Artist Spotlight Interview

I’ve been having my work photographed and reproduced by Tweek Imaging since I started my newer “peppered paper” collage work. It’s why I have such great quality prints! They’re professionally printed right here in Knoxville!

I recently did an interview with them for the artist spotlight over on their blog. It’s always insightful for me to have to answer direct questions about my work, and think about the how and why, and the continual growth and evolution of my work. Check out the full post here to learn more about my process and thoughts on my work: http://www.tweekimaging.com/blog/blog_posts/meet-lesley

here are a few highlights focusing on my work:

TI: What was the piece you made that inspired Peppered Paper?

 LE: Well, as typically happens, my style evolved very naturally and intuitively. I started working mostly in painted paper collage for children’s book illustration. It’s where my “peppered paper” drop cloth scrap paper came from. I painted lots of papers, lots of bright colors for this illustration work. My first official “peppered paper” piece was actually created for a silent auction fund raiser for a food pantry. I wanted to donate a piece of original art that was more accessible to the attendees at a wine and cheese art auction than children’s illustration would have been, and I had been saving all of this exciting paper from my drafting table for a couple of years. I started playing around with my x-acto knives and came up with these wonderfully sharp and delicate leaves and petals creating my first “peppered paper” collage, a blue thistle.

 TI: What has made you choose the subjects you’ve made?

 LE: The second “peppered paper” collage I made was the old-time banjo. I definitely had this vision of using some of the mostly white butcher paper with a few colorful splatters and brush marks for the white head of the banjo. So, my instrument series evolved from there. The thistle is a good example of the hard and sharp edges I’m drawn to creating with cut paper. I love the juxtaposition of the delicate and sharp, the chaotic painting and super meticulous cutting and gluing. A lot of the subjects I’m drawn to have a sharp edges or points with a kind of gracefulness at the same time: deer antlers, spiky thistle leaves, raccoon whiskers, insect antennae, crustacean claws….

 TI: How does your love of book illustration shape your work? Or does it at all?

 LE: I’m really itching to get back to more narrative work. It’s not the kind of work that sells at silent art auctions ;), but visual storytelling is my true passion. So, as my style continues to evolve I’m excited about experimenting with combining more drawing with my collage work.

 TI: What is your favorite part of your process? Why?

 LE: That part when my logical brain turns off completely. Some people refer to this as working in flow. It’s getting lost in color a lot of times for me- just painting papers, or getting lost in drawing, when I have time. Most often it’s getting lost in design, curating and piecing together all of the perfect papers for whatever I’m working on at the time.

 TI: Your two little guys are so adored at Tweek, how do they impact your work?

 LE: Balancing motherhood and creative work has been a huge challenge for me. Like I just mentioned, my favorite part of creating involves letting my logical brain turn off. This can be tough when time in my studio is so limited, and the mom job is so demanding and exhausting for me at times. However, I’m starting to realize how grateful I am for the challenge, for the drive to push through and keep creating, and really for the affirmation that I should keep fighting to reconcile my calling as both artist and mom.

 

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Wonder, through secret doors; Inspiration from Mac Barnett

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Sometimes I find something the boys have added to my curated selection of their art work hanging in the playroom. I love when they deem something worthy of hanging. I have no idea what this piece is about, but I love how mysterious this door is and its interesting shape created by cutting and folding the edges of the bold yellow paper. It’s like an invitation into another world, maybe a world filled with beautiful blue and green streams and little houses atop bright green trees that can only be reached by ladders….

Did you know I studied creative writing and later received an MFA in children’s book illustration? Story telling with art is my passion, and Mac speaks my language. I believe the best kind of doors we can open and enter into are found in our imagination. It’s so hard for me to articulate the beauty and power and importance I feel that is using one’s imagination. So, I’ll let Mac Barnett explain in his inspiring Ted Talk…

learning to love the questions, as well as who I am (part 2)

