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Stories of Excellence–Kellie Funderburk

Stories of Excellence–Kellie Funderburk

Kellie Funderburk believes in the power of art. Art, color and life are all interconnected experiences for her. An accomplished artist and an aspiring graphic designer, Funderburk attributes much of her unique style to pivotal moments in her life, several of which occurred during her time at Mitchell.


Funderburk began her artistic journey in middle school. After high school, she chose to attend Mitchell in order to more easily continue her education as she worked and lived at home. Cost savings were also a major factor in her decision. Beginning her Associate in Fine Arts degree in 2009, Funderburk quickly made a new network of friends in the Art Department. “We were able to learn off of each other and support each other,” she said.


Like many artists, several transitional moments in Funderburk’s life helped her develop her artistic style. One of these moments occurred when one of her Mitchell instructors was using a ballpoint pen to sketch. Funderburk noted to her instructor that she would be too afraid to use a pen for fear of making a mistake. He responded by saying, “What’s wrong with making a mistake?” Since that day, Funderburk primarily uses ballpoint pens in her sketches.


Perhaps the biggest transitional moment for Funderburk occurred during her first year at Mitchell. While showing her mother traces of her favorite anime characters, her mother noted that if Funderburk truly wanted to be an artist, she would have to start coming up with her own characters and her own stories. This suggestion prompted Funderburk to go outside of her comfort zone and develop her first character. Mitchell classes and guidance from instructors introduced new mediums and helped Funderburk further develop her style. After graduating from Mitchell in 2011, Kellie attended the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a concentration in illustration in 2014.


Funderburk’s art has evolved into a mixture of vibrant characters influenced by anime, robotics and surrealism. Her love for colors started in college. “I want to put something out into the world that is bright and happy and that tells a good story,” she said. She works in a variety of mediums including felt, paper-craft, digital, watercolors, pen, and pencil. Her new ambition is to purchase a 3D printer in order to design and print 3D models of her characters. Funderburk believes in always pushing herself and growing as an artist. If she is not at her day job or working on a project, she is at home sketching and designing new concepts and characters. “If I’m not at work, I am at home working. I eat, sleep, and breath art,” Funderburk noted. “Sometimes at night, I can’t sleep because I have an idea in my head. Then I have to get up and at least sketch it out.” A career in the art world can be both overwhelming and exciting. “You have your good days, and bad days, and ‘oh my gosh’ days to awesome days, but somehow it always works out.” 


In ten years, Funderburk sees herself working with an animation company as a character designer. She hopes to one day publish children’s books based off of her Space Ranger series which depicts children–usually African American girls–having adventures in space. “This type of series is relevant especially for this generation,” Funderburk noted, “because they are trying to figure out who they are and how they fit in and where they feel comfortable.” Eventually, Funderburk would like to be an art director so that she can use her artistic talents to help others in their artistic endeavors. “Kellie Funderburk is a very creative, prolific and entrepreneurial artist,” stated Iredell Arts Council director Rogelio Calvo. “She has the most wonderful sense of color in her works.”


Funderburk’s first solo exhibition, “A Visual Story: Color, Life and Flow,” is on display at the Iredell Arts Council in downtown Statesville through February 28, 2019. Her work will also be on display with select pieces available for purchase at this year’s Art Crawl in Downtown Statesville. 


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Funderburk's Kirra, an African American space ranger graphic character

Above: Funderburk’s Kirra, an original African American space ranger graphic character.