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written by
Hailey Wist

Artist Profile

photographs by
Hailey Wist

Volume: 28

Teil Henley's blossoming career and what she calls 'happy accidents' in her playful and vivid fauvist series.

The artist’s latest series lines the walls: portraits of deer, elephants, and cows rendered in bright hues. The space matches the artist. Teil’s blue eyes twinkle, her smile bright and warm. The work, the space, the artist—it all fits.

Originally from Columbus, Georgia, Teil majored in art at Auburn University. It was a frustrating experience. She dove deep into the context and theory of her art rather than the technique. To me, it was so much focus on concept that it turned me off from the technical process, she says. What about colors? What about style? Her paintings back then were tight, realistic. She graduated none the wiser on the business of art, the practical side of being a working painter.

After college Teil moved to Charleston and worked odd restaurant jobs and helped out in a preschool. After a few years, she stumbled upon Redux, the shared artist space on St. Philip Street. I was blown away, she says. I saw a few women, young ladies, making art for a living. I didn’t even know it was possible to be an artist. So she quit her restaurant job, took out a small loan, and secured a space at Redux. It was a very scary couple of years, she remembers. It was constant doubting—in myself and in my work. However, that risky first step of committing to art full time gave her the energy to completely focus on her craft.

For the first year, Teil painted the odd commission and experimented. It was trial and error, she remembers. Every fifteen paintings or so I came up with something good, but everything else I would chunk. She began attending figure drawing classes, and for two years she honed her skills. She switched from oil to acrylic, and she developed a style. She painted the figures in classic loose form; the color schemes became fauvist and vibrant. Something clicked.

I opened up an online shop and went crazy emailing bloggers, asking them to feature my work. Then there was no looking back. Teil moved on from figures into an era of beach and pool scenes with light happy palettes with angular figures and patterns. I always reference a photo. When I am taking photos, light is everything. My process has a lot to do with light and shadow. It’s the way I manipulate colors and make my subjects dimensional. Her paintings lie somewhere between realism and abstraction—bright shapes in concert to create the larger whole. I start with a rough sketch, and then I’ll mess it up completely with underpaintings. Then those layers come through as a happy accidents.

Teil works in series. So far, she has created “beach babes,” “flowing dresses,” “pool scenes,” and “beach close-ups.” While her process is still very intuitive, Teil is meticulous about her brand, her promises to followers. It’s all about finding a balance between inspiration and determination, she says. Her social media following is massive and entire series often sell out in a day.
When I think of the future, I’m excited to push my technique and approach. I love moving on to a new series—learning to paint new subjects.
Teil just celebrated her one-year wedding anniversary to PGA golfer Russell Henley. Russell is an ambassador to the Kiawah Island Club, and the newlyweds live in 
Mt. Pleasant.

— H.W.

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