In an education system that values focus, concentration and efficiency, Mikhayla
O’Kelley instead sees her roving mind as a gift that has endowed her with remarkable artistic
“I tend to lack focus because my brain frequently wanders,” Mikhayla said. “[But] I use
my wandering mind as a way to be creative, and it often inspires my art.”
Being only 16, Mikhayla’s abilities are highly refined, yet she keeps an air of genuine
modesty that is shown through her gentle smile, describing herself as “kind of awkward but
One would think that these talents would be displayed for everyone to see and enjoy;
however, she doesn’t want to push people into enjoying her art. “I don’t want to seem like I’m
trying to brag,” she said. Mikhayla’s art is not a method of gaining recognition or even winning
awards; it is about expressing herself in a way that she can savor while inspiring others to do the same.
While painting doesn’t come easy for the vast majority of people, Mikhayla’s talents
make painting a serene and relaxing experience. “It’s not as hard as you think,” she said. Much
of her inspiration for painting comes from iconic Disney movies that she adored as a child,
including one of her favorites: Peter Pan. “I loved Peter Pan when I was little and wanted to do
a painting that had something to do with a pirate ship over London,” she said.
Her process for painting these works of art starts out quite simple; she goes to her
bedroom, the hub of her artistic activity, and chooses to draw something that she enjoys. This,
however, is the only easy step. Next, Mikhayla formulates a detailed and clear idea of how the
painting should look. Then, she meticulously sketches the basic outline of the vivid scenery,
typically the highlight for most of her paintings. Finally, she expresses herself freely with the use
of contrasting colors, beautiful blends, and tactile textures.
Mikhayla’s talents are not only a product of her inquisitive mind but also her family.
Coming from a large household with little artistic background, Mikhayla’s pursuits are quite
unique. Despite this difference, however, her family is entirely supportive of her decision to
pursue a career in the lucrative, yet difficult, field of animation. “I really appreciate that [my
parents support me], especially since art is not the most stable field of choice,” said Mikhayla.
In addition to her family, Mikhayla also values other activities besides art. An avid
reader, Mikhayla loves dystopian literature, which plays into the idea of her wandering and
creative mind. She also loves to travel, hoping one day to visit both Scotland and Ireland.
However, despite these other interests, art has always been one of the few things that
Mikhayla could count on to provide a feeling of comfort and happiness. “Art is a way for me to
relax,” she said. “If I’ve had a stressful day, painting can sometimes give me time to think, and
I’ll have something to show for it later.”