mary jennings art

Artist-in-Residence at Salamander Resort & Spa, Middleburg, VA by Mary Jennings


Everybody get excited. I've got big news to share. I am the Artist-in-Residence at the Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia. When I tell some people this, they want to know if I get to stay there.  I do, but not in the way that most guests of the resort do when they are there.  I get to enjoy the fullness of the beautiful resort while I am meeting guests and teaching them art.

The next question may be, "Well, if you don't live there, what does 'in-Residence' mean for you as an artist?"  All I can say is that, Artist-in-Residence is not entirely rigid in its definition.  There is no single model, and the expectations and requirements vary greatly.

The relationship between the resident and the host is often an important aspect of a residency program.

My Artistic Offerings to Salamander Resort & Spa


After completing an art project for Salamander's Marketing Dept. , I was asked if I did any teaching of art. I expressed my sincere interest in teaching, but also my frustration at not having the right space to teach classes.  I was asked to come up with some ideas for classes that could be offered through the Salamander Resort & Spa for their guest of all ages.  I was eager and felt honored to be offered the opportunity to bring art to this wonderful place I was getting acquainted with  quickly.  The next day or so I presented a proposal with fifteen different art activities for consideration.  These were a wide range of offerings for every specialized guest, age range and event type.  Within a few months, we settled in on four classes.

First Day of Class

I posted my status on Facebook the day before my first day of leading the art offerings.  It read, "I'm ready! I'm walking tall.  This feels like the Catalina Wine Mixer."

Creative Sketchbook Journey in progress
Creative Sketchbook Journey in progress

It was a super long day and I loved every minute of it.  I didn't have all four classes with students, so I was able to create art on the spot that supported the classes I was teaching.  It was a beautiful, slightly windy day and I spent a good amount of time outside sketching for the  Plein Air Painting class.  I got to visit with the gorgeous horses and say hello to the super friendly guests of the resort.

I discovered that I love hospitality.  Art can be a very solitary pursuit in general.  This day I was delighted to be part of the resort team and provide the exceptionally friendly service to every guest.  It felt so natural and I really enjoyed helping people enjoy their stay with a cheerful direction or even just a conversation.

Goals For Teaching Art

While I'm providing an experience with art for the guests of the Salamander with any skill level in the arts, I want them to leave the experience with a better knowledge and appreciation of art and creativity.

I have made each class unique and have created supplies that are customized for the best Salamander Resort & Spa experience possible.

After my first class, "Creative Sketchbook Journey", early in the morning in the library, one person said that they really liked my approach.  She is looking forward to signing up for another class.  I was so honored to hear that given that she drove an hour to get to the class. I get it though, The Salamander Resort & Spa is worth the trip, again and again.

What Are My Qualifications?

Taken from a Facebook status from a supportive friend and collector of my art.

My Über-talented, funny, inspiring friend, Mary Jennings, is the new resident artist at Salamander Resort in Middleburg, Va. (we have a lot of her art of on the farm)

I'm telling you, it is the best gift you could give yourself to spend a day under her creative guidance.  She could make a stone paint! A gentle guide that'll help you tap your own creative juices.  Guaranteed.

Sign up for one of her classes.  You'll thank me.

Beth Reese, Taproot Farm, WV

Thanks, Beth!

Hope to see you all at the Salamander Resort & Spa.  You will find me there with paint on my brush and a smile on my face.

Click here is more information about the classes offered if you're interested.

A Sketchbook Project Regular by Mary Jennings


As I age, the more I resemble being regular, the more amazing I feel.  I mean that in every sense of the word. Embracing this regularity is finding ways to spill out into several areas of my work and personal life.  It's comforting to develop a rhythm to life.  I've been regularly getting to the gym by 6am for a daily, vigorous workout for several months. I love the feeling of "making it" to the gym.  Achievement is a beautiful thing.

