Artists You Need to Know: Chelsea Dill- Finger Painter and U.S. Military Veteran


I am Chelsea Dill; daughter, sister, aunt, soldier, teacher, veteran, and artist. I was born the youngest of three daughters and have spent both childhood and adulthood living between Iowa and Missouri. I enlisted in the Missouri Army National guard at seventeen and continue to serve as a Military Police Officer. This October will mark thirteen years as a soldier, where I have served in Germany, Guatemala, Kosovo, Haiti, and most recently Poland. I have a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies: Sociology (Park University) and I am finishing my M.A. in Secondary Social Studies education, including an endorsement in talented gifted studies (University of Iowa).

Clark Tower
Clark Tower

I never thought I would call myself an artist. I never anticipated creating anything more than written essays, lesson plans, or assignments only to be seen by my professors and students. I haven’t taken an art course since it was mandatory in the eighth grade. However, last year, motivated by the ending of a long term relationship- I bought a canvas, brushes, and paint. I wanted to create the most beautiful woman to hang above my bed. I wanted her to be colorful and vibrant. The brushes only lasted long enough to finish the background, and the woman- well, she was not as expected; dark, gray, naked, and soulful. I sat there, hands covered in paint, tearful, yet satisfied. I had painted my internal struggle- not the beautiful vibrant woman I wanted to appear on the canvas.


I tried to utilize brushes one more time, but again, I only got as far as the background. I never looked at them again. Instead, I use my fingers, my hands. I love the texture between my fingers, and seeing the paint come to life- layer by layer. If I am painting an animal- I love their eyes. I pay specific attention to putting “soul” within them. My paintings are all about perspective. I don’t want someone to look at my work and think that they have already seen it. I want viewers to be able to make my work their own- and appreciate my unique perspective and color choices. My favorite part of my pieces is the subtle imperfections that exist throughout each, I see them- and I am happy that they reflect the true nature of life and humanity.


I choose not to sign the front of my art. My signature exists in every stroke. My fingerprints lay within every surface and stipple of the canvas. It is me. Instead, I sign the back and leave a little quote of inspiration as well. I like to think that this is more meaningful than my signature blatantly on the front- and honestly- have you ever tried to write your name with your fingers without it looking like a toddler?


I get the most satisfaction when others tell me they appreciate my work. It means so much, probably more than it should. I love to put it out there and see what people say. In a way, I am putting my heart out there in each piece, imperfect and soulful.


Catch all of Chelsea’s Creations on Facebook by clicking HERE.

Chelsea took some time to answer some personal questions.

Do you ever talk to inanimate objects?

I baby talk each painting- especially the animals, I don’t mean to- but I do. When I catch myself, I just laugh and continue. Who cares, right??? “Wittle baby” is probably the most common phrase. (Now I am blushing)

How do you think we can fix the racial divide in the United States?

I don’t have the plan to fixing this divide- but I do have step 1: All citizens acknowledge and understand that there is a racial divide within our country. It did not go away within any civil rights movement. White privilege is real. I could go on and on- but for the sake of time, I would challenge people to look into Peggy McIntosh’s work.


Give money to the beggar on the street or tell them to “Get a job!” Which one are you?

I am a giver! Honestly, I don’t even care what they spend the money on. I am fully aware that we all fall on rough times- you never know someone’s back story. What I do know is that we have this false ideology of meritocracy in the United States. Meritocracy is the idea that if you work hard you will succeed. This is generally true; however inequality of opportunity leads to inequality of condition later on in life. Not everyone has the same opportunities or chances at success within their lives. Some of us don’t have very far to fall before we hit rock bottom. I work very hard, but I know that a lot of my success is owed to other people and the mere place I was born (lower middle class). I had opportunities that others don’t have.


What one subject would you add to high school curriculums?

Contemporary issues! In December I will be certified to teach U.S. History, World History, Sociology, Psychology, Government, Geography, and Economics. I have worked in a high school for the past five years. Students care about school if they are able to relate it to their lives. What better class to add than a course that is about the issues they are facing? I want to be able to give them different theories and perspectives to analyze current climates. I want to hear what they think! Our youth has so much to offer us, yet we undermine their contributions because of their age or “inexperience.” I want a course solely based on thinking critically about our world, and how to form opinions based on factual evidence.

What is your definition of sexy?

Sexy is confidence. Sexy is loving oneself, and loving others. Sexy is appreciating your own contributions, recognizing your worth, and accepting nothing less than your standards- while appreciating the contributions of others, recognizing their worth, and accepting nothing less than their personal standards. Sexy isn’t how you act alone- it is how you act and interact with everyone. Sexy is bold and humble.

Have you ever thought of an invention? What?

I thought about squeeze mayonnaise when I was about 9. I even called Kraft customer service, but they didn’t answer. Three years later- BAM- Miracle Whip in a squeeze container. I kind of felt cheated, but then I ate a sandwich- without dirtying a butter knife.

Do you know someone who has married a first cousin?

No, I don’t know cousins who married each other- but I have met a half- brother and sister who were full incest. It is a long story, but responding to call (state-side) of domestic violence I met the two. I didn’t know at first until my partner told me during the booking process. He decided to prove it to me by asking the gentleman right in front of me (I was silently begging for him not to confirm). My partner asked, “So how long have you and your sister carried on an intimate relationship?” He answered, expressionless face, no hesitation “About two years, why?”.

If you could be any person for one day, who would it be?

Queen Elizabeth I, hands down. She is such a strong, beautiful woman- leading her country in a time and place when it was unthinkable.

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