Written by Abigail Amor

Photo by Emily Behnke

Aaron Brooks’ style is very recognizable; it is a unique mixture of graffiti, pop culture and surrealism that focuses on a strange depiction of eyes, mouths and hands which create his attention-grabbing psychedelic characters.  He has painted this world of creatures reaching for the excesses and comforts of life–a world that could be found in the mind of Hunter S. Thompson by depicting psychedelic substances and deformed beasts. This world is not quite right, it is as if it has been spun…upside down, inside out or folded over itself.

Ellie Paisley will entice you with her extremely bright colors and her sense of realism swirled into fantasy. It is like living in a daydream – with every piece beaming with color, as if she was using Lisa Frank’s color palette. The amount of detail she can achieve will keep your eyes and mind stimulated for more than just a moment, they will move across the canvas finding new aspects to captivate you.

Now merge the two! Like a Super Saiyan, honey combs and pineapples come together to create their own universe of love, color and imagination.

Not only are these two extremely amazing artist and people, but they love each other and recently tied the knot. While they are exceptional individuals, they make an amazing team with the world at their fingertips.  I am excited to see where their story and art will take us.

What was the moment you knew your life was going to revolve around your art?
A: I enjoyed drawing and creating artwork my whole life. After some of my friends paid me to make certain pieces for them, I realized how much I enjoyed it. I was really encouraged and pushed to get my stuff out there: online, at concerts and at festivals. When I started to see strangers buy and take interest in my work – that was when I realized how addictve it could be to share my creations. I think it all really started before I knew it was happening.

Art by Ellie Paisley

E: I’ve always loved making art. My mom loves to tell people my first sentence as a child was, “where are the crayons.” I realized my life would be all about art when I lived in Philadelphia, I started being able to support myself with my paintings. I was robbed on the way to a show once, for every piece I had at the time – losing that work made me realize what it was worth to me and how much it meant. That’s when things got real. I was forced to buckle down and make up all the work that had been taken and a hobby became a career.

Art by Aaron Brooks

What is your favorite piece you’ve ever done?  What is your favorite piece you’ve done together?  Who is your favorite live artist on the scene?
A: I got to create a piece that was intended to be gifted to Ralph Steadman, my hero. My friend told him about my work and how much I looked up to him. Ralph liked the piece: he actually ended up doodling on it, signing it, sending it back, so I was able to keep the now collaboration piece. My favorite piece I’ve done with Ellie is our “Sativa Goddess.” I think it is a perfect combination of our styles.

E: When I was 22, I got the opportunity to live paint for Stevie Wonder at City Hall in Philadelphia. I was still new to live painting and set my easel up on a whim. I ended up getting my picture in the paper and getting the opportunity to be in the presence of a musical legend. While it’s not my best painting, it’s my favorite piece because of the experience that came with it.

My favorite piece I’ve created with Aaron is still our first painting ever. The first time we met (at Mad Tea Party Jam) we worked on a snail painting together; with a bunch of hearts and the word “love” written in the shell. It means so much to me knowing the first thing we ever did together, even before we had a face to face conversation, was paint.

Art by Aaron Brooks

Lisa Frank is probably my favorite artist. I love the way she showcases femininity. As far as “hippie” artist go, Bob Masse has always been a huge inspiration. The way he combines art nouveau and psychedelia has had a huge impact on my work.

Art by Aaron Brooks

What is the most challenging art project you ever attempted?
A: Painting the Pyramid stage at Infrasound, while it was in use and raining!

E: Painting my traveling circus tent, live at a festival, all by myself! Both of these projects for us were some of the most difficult to execute, but easily the most rewarding!

What is your favorite band to paint to?
A: Fortunate Youth – I went on tour with them when I was an up and coming artist. I have a great connection with these guys and their music.

E: Ganja White Night or Pigeons Playing Ping Pong – Some of the acts I painted for when I was just getting started in Philadelphia. I painted for these guys in tiny venues with small crowds, now both acts now sell out major shows.