I get a great feeling when I submit my carefully created Sketchbook Project to the post office for delivery to Brooklyn, New York.  My latest submission marks my forth consecutive sketchbook filled with original art.

It's a really important exercise for an artist to set an intention, meet that intention and follow it through to it's completion.  The additional layer of completely giving away the original creation is not as hard as you would imagine.  It's a bit freeing.

Each year, the books I create reflect the incline of my heart and head for that time period.


My first book was all about my upcoming fIRST fRIDAY aRT sHOWS.  I had a theme for every month and used the book to almost capture the spirit of the whole year of art before it was created.  It helped get my concept foundation straight for the coming year.

The creative process of the second book was different for me.  I didn't view the sketchbook as a book of separate pages, but as a complete narrative.  While I was in the middle of struggling with some personal issues, creating this book was a way for me to process my thoughts and heal my heart during the process.  I chose to capture the process in a stop motion movie and photo process, allowing me to create a movie of the whole sketchbook creation.  This was very satisfying and proved helpful in letting the very personal sketchbook go; And go it went.  Once I posted the finished movie on YouTube and it's now up to over 1,500 views.  I hope it's helpful for people as they watch it as it was for me to create it.  The power of art amazes me.

My third book was a big push that I waited to complete at the last minute.  I had the complete book organized, page by page.  I just waited too late to get started on the labor intensive task of sketching.  I was nailed to my drawing table for twelve hours STRAIGHT until I barely made it to the post office in time to send it off to Brooklyn, NY.  I didn't like rushing the process.  After all, the process is what it's all about.  I need time to metabolize each page as I create them.  I was able to take photos before I sent it off and that is how I made my second sketchbook project movie.  It doesn't quite have as many views as my first,  but is a solid video in it's own rite.

DSC_8321This latest sketchbook, I elected to have it digitally recorded by the team of superb Sketchbook Project librarians with the Art House Co-op.  This way, my sketchbook can be viewed in person or online.  It can be shared with ease.  I will still make a video for this one because, well, I like to be REGULAR.


Please consider joining a gym or sketchbook project this year.  It feels great to be active in every way.  Visiting my blog and sharing with a friend is great fun.

Appreciation is Contagious. Better Catch It. by Mary Jennings

Loving The Rain! I posted a status on my FB account this morning.  I had to.  I couldn’t help it.  I really wanted to share the amazing delight I was feeling at that very moment.  I just knew that others would enjoy what I was experiencing.  Finding the right words to express my moment were also part of the fun.

It got quite a few likes, but it also made me think about how fortunate I felt to be experiencing something so simple and so impossible for me to create by my own hand or skill.  I was wholly appreciative.  I have noticed some other grateful updates being posted by some of my other friends on some other social media sites.

A young photographer friend was prompting people to make sure to take time to stop and notice the beautiful sunrise and sunsets we are blessed with daily.  Such wise advice for such a young girl.  She might have been preaching to the choir, though.  I have seen an increase in stunning sky photos on FB and Instagram with people doing just that; looking up.  Vacation will have that effect on you.  I’ve enjoyed looking at and clicking like on every last post I’m fortunate enough to encounter.

Beauty Discovered

I also love that I have several artist friends who are able to see the beauty in some not so expectedly beautiful things and are generous enough to share their discoveries (and be thankful on top of that).  This was posted by a friend and former Moore College of Art classmate who made my day with her midnight snack.

So, all of this is to say, look up, stand still, soak in and share.  Appreciation is contagious; better catch it and share.  It might just also be the cure for all that ails.