I don’t think there’s one clear diagnosis for my recent struggles: depression, overwhelm, exhaustion, anxiety, dwelling on things, perfectionism, discontent, motherhood, low self-worth. Call it what you’d like, sometimes the diagnosis sounds too severe, while at other times it doesn’t seem strong enough. However, it does seem the root all of these struggles are negative thoughts flitting around my brain, thoughts that have been there a long time unrecognized. So, as much as I’d like to have a much more straightforward step by step system to get rid of these negative thoughts, I’m starting to accept that my brain is going to need a lot of convincing to let go of some of them, which probably means a lot of work and a lot of time. So, that’s that. And because of the paralyzing overwhelm I’ve mentioned, I think it might be a good idea to give myself permission to just acknowledge these thoughts for now, not trying to dissect and understand each one. And, while acknowledging these thoughts, most of which could be lies, I’d like to focus on three truths:

God created me, me. Beautifully different and unique, with distinct gifts and insight. And I mean so different from most women/ mamas in this southern culture, which should translate into so unique and beautiful, but it’s pretty easy for me to get lost in the comparisons.

God created me to be a mama; to be present in this tiring stage of motherhood, filled with joys and struggles, as we greatly anticipate the birth of our third baby along with our almost four and five year old boys.

God created me to create; to express myself though artistic creativity, somehow in this busy and tiring stage of life. The how is one of the questions I wish I had a clearer answer to- should this be though my peppered paper collage work, should I pursue illustration, loser expressive painting, writing? I’m just not sure right now, but I am sure this creative expression is a big part of who I am.

So, there we have it. As I said in part 1 of this post, I don’t believe the creator of the universe made a mistake when he created me, me. He gave me gifts and passion and a drive to create artistically. He also gave me the gifts of two little boys and a third baby on the way. I often refer to them as rascals, on rare occasions tyrants, but when I try to express the incredible gifts they actually are words are not sufficient, and tears are inevitable. Did I mention I’m pregnant, and tired… but really, you know what I mean if you’ve experience this gift in one form or another. So, I must continue to convince myself of what I really do believe and who I am created to be. I must continue to try to reconcile these callings and claim the titles of both artist and mama, focusing on the big truths in light of all the little lies I’m fighting daily.

learning to love the questions (part 1)

“… have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…”  – Rainer Maria Rilke

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Once again, I’m having trouble slowing down and capturing my thoughts on recent struggles, which I’m learning is actually part of the struggle. It’s as if there are little fireflies darting through my brain. I catch a glimpse of one truth and try to grab on to it, but before I can wrap my brain around its meaning and beauty there are three others that light up in the background, and before I even realize it I’ve lost sight of the one that possibly had something to show me. Deep breath, because even this metaphor is stressing me out. So, because I’m working on taking hold of my thoughts and questioning their meaning, and more importantly their truth, let’s take hold of this metaphor:

It seems I’m grasping at things that are not meant to be held and understood fully. Sitting outside at dusk on a warm muggy summer night with these lights flickering all around is magical and the epitome of peacefulness to me. Magical by definition is something that cannot be fully understood, and as soon as it can be the magic is lost. Peacefulness also elicits an idea of restfulness and calm, in the midst of the unknown. So, part of being able to sit and enjoy the beauty of a magical summer evening is accepting and appreciating that each individual light flickering in the night is not meant to be captured, held, and dissected.

Easier said than done, especially when we’re actually talking about my thoughts and trying to move toward truth and healing instead of just enjoying an evening of lightning bugs in the backyard. However, I’m thinking there might be great magic and peace in accepting who I’m created to be, and acknowledging I cannot fully understand and control my thoughts. I can work on acknowledging their presence, seeing them for what they are- truth or not, and let them flicker out, one by one or several at a time. I can try to love the questions themselves and have great peace in believing the creator of the universe didn’t make a mistake when he created me, me….

continued in part 2.

“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

My Art, My Struggle

Hello. To me. And to maybe one reader, whom I think is capable of understanding and even valuing my crazy, so I’ll continue. I actually rarely put people in the category of being able to understand- my fault, not theirs. I mention this because I’ve struggled for a while with thoughts on what I’d like this blog to be. And the idea I keep coming back to and can’t move past feels really scary, because I fear judgement. I fear not being understood, or sounding crazy, or worst of all being pitied. However, here I am, because my thoughts aren’t leaving, and in this case it seems like fear is more indicative of what is right than what is not.

