m capable. My pride is when its done and I leave.”
Probst earned an academic scholarship to Florida State University for art history and education. She describes the 12-year detour she took from art, and began recovering from alcoholism and addiction four and a half years ago. Probst is thankful for local artist Dean Gioia for giving her the push to jump back into painting as a career.
“I started back very humbly, trying to keep my hands from shaking while getting clean,” says Probst. “I find a peace and harmony when I’m creating now like it was when I was drawing in my youth.”
She describes the part of her brain that craves fulfillment as a useful tool in the creation process. As a conceptual artist, she begins with inspiration or a commission — for CLC that comes in the form of marketing materials for their upcoming films. From there, she taps into her inner child and represents this point of view in the images.
Once an image is in her mind, Probst executes exactly what she sees. Diagrams map out the dimensions with a great deal of geometry and math. Probst calculates the wall, walking up and down the length of it before sketching it out in chalk and paint. A fan of numbers, she grids out faces and people, converting inches on a page to feet on a wall space.
“Murals are a lot of math and I’m a math fanatic,” says Probst. “There are times I walk up to a wall and have a vision that I have to modify because there’s an imperfection I wasn’t planning on. You pivot sometimes, but normally I don’t wiggle.”
Probst recently finished a 185-foot long mural at the Leon County Fairgrounds that took her five weeks to complete. Other jobs will take anywhere from three to five days. She’s most proud of the murals at Warrior on the River at 9330 West Tennessee St. and the Chief Osceola she created at the corner of Airport Drive and Eppes Drive.
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