Lesley, is an internationally known mixed media artist, writer, workshop leader, creative coach and mentor who turned her initial passion for photos, color and the written word into a dream occupassion. We’re thrilled about the opportunity to host Lesley’s Red Thread Retreat in Ireland in 2018 and we had a chance to chat with Lesley about her path to becoming an artist, writer, creativity coach and so much more! So get yourself settled into your favorite armchair and enjoy this inspiring interview with Lesley!
Q: Please tell us a little about yourself and your art.
I am a multi-media artist with a strong, intuitive mastery of color, composition and design. My work is inspired by curiosity and a desire to manipulate mediums and materials to express my soul.
Q: Can you describe the time when you first realized that creating was something you absolutely had to do?
I was born with the impulse to create but buried it until my 40s – a quintessential late-bloomer. When art became a priority and persistent need, I found a multitude of ways to fit it into my already full life, which became an art in and of itself that I now share with other late-blooming artists.
Q: Tell us about a day in the life – or a day in the studio, to be precise! What does it look like (and feel like)? What can you share about your process or routines?
My home is my studio. I tend to the business side of my art in the morning, and sometimes that stretches into the whole day if I am creating an online class or workshop proposals. Afternoons you might find me outdoors ecodyeing or working with wet cyanotype, in the studio making books with printed and painted papers, painting canvases with Golden acrylics or more recently, layering oils and cold wax onto cradled boards. Throw in some fabric collage and color me happy.
Q: Where does the magic happen? What does your creative space look like? We’d love to see some photos, if you’d like to share.
When I’m in full create mode, you will find a lot of projects in station-like arrangement. I flit between mediums depending on my time and temperament so tit usually looks like one big mess, except to me, it’s a creative utopia.
Q: What piece of equipment, tool or color could you not live without?
My first response to this question is always my hands, but today I believe it is my heart. Art without heart is just technique. If I’m not bringing my heart to the creative experience, then why bother.
Q: Where do you derive inspiration?
An easier question to answer would be where don’t I derive inspiration. It is everywhere if you know how to look.
Q: Do you have any routines or rituals that get you into the creative zone?
I prefer to ease into working and years ago discovered that I had a ritual of folding laundry or doing some repetitive household task before I would begin. I realized that I was using that action as a segue between the necessary daily tasks and the even more necessary creative pleasure. My husband knows my art is my other lover.
Q: Does your creativity ever stall? What do you do when that happens?
Oh yes! And once you realize that is part of the process, you can relax into it and wait and watch for it’s return. I don’t fight it, I embrace it because I know it is necessary, like the seasons. Three seasons of growth, abundance and harvest and one fallow. I can live with that.
Q: How does travel inspire your work?
Travel takes us out of our routine bubble and opens our eyes to the world at large. Just the small move from city suburbs to an Appalachian mountaintop changed my perspective and my art, time spent in a new environment can change you in unexpected ways. It is key to stop and notice, not just with your eyes, but with your heart.
Q: What do you love most about teaching?
My favorite thing to do when teaching is to pause and look out over the room and drink in the joy and camaraderie emanating from group of women, who may have begun as strangers, sharing their love of creativity. While I get a high from creating a wonderful work of art, I believe this is truly my art – creating this experience, bringing women together and watching them spread their creative wings.
Q: Do you journal or sketch?
Yes and no. Off and on. This way and that. It is not a priority because I like to dive in and see where the work takes me. I spend non-art time envisioning and working out concepts, colors and compositions in my head, but the real magic happens in the studio. If anything, I think my piles of gathered snippets of paper, color and texture – inspiration fragments (mini-collages of inspiration) – serve as my best record of how my eyes see and my mind works. Sometimes they even land in a journal.
Q: If you could take only five items to create with while on vacation (not necessarily a workshop – any vacation), what would they be?
I always bring watercolor paper, paint, maybe some fabric and good old Elmers glue to create inspiration fragments. I’ll add anything I come across to the mix. Since I get 5 items, of course my camera!
Q: So many of us believe our art can only ever be a hobby. How did you make the leap from passion to profession?
With six children, parents to care for and being my husband’s business partner for the early years, this was always a struggle. But I did it. Baby steps and using every spare 5, 10 or 30 minute time block (watch video) was the key to my success.
Q: What mediums would you like to pursue but haven’t yet?
I love encaustics and have dabbled (I even have all the materials I need!) but I would really like to explore it more in depth, time permitting.
Q: Any tips for balancing creative time and administrative duties?
I have learned to handle the administrative ASAP because they tend to pile up and overwhelm. And actually, the admin is important to your own success. That’s why I start the day with it and get it out of the way and out of my head.
Q: If you could an afternoon with any artist, dead or alive, who would that be?
Just one? I can’t choose and would delight in any time spent with any like-minded artistic soul.
Q: Favorite books that help keep the creative juices flowing?
I guide my heart and soul with inspiration from Mark Nepo, John O’Donohue and Mary Oliver. I get excited over books of contemporary art paintings past and present.
Q: Where can we find you and your work?