“I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been told, ‘you missed a spot,’” laughs creative chameleon Lacey Hennessey from inside her colorful studio, surrounded by gallons of paint and aerosol cans. “I really should write a coffee table book because I hear an unbelievable amount of dad jokes.”
Chances are, if a bold new mural has popped up in your neighborhood, the fresh paint is hers. The mile-a-minute artist and entrepreneur is taking the Upstate by storm, and we can’t get enough of her playful work. Feel the same? Don’t be shy—say “hi.” “I love when kids come up to ask questions—if I’m filling in a block of color, I tell them to grab a paintbrush and go for it. They can tell everyone they helped paint it,” smiles Hennessey. “That’s the cool thing about murals. The art could be there for twenty, thirty years. Kids seeing it painted today might show it to their own kids in the future and remember that moment. It becomes a shared legacy.”
One of four siblings raised in a small town, Hennessey first landed in Greenville to study at Clemson University, where accounting classes—not art classes—filled her schedule. “I recently finished a mural in downtown Clemson, and it was such a full-circle moment for me. I remember being a freshman painting coolers while I was in school. Back then, I would never have guessed that art would take me where I am now. It’s still really wild to me.”
Paint by Numbers
130 – Total murals to date
8 – States where you can spot her work
32 – Most hours spent completing one mural
675 – Square feet of her largest mural to date
1 – Days an average mural takes her to finish
After a multifaceted career at the Crawford Agency, Hennessey launched her studio business in 2018. “It was sink or swim. In 2019, I had just eight murals under my belt. This year, I’ll probably do over seventy.” Success didn’t come overnight—Hennessey makes a point of listing all the odd jobs she took on in the beginning, including working with wedding flowers. “It’s been fun but also scary. My work has really improved over the years, and I keep waiting for the moment when I’ll look back on my first murals with criticism, but in reality, I’m still just proud of what I created and how much others enjoy them. That’s the beauty of art, I guess: it’s all in the eye of the beholder.”
What’s not as visible on the surface? All of the blood, sweat, and tears that make up the reality of a working mural artist. “Most of my murals are commercial or residential, which makes the initial process fairly easy, but I’m definitely at the mercy of builders’ deadlines, dehydration, brutal weather, you name it,” reveals Hennessey. “For example, when I know I’ll be on a construction site—or like with the Run In mural I did downtown—I know it’ll be blistering hot, so I get started at 4 a.m.” And don’t get her started on the port-a-potties. “It’s an extremely physical, taxing job. A lot goes into every square foot of the mural, including the time I spend designing the piece, which is often a much longer process than the installation itself. I think knowing that helps my clients understand the value of the work.”
Part of the universal appeal of Hennessey’s work is her inviting style. “It’s very pop-art-inspired. I use a lot of color blocking and black outlines, and I approach ideas with a marketing mindset. My art is for everyone,” she insists. “You’ll never see a plaque next to my work to explain what you’re looking at. It’s very approachable. I want my murals to be playful, family-friendly, and timeless—something anyone can get behind and relate to.”
Lacey’s Favorite Murals
- 90’s Baby – Double Stamp Brewery
- You Got This – Run In on Washington St.
- Hoppin’ – Upstairs at Hoppin’ GVL
- Steam Me Up – Sully’s Steamers
So, what does that jumpsuit-clad wunderkind have planned next? Expanding the mentorship and tutorial side of her business, from free templates and public speaking engagements to partnerships with local schools. “I’m basically self-taught. I went to YouTube university. And I want to help other young creatives see that anything is possible—because I had incredible mentors along the way, too,” she says, singing the praises of Marion Crawford of Crawford Agency and community leader Bob Howard.
Lacey’s Five Tips for Budding Entrepreneurs
- Fake it ’til you make it. Perception is everything. Grow with confidence! If you don’t know how to do something, Google it.
- Reach out to someone you admire. If you see someone succeeding, follow in their footsteps and then make it your own. Call, email, or ask to meet.
- Share your goals with everyone. The more you talk about it, the more it becomes a reality. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there; people want to help others succeed.
- Be transparent. Organic growth online comes from authentic storytelling. Stop selling and start connecting—you’ll find a community of supporters before you know it.
- Make sure it’s your passion. Work hard—success doesn’t happen overnight. If it were easy, everyone would do it.
“There are so many incredible artists and entrepreneurs here in Greenville. We’ve helped each other grow, bounced ideas off of each other,” reflects Hennessey. “I love when I get asked questions about my business—I’m all about being transparent because that’s what others did for me, and it made all the difference. We can build each other up. There’s space for everyone here.”
Tools She Can’t Live Without
- iPad + Procreate App
- Her Optima Projector
- A Big 48” Level
- Green Frog Tape
- Ring Light Tripod
Photography by Will Crooks