So, what are these thoughts/ ideas for a blog that I keep coming back to? If only I could very succinctly explain my thoughts. I’m pretty scattered, but here’s the gist- I’m struggling as a mama. I’m struggling as an artist. I’m really struggling trying to figure out how to be both mom and artist, both artist and mom. I’m not even sure what order to put these in, both are equally important parts of who I am (fear of judgement from other moms now), but it’s the truth. I know there are other mamas who can relate. I know there are others who agree being a mom is the hardest work of our life. So, I’m going to try really hard to believe that truth, and ignore my fear of judgement from those who find the mom job easy and fulfilling.

I also know I’m not the only creative who struggles, big time. However, it is so easy for me to see beautiful posts and prolific artists on Instagram and convince myself that without a doubt I’m the only one struggling and no one else could possibly understand. But then one day I googled “best books for creative inspiration.” I had no idea! There are so many books out there written to help creatives through their struggles. I proceeded to order and devour a couple of these books. They are written by creatives who completely understand the struggle. How do they understand so well? They have without a doubt walked through these struggles; I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE! Really, it’s as if they could see all of my doubt and fear and struggle and resistance, and express these feelings, my feelings, much more articulately than I could ever attempt to.

So, back to the idea for this blog. Did I mention I’m a little scattered? I actually don’t have a clear path laid out. I’ve been delaying for way too long because of this. So, I’m thankful to be starting to accept the only way to figure out how to reign in my focus is to start writing. And this post is a start! Loosely there are two types of posts I’d like to include:

My Art

I’d like to focus on my art: what I’m creating, how I work, where I’m inspired, and what my process is like . *fun, colorful, light, happy posts*

My Struggle

I’d also like to share what I’m learning as I continue to struggle as a mom and an artist. I’m hoping this outlet will help me through some of my struggles. *raw, beautiful, challenging, authentic posts*

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*because I’ve mentioned the two titles I’m struggling to reconcile, both mom and artist, I’m happy to have started another blog with ALL THE PHOTOS of family, fun, beauty, and the joy of motherhood. There might be a little bit of overlap on here, but for the majority this blog is written by me, the artist.

through the view finder

Well, it’s been a while. It’s been over three years actually. It’s true I have a very sensitive 3.5-year-old and a feisty 2-year-old, which means I was pregnant and/or nursing for over three consecutive blurry years. This seems the likely excuse for my blogging hiatus. However, the real reason is that in July of 2012, I held an iPhone for the first time. Life changing.

My last post on my old blog was July 12, 2012. It’s no coincidence. I stopped picking up my SLR camera to capture life and beauty around me and instead just used my phone. It was always so convenient. The thing about using my phone to capture moments of beauty is I didn’t have to slow down to look through a view finder. I rarely would even change my position to get a better shot. It just all became so quick and easy. Then I ended up with thousands of sub par photos. I’m slowly working on editing these, but really, it’s too many.

After the addition of an iPhone in 2012, I also rarely opened my computer. Again, it was so quick and easy to do what I needed to on my phone, so convenient. So, I stopped reading blogs. I stopped blogging. I stopped slowing down to think and read and write.

dslrI miss looking through the view finder. I miss getting my camera out and taking photos with intention. I miss blogging, discovering and processing what I think. I miss my flip phone. But, there’s no going back, and of course I recognize the benefits of this sleek phone that has a built-in camera, and map. I’m hoping to practice using it for what it is though. It’s like instant coffee. I’d never drink the stuff but it is an amazing and necessary addition to my Mocha Rocky Road Oatmeal Cookies and Ina’s Decadent Chocolate Cake. Amazing. Life changing. But I’m not about to give up my real freshly roasted dark aromatic coffee for an instant variety, even if it is more convenient.

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So, here’s to becoming reacquainted with my view finder and my keyboard. Here’s to looking and thinking, to slowing down and creating for more than just an instant. Here’s to removing a lens cap, squatting, squinting, focusing, and seeing life through the view finder again. It’s called the view finder. Here’s to taking the time to think out my thoughts. Here’s to finding and seeing moments of beauty around me and to using my creative brain in whatever outlets I’m given during this blurry stage of life. Here’s to wrapping my hands around these moments and slowly drinking in every sip.