Ava Seccuro staff writer
Whether it’s drumming for a house band, selling her own artwork or learning how to sew, sophomore Kadah Binkley epitomizes the phrase “jack-of-all-trades.” As she continues to hone her craft in all forms of creative expression, her passions quickly developed into more professional pursuits in the city of opportunity.
Even before moving to California from Ohio a little over five years ago, Binkley’s life was filled with art and music. Her father, Josh Binkley, played drums in a band on the weekends, and has always served as Kadah’s chief influence. However, Kadah’s aunt and grandmother, being artists themselves, also shaped her love for creating.
“My aunt on my dad’s side [additionally made an impact] because she’s an artist too and I’ve always been in awe every time I look at one of her paintings. I knew I wanted to paint like her from a very young age and I tend to keep her in mind whenever I’m painting. My grandmother on my dad’s side, too,” Kadah said. “She recently passed away, but she was always so proud of me every time I painted something. She always wished the best for me and when I have no motivation for painting, the thought of her usually lifts my spirits.”
Over the years, art has not only helped Kadah embrace the way she thinks and tackle the struggles of adolescence, but she has also used painting to highlight her quirks and individuality.
“I’ve always kind of been an odd person, I guess. I’ve never really fit into what was considered the normal. I always think outside the box and I think differently than people. Diving more into my art accentuated that more,” Kadah said. “I used to get picked on a lot because I used to act differently ‘cause I didn’t have an outlet to express myself. When I started painting, I noticed that that all went away, so I wasn’t as stressed around other people. Art really is my outlet and it’s a way that I can set the stress from the day aside and just focus on one thing.”
As Kadah learned and practiced different mediums of art, other artists’ influences and her taste in music became a prominent theme in her work, as proven by one of her favorite pieces: a 20×20 painting of Led Zeppelin. Another main source of inspiration comes from street artists, which she then used to develop her own style.
“I experimented with different styles. At first I had a pop art style where it was using a lot of references from Roy Lichtenstein and I wanted to branch off of that and create my own style,” Kadah said. “Like I said, I used inspiration from street artists to do stencil paintings of musicians and icons, and I really liked the look of that. So I took that idea and thought about how I could make that in my own.”
Anthony Burulcich, who has been Kadah’s drum teacher for the past four months, is not only impressed by her musicality, but her ability to express herself through painting as well.
“I was really blown away…I think it’s when you’re a natural artist, like she is, it pours out of you and in all different vehicles,” Burulcich said. “She can pick up a guitar pick and it comes out of that. She could open her mouth and sing and it comes out of that. She could put a paintbrush in her hand; she’s just a pure artist. I think she’s an old soul and she’s been here before.”
Just this year, after months of coaxing from her parents, Kadah decided to set up her Etsy site, ArtByKadah, after a family friend requested to purchase one of her paintings. Her site has lead to the elevation of her presence as an artist and has given her the qualifications to open up an exhibition.
“My parents have been telling me for months to sell my artwork and I was always like, ‘No, no one’s going to buy it,’ until one of my parent’s friends requested to buy a painting that I had done of Dave Grohl,” Kadah said. “That was the first time that I’ve ever sold anything, and I guess I just started my Etsy site and now I have like an exhibit at a cafe, and that’s how I started my business.”
Throughout January and February, Kadah’s art is on display as a part of her first exhibition at The Assembly in West Hollywood. Owner Shi Jun Ng was in awe of her young age and corresponding prowess, which impelled her to curate her art.
“Fostering a community is a big part of our mission as a small business and because I come from an art background, connecting with local artists through an artist-in-residence program was a natural first step,” Ng said. “We were struck by her enormous talent, especially at such a young age and agreed that her aesthetic was a good match. We were happy to offer her the opportunity to publicly show her work for the first time.”
As Kadah has improved her craft over the years, her appreciation for how far she has come is accentuated by her business accomplishments.
“I never thought that my paintings would reach an audience,” Kadah said. “It’s nice for me to look back at where I was and how I was doubting myself, and now I have an exhibit, I’m selling my artwork, I have my own business and it’s amazing.”
Although Kadah has invested much of her time in her art, more recently, she has found success as a drummer. Burulcich, who is already impressed with her artistic abilities, thinks that she also has a natural talent for music.
“She’s a natural. You get kids that practice one instrument and get really good at that instrument. And I normally gauge talent on if someone can say if they can play it, and when you have someone who’s such a talented vocalists, like she is just naturally, she sings to a tune and you’re like, ‘Oh my god, this kid is really talented,’” Burulcich said. “She obviously just has the gene.”
Kadah’s broad range of music taste and ability is something that her father admires and that, in his opinion, has allowed her to experiment and develop a style of her own.
“I consider her just more into music in general. She sits down with a ukulele and just plays by ear, and I couldn’t even pick a ukulele up and tell you what the notes were,” Josh said. “I don’t look at [her] as just a drummer. She has a broad depth of influences and knowledge in music all the way going back to Kansas and Led Zeppelin, to My Chemical Romance and you know, Highly Suspect and all this new stuff. That way she can hear different styles and help develop her own.”
According to Burulcich, art and music have equally won Kadah’s affections, but where her heart reside in the future will be the hardest decision for her; nonetheless, Burulcich and her father believe that her immeasurable talent will be enough to do either.
“She auditioned for the house band [at the School of Rock] and made it so I really know her heart’s into it too. It’s not something that she’s just doing to waste time,” Burulcich said. “I think her hardest decision is going to come down the line, which avenue professionally do you want to go? Do you want to be a visual artist? Do you want to be a musical artist? That’s going to be the hardest decision maybe for her to make ‘cause, the sky’s the limit for that kid. It really is.”