Get Up Off Of Your Hash(tag) by Mary Jennings

Note: This post is to complement my informal discussion with my local business networking group, Wednesday, June 26, 2013.  It's a group of wonderful friends and business owners.  I am delighted to share what I know about the subject of hashtags. #

Let me start off saying that I am not a Digital Ninja or any sort of #Professional #Poundsign #Prophetess.  I am simply a artist/business woman who is interested in serving my customers and bringing them the best product I am able to deliver.  I do my best to keep up with the latest in hip hyperspace.  However, I will confess that just a few months ago I was anxiously visiting my mailbox everyday checking to see if the ebooks that I ordered had come in yet.  I found myself getting annoyed at their delay in arrival and the poor customer service of the provider. ..... You did hear me say that they were eBOOKs, right.  In a out-dated data daze I was checking the wrong mailbox.  They were sitting pretty in my electronic mailbox, waiting for me to download and dive into.

The reason I am presenting this description in hashtags in plain english is to help us all get out of our digital daze.  Certain things, hashtags being one, are part and parcel of the digital age.  You need to know how to use them.

We know all about tools in a toolbox, well hashtags (#) are a tool; like the kind you would find in a toolbox.  We can all agree that tools are very helpful.  Some know how to use every tool in the box.  Some only know how to use the key essential tools and some simply hire someone to use the tools for them.  It would be careless to avoid know what tools are out there and what they are capable of achieving even when you are not the one using them in the end.  It helps to be well-rounded.

I am here to brief you on the multi-purpose tool, the hashtag in this blog.  As a matter of fact, I will be making a presentation to my local business networking group on this topic.  As a business owner, it’s particularly challenging to keep track of all the latest and greatest ways to reach your customers.  I will do my best to make this short and simple.

Dear Business Owner: 

Do you want customers?

Do you want to grow in your field?

Do you want to check on you competition?

Do you want people to know how great you are?

Do you want to correct your message to people?

Do you want quick results?

Do you want to connect with your customers and colleagues?

Do you want to expand your territory?

Do you want support?

Do you want your event promoted?

Do you want to be hip at all to what is part and parcel of digital culture?

Then pay attention..

Hashtag Origin:

We really don’t need to know, but you can equate a hashtag (#) to a these terms:

group, topic or channel.  They look like this: #art #hashtag #DC #businessnetworking #bringbacklawandorder #nothashtagbutpoundsign.  You might also hear them paralleled with “trending topic” or “mini-meme”.

In the end, all of this is designed to bring people together and make information easier to find.  Hashtags now are compatible with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest to name a few.  It’s close to what a tag is in the blogging world.  Hashtags are a great tool, but all tools need to come with a tool safety manual.

Safety First (you don’t want to lose a finger with this tool): 

Using hashtags is fairly simple and risk-free for the user, but they do require some creative thought and risk analysis before putting out there is cyberspace.  There are some hashtag bullies out there.  They are capable of putting together a “bashtag”.  Comedians love the creative use of hashtags that allow them to give emphasis or punchline to their otherwise average message.

Example: The (former) Food Network star, Paula Dean's career has been destroyed by the trending topic #PaulaDeanBestDishes where food and racism were combined to make for a terrible, unmarketable image.  The people’s voices were heard.

Similarly, hashtags like #OccupyWallStreet and #LibyaFeb17 have been used for political purposes to organize groups for promotion and discussion.

Branded hashtags can gain enough interest if they are clever and are free from the potential of backfiring on the beneficiary.  You also need to keep in mind some of the mistakes people make when developing a presence online and avoid those.  One of the biggest mistakes is to leave your profile picture blank or as an egg (twitter).  People will never trust a blank photo.

Benefits of Using Hashtags:

You will experience better ways to search for conversations that matter to you.  Using hashtags on Twitter and now, Facebook will allow you to locate and participate in a real-time networking environment with a focus of others that are in your field.

You can organize your own chat by simply typing your topic with a hashtag like #art, #HVAC and/or #finance.  Doing research is now made easier with hashtags.  You are able to even locate your competition and see what their customers might be saying about them.  You also have an opportunity to contribute to that conversation when you find the right time and content.

One of the best feelings is the feeling of locating your “tribe” online.  It doesn’t have to be a tribe of people in the same region, social, ethic, or religious background.  It can be simply about the direction and the interest common to you that has been identified with a hashtag.

