Jennifer Tinsley began feeling a pull to get into painting about seven years ago. She now believes that feeling was a calling from God, but at that time, she never thought she’d be producing art professionally.
Nevertheless, the art studio on Wall Street in downtown Calhoun bears a new name as of Tuesday. Tinsley has taken over the business from longtime owner Terry Knight, and she plans to continue the tradition of art lessons and camps at the facility under the name JennyPenny Studio.
She’s been teaching children’s classes at the studio since the school year began. When she found out Knight was retiring recently, she approached him about buying the business. They worked out a transition plan, and two of them feel the exchange is providential.
“I strongly believe God put us together,” Knight says. “We both love the Lord.”
‘God gave me this gift’
Tinsley began thinking about painting just before she married her husband, Chris Tinsley.
“I got married, we started our family,” she says.
Thoughts of art took a backburner while she stayed home for a few years raising her daughters. When her youngest started school, she felt the need to reenter the workforce. Tinsley, 34, who is originally from Montgomery, Alabama, went to high school in Dalton and attended Dalton State College. Her professional background is varied, and when she decided to go back to work outside the home, she didn’t have a clear direction.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life,” she explains.
That was mid-2018, and she’d finally picked up a brush to see where the urge to paint might lead. She was surprised at the level of work she was able to produce right off the bat without a formal art education. When she finished her first painting, a sea turtle that hangs on a wall in the studio, she realized she had a talent, and she believes it’s a gift from above.
“God gave me this gift. I didn't learn it,” she says. “The only thing I’ve learned is what Terry has taught me. He's taught me a lot of techniques. But it was just like God put it in me, and I can't really take credit for it … God told me that I was going to paint.”
Still, she balked at the idea of actually working in the art business.
“I’ve always liked art, enjoyed it,” she says. “I thought, ‘There’s no way I can do that as a career.’”
A family member who was friends with Knight’s wife introduced her to the couple, and Tinsley showed Knight the art she’d begun producing. She began teaching children’s classes at the studio and developing her own skills under his instruction. She became aware of his intent to sell the business, and a plan began to take shape even though she actually had a job offer elsewhere at the time. She decided to make a leap of faith and follow her passion.
“I was about to take it, and then I didn’t,” she says. “I came and talked to him (Knight), and I talked to my husband, and I just decided, ‘I'm not going to do that,’ so I didn’t take that job.”
Instead, she and Knight hatched a plan that would set her up as owner of the business. Tinsley says she feels like meeting Knight and finding a way into the art world was meant to be for her.
“I think God put it all together, this transition,” she says.
She’ll be offering learning opportunities for students ages 6 and up, just as Knight has done there for nearly two decades. She also wants to continue to develop her skills as an artist, particularly with mural production.
“I'm going to continue the same kids’ classes … And I plan on adding more classes as it grows and doing artwork — selling my artwork,” she says.
Her greatest satisfaction in teaching is seeing the confidence her students take on through the process.
“I like seeing how satisfied the children are, and the adults,” she says. “They don’t believe in themselves at first, and then they do something, and they’re proud of it, and they believe in themselves … It gives them confidence, and I think it's really good for people. … It inspires them. I really enjoy that.”
She has prior experience teaching young people in a church setting.
“I’ve always taught children at church, and I love children,” she explains.
The beginner artists in the 6-to 12-year-old class start off with landscapes and seascapes. Their accomplishments are often surprising, Knight says. His and Tinsley’s dedication plays a major role in their success, along with some help from above, he says.
“We take it seriously. I think if God wasn't in it, it wouldn't be nearly as successful as this has been,” he says.
He plans to stay involved with the studio in a limited capacity by helping with the summer art camps, which each run for five consecutive two- and-a-half-hour sessions. This will be the 17th year for the camps. He plans to support Tinsley as she picks up the mantle of art education at the studio downtown and adds her own flair to the goings-on.
“I want her to be successful here and get it going, and I told her I’d help.” he says.
How to get involved
JennyPenny Studio, owned by Jennifer Tinsley, is located downtown Calhoun at 208 S. Wall St. Tinsley is offering art classes for both kids and adults at a cost of $20 for each session. Classes for kids are held Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4:30 p.m. Classes for adults are on Thursdays at 6:30 p.m.
For more information check out the studio’s Facebook page “Art by Jenny Penny” or call 706-263-4887.