Art Is You Art Retreat (Memphis TN)

This is another long long overdue post. But despite the passage of time we still feel plenty of excitement about our trip to Memphis for the Art Is You Retreat. Above you can see a couple examples of the classes we taught. We spent one day painting girls, and another day painting abstracts. Every student did an amazing job!
We've been a part of the faculty for a few years now, and as far as retreats go Art Is You feels way more like a giant family reunion than an art retreat. We get to see so many people who are our longtime friends, and every new person we meet fits right into the Art Is family seamlessly. It's definitely an event that welcomes every person equally. Beginners work side by side with masters and it seems like there's never a moment when a person feels out of their depth. Me and Aaron can't say enough good things about Art Is You.
Jeez, I never expected to wait this long to recap our amazing time. I originally planned on doing a recap as soon as we got back, but within 24 hrs of being home we lost our little Jack. We were so crushed, but also so thankful that we had just come back from such a positive experience. It definitely worked as a dose of medicine to pull us through such a hard time.
Here we are on our way to Memphis, waiting for an early morning connecting flight in North Carolina. The NC airport is great, and huge, but not intimidatingly so. There's a bit of southern charm with white rocking chairs all throughout the terminal.
So here you have Aaron kinda looking creepy, but what he's really doing is praising the breakfast that Ellen is serving us on a silver platter. It was a little inside joke. Leading up to the event it seemed like we were emailing Sal & Ellen (founders of Art Is You) with way too many questions. We know that Sal & Ellen are waaaaay way busy in the weeks before the event, getting everything organized with the attendees, instructors, and hotel. Aaron felt guilty about bothering them with so many trivial questions, so he self deprecatingly sent an email sorta illustrating this point. He jokingly requested a south facing window in our room, and asked about the pile of the carpet, and the exact thread count of the sheets. So, as a rebuttal, Ellen brought us a fancy breakfast on a silver platter.

In the above little Instagram video you'll see a typical in our hotel room prepping for class. We're filling little treat bags with some Salt Water Taffy. Our way of bringing a little Jersey Shore to Memphis. And yes, as a tribute to our locale the soundtrack is Paul Simon singing Graceland. When I was a kid my dad played that album constantly.

When you attend Art retreats your hotel room serves as your makeshift studio. And it's not just the teachers doing their last minute many students continue working on their class projects back in their rooms. 

This is what our hotel bed usually looks like at Art Is You.

We seriously love setting up for class. We're filled with nervous excitement. Getting ready to welcome our students...some we've never met before...some may be facebook or Instagram friends...some are longtime blog readers whom we have never met in person. And the students all possess different levels of experience. Some have never ever painted...but there ready to learn, practice, try new things, make new friends, and have fun!

Our first class was Expressive Abstracts, being that is was a full day class we decided to split the day into two parts. In the morning session we worked mainly with a palette knife on small canvases that featured a vintage photo portrait. We'll be teaching another version of this in October at the Connecticut Art Is You! It will be a shorter evening class. This was so much fun, and everyone loved how their canvas turned out.
 By lunchtime everyone had developed some favorite techniques and strokes, using the palette knife.
The second part of the day was about loosening up and using brushes. Above are some of our class samples. Can you tell which are mine and which are Aaron's? 

Brit was working large! And we loved watching her layer on more paint and more textures. She definitely did well because she remained cool as a cucumber. Staying loose is key when working in abstracts. We met her at a previous Art Is in Connecticut. And we've now been at three events with her mom Deb...who we absolutely Love!

It's always a thrill to see how easily our students take to something that they've never even tried before. So great to know that they're going back home with so much brand new art experience under their belts. 
Our Second class was paintings girls and so much more. We once again did two separate projects. In the morning we did a smaller portrait that focused on the basics of step by step face painting. Cute, cartoonish girls with candy colored hair.

I really just have to mention Becky and her husband John. Becky is a great artist with years of experience doing a lot of the things me and Aaron have done over the years...decorative painted crafts, furniture, gifts. But she's got one up on us because she can do it all without full function in her hands. She's fully capable of rendering whatever she wants, but it might take a little longer. So being that the classes are time sensitive. her husband John sits in and helps her out with the more mundane parts of the process. like tracing the lines of the portrait onto tracing paper. 
I think she's telling John to hurry it up a bit in this pic! ha! They are the sweetest couple. Like us, they're high school sweethearts. We got to spend some off time with them and shared so many great life stories with each other.

Would you look at these?! And this was just the progress before lunch break!

The second part of the day we worked on larger mixed media canvases using our techniques learned earlier in the day, but we incorporated paper piecing, collage, using mists, stencils, textured mediums etc.

Art Is You is definitely not only about the classes. I feel like it's the little moments in between and all the extras that leave such a lasting impression on everyone. Even just running into someone in the hall and striking up a conversation can spark a lasting friendship. We love peeking into other classrooms and seeing what everyone else is working on. And doing that is a great way to pregame for the next event, and decide who's classes you'd like to attend in the future.
On one of our quick trips through the lobby I decided to do a little Art Abandonment in the seating area where lots of people would gather. Michael DeMeng started the trend. The idea is to make some art and leave it for someone else to find...just make sure to sign it. attach a note letting the finder know that it's theirs to keep...and include your contact info so that they finder can get in touch if they want. 

At every Art Is event there is the Art Trunk...a vendor fair where you can get some artwork, vintage stuff, clothing, sculpture, jewelry, books, art supplies, etc. In the above video we're getting our table set up, and we also got a couple shots of our neighbors, including our friends Kecia and Sarah. Being that we had to ship so much class stuff down to the event we had to go light with our Art Trunk offerings. We mainly brought our supplies, sticker packs, paper collection, and books. We plan on bringing lots more art and jewelry to the next event in October in CT.
 On our flight home, just as we were landing in Jersey we passed through a rainbow. At the time we had no idea that this was little Jack's rainbow.
In the latest issue of Mingle there's a story on Art Is You, written by the fabulous Rice Freeman-Zachery. This is so exciting for our art community...for all the instructors, attendees, future attendees, and especially Sal & Ellen. Art Is You is their baby and it's so great to see it get the exposure and accolades that it deserves!
None of the amazing experiences and lasting friendships would be possible without the tireless efforts of Sal & Ellen. They work so hard and keep everyone smiling. They have giant hearts and me and Aar are thankful every day for knowing them. They host Art Is You retreats pretty much all year round that span the globe. From our fun down in Dixie, to way out in Petaluma CA, then down under to Australia, and then very near to us on the east coast in Connecticut! 
If you can...we promise you'll have a great time and so much more! Join us this October! We are teaching a Friday night class! Which will be Ancestral Abstracts. Think vintage photos, lots of abstract paint techniques, some stamping, color washing, layering, glazing. By all means, if you're thinking about it, we've still got room in class for you! We'd love to see you there!
Ok, I'm so thrilled that I finally got to share all this. Hope you enjoyed! Stay Cool on this fantastic Holiday weekend! 
xo, Jenny & Aaron


  1. Loving all the photos from the trip ... and Becky and John are one amazing couple!!!!!

  2. The projects look delightfully fun! Jenny, you and Aar have a way of making everyone feel very welcome. So glad to have met you last year and to get to know your wonderful art!

  3. This looks like so much fun! And Becky and John are adorable, she's an inspiration :)

  4. What a wonderful retreat. I'd love to attend Art is You sometime. My family all lives in Connecticut and it would be such a great time! One of these days. :)

  5. AHHH I think I will say this every time you post about teaching a class, but come to Seattle and do a class here! :) Love love love!


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