I remember the first time I saw a Steve Penley painting. I was sitting at a cozy table in one of my favorite dimly lit Buckhead restaurants, Georgia Grille. I looked up and was awestruck by the painting’s size and captivated by its vibrancy. Paint strokes danced across the canvas in bold, saturated colors and came together to portray one of the country’s most well-known artists, Georgia O’Keefe. From that moment, I was hooked on Steve Penley’s work.
Like me, Onward Reserve founder, head designer and CEO TJ Callaway knew he had stumbled upon someone special when he first met Steve Penley in a bar in Washington, D.C. Of course no other kismet could be more appropriate: Penley and Onward Reserve both have deep-rooted Americana styles, so what could be more perfect than the two meeting in our nation’s capital? TJ left that night with a Coke bottle that Penley drew for him on a cocktail menu from the bar. The rest is artistic history.
That chance meeting sparked a friendship between TJ and Penley, and as such, the Onward Reserve-Penley partnership was born. TJ explains, “We are the exclusive retail partner of Penley. We offer a variety of t-shirts with his art on them as well as exclusively handle his prints and a select number of originals from time to time.”
Beyond the retailer’s collection of t-shirts and prints, Ponce City Market now houses the Steve Penley In-store Studio at Onward Reserve. A perfectly authentic experience, TJ says he plucked bits and pieces of Steve’s home studio and brought them to Onward Reserve. “Penley is generally pretty secretive about his process and does all of his work from his home studio. I literally just went to his house and transported a big section of his studio to Ponce City Market exactly as it was laid out at home, so it is the real deal.” As a result, visitors will find spilled paint, stiff brushes, open buckets, scraps of unfinished paintings, and even a pair of Penley’s glasses perched perfectly on a table.
As an observer at the faux studio, you’re pulled into Penley’s creative process and artistic genius. “I have gotten to know Steve and really appreciate his style,” TJ says. “He is covered in paint. That is sort of his deal. I didn’t want to change or edit that. His whole world is a beautiful mess. It is real. You truly get to see behind the curtain into Steve’s workspace.”
The Steve Penley In-store Studio at Onward Reserve is unique to Ponce City Market for a reason. “Ponce City Market is such a cool and transformative place. Penley fits right in. [It’s a] very creative atmosphere,” TJ explains. Not only can shoppers expect to see a sneak peek at some of Penley’s finished and unfinished works — including chairs that he made from scratch with found objects and leftover art supplies — but they’ll also find a few paintings from TJ’s personal collection. While he’s not looking to sell, you just might be able to convince him otherwise. “If people are interested, I would at least entertain those conversations. I will say it is hard to get me to part with Penley works because they are all so unique!”
Enthusiasts and fans can be on the lookout for at least two dozen signed Penley prints coming to the Onward Reserve website over the next few weeks. In the meantime, TJ says the studio is there for visitors to enjoy, but if you’d like to take home a piece of the gallery for yourself, you can always pick up a t-shirt or print. He won’t stop you.
The Steve Penley In-store Studio at Onward Reserve is located at Ponce City Market, 675 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE, Atlanta, GA 30308. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 8 p.m. Learn more at onwardreserve.com.
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