Surf’s up . . . and so are the dental charts!

Artist Kat Geesaman paints the mural that went viral on the wall of Partidge Animal Hospital's new dental suite

Kat Geesaman is a professional artist who never dreamed of growing up to be one—she wanted to work with animals.

And up until two years ago, she was doing just that, working at AAHA-accredited Partridge Animal Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, while studying to be a licensed veterinary technician. Art was something she did on the side.

But everyone kept telling her—including her veterinary colleagues—she should ditch her day job to pursue her art. For most people, it’s the reverse: you got talent, kid, but don’t quit your day job.

Geesaman did just that after discovering a very niche artistic specialty—using her fine-art painting skills to turn old surfboards supplied by a friend into works of art. “And I’m all about upcycling, so instead of throwing the old surfboards away, I paint them until they become fine art.”

Geesaman says she sort of fell into it partially by accident and partially by design: “I live in a very artsy area that’s very competitive, and I saw a market that hadn’t been tapped.” Although she’s always loved the romance of surfing, she’s not actually a surfer herself, despite repeated attempts to learn. “Balance is something I have an issue with, in more aspects than just the physical,” she laughs.

Her surfboards caught on. Collectors in the area—especially surfers—started snapping them up, and word was spreading. Geesaman had just lined up a series of art shows that promised to be very lucrative.

Then COVID hit.

The shows were canceled, commissions were put on hold. Things were looking grim until her former hospital came calling: How would she like to apply her artistic skills to painting dental charts on the wall of their new dental suite?

Geesaman said the idea originated with her good friend and former Partridge coworker Adam Holder, LVT: “He pitched the basic idea to me, and then I came up with the design and the layout and the color scheme,” Geesaman told NEWStat.

That’s when another friend, a photographer, entered the picture. “He took some pictures of me painting the mural and posted them on my Facebook page.”

Friends shared the photos with friends—including veterinarians—and the next thing Geesaman knew, her dental mural had gone viral. Suddenly, she was getting requests from hospitals all over the world to paint dental murals on their walls. Geesaman was flattered, and tempted, but given the pandemic, “It just wasn’t practical for me travel around like that and paint.”

That’s when Geesaman came up with the idea of turning her mural into decals—digital renditions of the original, color-coded mural that feature views of both the maxilla and mandible of canine and feline teeth.

Geesaman says murals of animal anatomy have become a whole new sideline for her: recent commissions include 3D versions of the feline and canine dental charts, as well as an equine dental chart. And Partridge has requested another mural, this time with an orthopedics theme. “I’ve had a lot of requests for exotics, too, including birds. it’s really outstanding because it's a way for me to combine my two passions: art and animal science,” she said.

She says she’s met several veterinarians who surf since opening her studio, although it hasn’t led to any fine-art surfboard commissions: “They love to talk to me about surfboards and they love to talk to me about veterinary medicine,” she says. “But never at the same time.”

 Photo credit: © Chris Mason