What is your art studio like?
A: Loud & Messy
E: Super tidy. Everything is bright white and clean! I have a really hard time creating in clutter or with distractions. I take a lot of pride in my workspace, it’s my happy place!

How do you get in the mood to create and what is your process while at home?
A: I think we are usually in the mood to create all the time! If there is something super good or super bad going on in our lives, we try to focus that energy into creating a piece. Allowing us to work through feelings, ideas or situations through the action of making art, it helps bring us some extra clarity. Raising our THC levels is crucial before, during, and after creating a piece of artwork.

What is the story behind your love?
E: Initially, I met Aaron at Mad Tea Party Jam. We barely got a chance to talk but we did collaborate on a canvas. I was working as an Art Director at the time – booking live painters for festivals around the country, in my downtown Philadelphia Gallery, and my traveling art circus. I had booked Aaron for a festival. When I picked him up from the airport we had our first few minutes alone, I knew that was that. In the first hour of getting to know him, I knew he was meant for me. I had been searching for someone to sit next to me and paint my whole life; I finally found the perfect one. We have been completely inseparable since that moment! Now we have been married 6 months!

What was the first festival you attended alone and together?
A: The first festival we did as a couple was Gem and Jam 2016.  The first festival I ever did was All Good 2008, and Ellie’s first was JerryFest 2009.

What is your favorite small festival? What is your favorite thing about small festivals?
A: Infrasound – The connections are more intimate. I get to go back each year; it is so nice to see the same crowd or festival family from the years before.

E: Jibberjazz – I grew up in central PA going to the extremely jam-oriented “Jibberjazz” festivals. I feel like I owe a lot to these events for shaping who I am and how far I’ve come.

What is a good memory/moment you have had at a festival together?
E: Last year at Summer Camp we had a blast! We both sold some of our biggest paintings to date. We got to meet so many incredible people that support our artwork – and at the end of the weekend we heard one of our favorite bands cover Led Zeppelin under a gigantic rainbow.

A: It’s so hard to choose because every festival, show, or event we do – we always walk away with an incredible memory. We’re always so grateful just to be included in the festival experience, the fact that we can continuously add our art to these environments, it never stops being special.

Have you ever done an official poster for a festival? What would be your dream festival poster to design?
A: We’ve done a few; we did one together for Infrasound. I think we would both love the chance to do an official poster for the Dead and Co. tours, more than anything.

Who is your proudest partner collaboration? I know you both have clothing lines with Grassroots California, jewelry with David Freeland, and worked with Norml.
A: Zane Kesey is probably the person I’m most proud to have worked with. He is the reason I am able to make and sell blotter art and has always shown so much support to me and my wife. He let us paint the Furthur bus at a Dead and Co show at Shoreline in California – two summers ago. He has even sent me some original paintings from his father Ken Kesey (owner of the original Furthur bus and author of the classic American novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) to collaborate on.

Art by Ellie Paisley

E: Johnathan Singer has been one of the artists I am most proud to say I’ve worked with. Last summer we had an art show with the three of us, in Boulder during the Dead and Co. shows. John does the visuals for the band, he used our artwork behind Dead and Co. while they played in our home town! Seeing my artwork behind one of the bands I’ve been following since I was in my mom’s belly; that was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

What was the last festival you guys attended as just patrons?
A & E: I don’t think we have ever attended a festival as patrons together! We love our jobs and try to bring our artwork out any chance we get!

What advice do you have for aspiring artists and also those looking for love?
E: My advice would be, don’t get frustrated with where you are now; just keep working hard. I’m still a young artist myself, and I have so many things I want to accomplish and that can be frustrating. Still, knowing how far you’ve come and enjoying the journey is so important. Art has opened so many doors for me. Art puts a roof over my head. Art puts food in my mouth. Art gave me my husband. Trust in the power of your creations and you will get to where you want to go!

Ellie Paisley’s website. 

Aaron Brooks Gallery from his Facebook page: