Hello dear Bold Soul,
Today we have a wonderful visitor! Please enjoy this Q & A with my new online art friend and kindred spirit: Leah Jay. And visit Leah’s website to read the 5 exchange questions she asked me, too! M x o
1. What motivated your most recent series of yarn paintings and what other series have you made? Which has been your favourite?
This has really been the breakthrough year for me, in terms of focusing on creating cohesive bodies of work, not one-offs. My first major project was an exploration of the world of amphibians. I’ve always found them delicate and charming! Unfortunately many are highly endangered. I want to show their complex and interesting beauty and in doing so raise money for amphibian conservation efforts around the world. I’ve been getting opportunities to work with some preeminent photographers and scientists, using their images as reference and my word-play to create engaging illustrations of these little guys… I’m currently working out of the details of publishing them in book form, and still adding more to the collection too :)
As far as my yarn series, that’s an experiment that went well. Following such an intensively detailed series of illustrations, using yarn is very much about simplifying and removing creative blocks. I always loved the softness of it. (I often wander the knitting section of craft stores, just drinking in the colors and fuzziness.) My motivation to continue working with it is simple…it just feels right. It brings me back to childhood memories of 70’s macramé and string art (I finally figured out how to bring that nostalgia into my work!)
2. Do you remember art being a big part of your childhood? How has that changed (or not) as you’ve grown up?
Actually, when I was a kid I spent most of my time listening to music. If I did any art it was just doodling beside song lyrics or making elaborate mixtape covers. Then I spent a few years living in the mountains, surrounded by redwood forest. In a way it was an isolating experience, but visually I was soaking everything up like a sponge. It wasn’t until I became a teenager that I loosened up and had the confidence to try drawing and painting. In high school art class, I started expressing some of those accumulated visual impressions, in a much more realistic and intentional way.
3. Is your process different for teaching, painting, making book cover art, kid’s illustrations, street art, etc? Are there similarities?
Teaching is the most different. It’s trying to communicate what you do rather than actually doing it. It takes a special skill set to put basic artistic concepts into words and demonstrate them. Sometimes the act of doing it informs and strengthens your own technique, though, as you become more consciously aware of it. Painting, graphic design, street art, and illustrations all really start out the same for me: with a feeling and a vision. That first moment of creating an idea is probably my favourite part. After that it’s all about trusting and believing that I can replicate what I envision, using whatever medium I decide on.
4. What common thread draws you to your various different art activities?
Three things: Line, Colour, and Symbols. One of my art classes covered the seven basic principles (Value, Line, Space, Shape, Form, Texture, Colour). I quickly found Line and Colour were definitely my strongest ones! I love lines and outlining; interesting colours and colour combinations. I enjoy seeing them and choose to surround myself with them… so naturally I enjoy making art which incorporates them. But I also have an inner collection of motifs that surface repeatedly across all marks that I make, even in doodles: swirls, suns/moons/planets, stars. I find myself drawn back to those over and over…
5. Where do art and self care overlap for you?
To me being an artist can be the ultimate form of self-care, at least mentally and spiritually. Physically, however, making things with your hands can be exhausting, especially after you add in the time it takes for the business duties; hours can be long, to be sure. I bet you’ve all heard the pros and cons of being a small business owner… You never stop working, even on weekends, late nights, holidays…
But to me the benefits outweigh all that. There are so many positive aspects of expressing my ideas and bringing them into reality. I never feel better from head to toe than I do when I’m starting on a new art-making adventure. It’s like giving myself a gift each time I create something new. There’s also this deep feeling of satisfaction when my art connects with someone – either they tell me so, or they decide to bring it into their lives and live with it. The best way for me to care for myself is to keep making art so I can keep these positive feelings going.
Hi, I’m Leah Jay
Straight to your email inbox – New Interfaith holiday cards, the Amphibian Love book (Kickstarter
planned for succeeded in 2015! Publish date: August 2105) – and more soft, colourful yarn works! I’ve got lots of news coming, so stay in touch the easy way by becoming a subscriber to Leah Jay Artworks. Cheers!