The fact that the potential for hashtags is great and the cost is nothing should be all of the benefit you need to know.

Life without hashtags (from the customer's point of view): 

Your customers might be saying or asking:

“I will lose a piece of paper, but I will never lose my internet service.”  Your marketing is available at anytime and at any hour.

“Let me Google this person and see what I find.”  The more you work on your online presence the easier you will be able to find when you are looked up by your customer.

“Does this person really know what they’re doing?”  The more you write and the more you contribute to conversations, the easier it will be for a customer to see your credibility.

“Are all these testimonials real?”  The testimonials on websites are very nice, but the good word that is not from a controlled source is amazing.

Typical criticisms by the business owner/hashtag creator:

I don’t have time for this.

It’s free, how good can it be?

I get consumed by it and get nothing else done.

All of my customers don’t even use internet, why would I bother.

Who cares?

To hashtag or not to hashtag, that is the question.  It’s completely up to you, but at least, now you know what the heck they’re all about. #enjoy


A Good Home. Will My Art Find One? by Mary Jennings

Screen Shot 2013-05-11 at 11.15.15 AM

Spring is a popular time for creative fundraising and I get several calls to donate my art, time and/or talent to the these events.  I am always more that happy to do so.  As a matter of fact, I was working on a painting early this morning and reflecting on how participating in these various events have helped me place my work in some wonderful homes. corolla bridge

A couple of weeks ago, during a Wine Tasting and Silent Auction, the winner of one of my plein air watercolors gave me a great big hug as she was genuinely thrilled to own this art.  I feel  settled in releasing these works when I am confident that they are settling into a good home with new happy owners.

These works are like my children.   I remember when each work came to life.  It's like I'm their mother and it's natural that I would care about whether or not they are loved and cared for by their owner.   It is so interesting to know that most people who don't actively build their art collection are mostly unsure where to put the art when they get it home.  I understand how that can be a delicate process and if you are unsure, there are ways you can get help.  As a matter of fact, I can help with this.

I am able to conduct in home art placement consultations.  I am able to help you place your existing art and make suggestions about other art that you might feel comfortable about purchasing to add to your collection.  Yes, you can be an art collector.  It's a wonder way of adding warmth and character to your home.

Screen Shot 2013-05-11 at 11.15.15 AMAnother wonderful opportunity to consider in the search of a comprehensive art collection as well as agreat ideas for the home and garden is the 13th Annual Tuckahoe Elementary Home and Garden Tour, Saturday, May 18, 12:00 noon to 5:00pm.  This event benefits Tuckahoe's Discovery Schoolyard.  You can purchase tickets here.  Or you can learn more about the amazing Discovery Schoolyard here.

One of the homes on the tour will be filled (all rooms, every floor) with my art.  It's a brand new home and the builder asked if I would be interested in placing my art in this house.  I was thrilled.  This is a fundraiser that is near and dear to my heart.  My kids went to Tuckahoe when the Outdoor Discovery Schoolyard was being created and I was actively supporting fundraising efforts and know many of the parents who spent many hours dedicated to bringing this outstanding learning opportunity to life for our kids.  This program has grown and is now also part of the curriculum at several Arlington (and other) Elementary schools.

I have several pieces of work that are inspired by the beautiful Discovery Schoolyard itself.  Come see my art and watch me paint too.  I am setting up my easel and pallet to paint the day away while many visitors tour this beautiful house.  This is a huge house, yet from the outside it maintains the existing charm of the cul de sac lined with established Arlington homes.

Sidenote: I will be dedicating the whole day to a dear friend who passed away last week.  Penny Kiser was extremely active in the formation, fundraising, and support of the Discovery Schoolyard up to just a few weeks ago.  She gave her best and we are privileged to have benefited from her time and talent.  She will be very missed, but her love and hard work found a good home.