Ellie Paisley is an artist and clothing designer whose vibrancy has graced the cannabis community since her younger years, when she relied on weed to help her through a difficult period. “I kinda had a little bit of a rough patch as a teenager,” she says. “Some not-so-awesome stuff happened to me. I was looking for a way to heal that didn’t involve antidepressants—I struggled with that for a long time.”
Paisley found cannabis, but she was also seeking community in a time and place in which prohibition was in full force and the negative public perception of cannabis was severe. At about the age of 16, she thought to herself, “I need a scene that understands me and doesn’t judge me for being a recreational-cannabis user or a medical-cannabis user––because it shouldn’t matter.”
Before long, she joined her local NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) chapter and started making an impact. In these early days, there was much attention on how cannabis helped treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but most efforts were focused on veterans.
“I wanted to see the same thing happen for women who were victims of sexual abuse,” Paisley says. “Because that’s what I went through, and I know how much cannabis helped me. I wouldn’t want to see somebody have to make the choice to move to another state just to get the medicine they need––that’s really wrong.”
Paisley Gives Back
Paisley started to contribute her artwork to NORML’s efforts, be it creating posters for the organization’s “Smoke Down Prohibition” rallies or designing T-shirts. “They were just so sweet and uplifting, everybody believed in me… that was really the springboard for it all,” she said of the NORML crew.
At 18, Paisley became the secretary of the Philadelphia chapter of NORML—the youngest person to sit on a board of directors for a chapter of the organization. (When she was 19, she also started a NORML chapter in Lancaster County; she’s no longer involved there, but the chapter still meets and organizes.) Paisley’s a powerful force to be reckoned with, and her advocacy efforts are just one of many successes she’s achieved so early in life.
Paisley went from admiring live painters at music festivals to becoming a live painter herself. At 19, she had the opportunity to live-paint for the Southern California band Slightly Stoopid. “It gave me the self-confidence to feel like I belonged there, and that my art was worthy,” Paisley said. Since then, Paisley and her rainbow-colored canvases have stepped into the spotlight. She’s now live-painted for a diverse array of musical artists, including the Wu-Tang Clan and Ice Cube, and she was an official painter for Dead & Company after-parties across the country. “I feel so lucky to be even able to go see that music live, [let alone] contributing to the experience,” she enthuses.
Today, Paisley lives in Colorado with her husband and fellow artist, Aaron Brooks (@abrooksart). She admits that there’s a small amount of healthy competition between them, but they support each other by being each other’s teammate through everything in life.
Paisley’s live painting is something that all music and art fans should experience in person, but in the meantime, give her a follow on social media—you will not be disappointed. Her Instagram feed features time-lapse videos of her creating her mind-blowing, psychedelic paintings—it’s a vibrant and captivating experience watching her create her art, everything from colorful portraits of famous celebrities like Bill Murray and Post Malone to whimsical creations of skulls and fungus. She’s a positive burst of brightness and magic in the sometimes-redundant and repetitive world of social media.
You can support this lovely soul by scooping up an original creation, buying some of her merch (including items from her hat-line collaboration with Grassroots) or even stopping by Denver’s Marijuana Mansion, which features some of her murals. Feeling inspired to create something yourself now? “Just do it,” Paisley said. “If you have an idea, don’t let anyone get in the way of accomplishing it, especially yourself. You really can do whatever you set your mind to. Everyone brings something unique and beautiful into this world that wouldn’t be there without them.”
Read this story originally published in High Times July 2021 Issue in our archive.