The looks of an angel, the talent of a genius, and the soul of a fighter (with the muscles to back it up)! Please join me in welcoming the Wonder Woman of watercolor, AJ Grey!
I found my first AJ Grey original in Wilmington, NC hung in the taproom of Waterline Brewing Company. I was surprised by the quality, which stuck out amid the amateur ocean-themed crafts beside it, which makes sense since AJ has been painting amazing watercolors all her life. From childhood doodles to high school art competitions, AJ always had the “primal drive to create” which gained her notoriety almost instantly. AJ eventually came to understand that she had a unique talent that mustn’t be squandered, leading her to showcase her first art series on agate crystal slices, which highlighted how the sunlight shines through. AJ reminisces on how bad her work once was in comparison to now, chuckling a bit to herself. Nonetheless, friends and family were buying pieces upon pieces, and her business grew.
Her rapid success with art, however, made her question whether her decision to go to art school would hinder her momentum in her career. “Don’t tell me how to go through my own process, and don’t control my creative mind. Ride the wave.” AJ goes on to explain how there is no way that she could live her life without her art: “It’s part of who I am, regardless of money.” AJ’s primary goal with her work is to always be improving, to learn something from each piece and grow from it. “I should strive to be in a gallery, but really I want my art to connect with people. That’s the goal, for people to look at my art and feel something.”
Right now, AJ is living in Savannah, GA, and drawing a lot of inspiration from her new surroundings; from the buildings, flowers, SCAD art students, and more. One thing in particular AJ loves to depict is images of: “confident, powerful females; the emotion, the inner strength. The women I’ve painted have overcome something.” AJ uses tricks like upward chin angles to show pride, but also enjoys showing the harder aspects of strength, such as her characters in a moment of weakness. “It’s all part of the process.” As I get AJ on the topic of inspiration, her voice trails off a bit as she recalls a specific tree that looks almost like a magnolia with light pink flowers that she sees when she walks to and from work. She tells me with an air of nostalgia how the petals looked just after they had fallen, and how the rain falls unmercifully on the dead leaves. This type of topic is what really brings a poet such as myself together with an artist of AJ’s talent in an easy and instant understanding and friendship.
But why watercolors? “Because they do what they want. It’s such a living medium, you always lose control, and the outcome is always unexpected.” From the way the paper warps to the way the colors run, AJ loves working with the element of water for its therapeutic nature (watercolors are used a lot in art therapy work). AJ’s favorite way to make a new work consists of putting on a documentary, pulling out her supplies, and letting her creativity flow. Once a piece’s base is dry, she’ll go back and add the “fun bits”, repeating until satisfied.
As we shifted from artistic process to outside hobbies, AJ’s tone lifted from wistful to whimsical, detailing how movement intersects with her passion for creation. When AJ isn’t painting, she is a yoga teacher. Not just any yoga teacher, however, AJ is the creator of her own personal fitness regime: Prana Pump, an intense blend of yoga and weight lifting that has earned the following of over thirty yoga instructors in the US. AJ travels to teach and certify instructors in Prana Pump at their studios; this can be anywhere from Georgia to Vermont! For AJ, the fitness world and the art world aren’t so different, both teaching discipline and determination above all. “If you fall off the box during Box Jump you have to get back on. If you mess up a painting, you have to start over.” To this wonderful point, AJ tags on a triumphant call: “beast mode!” which couldn’t be a better slogan for this impressive gal!
When asked why she decided to work with Ghost Flowers at this point in her career, AJ decided to make my job awkward by putting me on the spot: “You reached out to me and I immediately loved the idea! I need your energy! Props to you for being a hustler and always benefitting artists. I love supporting people like you and being a part of something so badass!” While I’ve never been called a “badass” before in regards to my art business, I certainly won’t argue. AJ and I wrapped up our discussion with a mutual understanding of the old saying, “if you want something done right, do it yourself,” or as she likes to put it: “Ain’t nobody gonna do it for you!”