1. Welcome Leigh to The Influx Gallery family. Tell us a little bit about yourself and where you are from?
Thank you so much for the warm welcome! I was born in western Texas and grew up in that region in the United States. It was mostly very small towns that were cotton and oil dependent for the economy. As a result, most of my friends and I grew up with hard working parents and the example that dreams and imagination were really for other people. We were in the business of living day-to-day and moment-to-moment.
2. Were your family supportive of you deciding to become an artist?
My mother was always very supportive of my creativity, but growing up no one else really knew anything about. Creative pursuits weren’t really seen as practical or prosperous. I was married and raising children when I went to university, so my husband knew, and he was supportive. I also have a son and daughter-in-law who are massive supporters of this journey. Honestly, I don’t know how I would survive without them.
3. Was there anything specific that you can remember that made you want to become an artist?
I have always had art in the background of my life as a way to allow my imagination to flow but teaching Literature in college was my career and my focus. My art did not become front and center until we moved to Florida in 2018. I was always very private about my art and very few people had ever seen what I created. My daughter had always talked to me about showing my art, but I never really had the confidence to believe that my art would speak to anyone. But about 10 years ago I started to have mobility issues brought about by a series of injuries to one of my knees and by 2018 I realized that I couldn’t go back to teaching. My husband saw that I was becoming depressed and isolated and suggested my art would be a good way to occupy my mind. My daughter was fully supportive and excited to see that I was painting again, and it was very soothing. I don’t think he nor I ever thought about this becoming a career, but Amanda’s death brought about a different way of thinking about life. So I started sharing my work for the first time by entering shows and the result was I started to believe that I had something to say. My son and daughter-in-law have been so excited to see the works that I have done and it makes my heart happy.
4. Did your schooling or work affect your creative development in any way?
Honestly, while my art education did broaden my vision and expose me to many different techniques and styles, I am more effected by my every day experiences. I find that I look more inwards for my style.
5. Where do you get your inspiration and influences from?
I am heavily influenced by abstract ideas and forms, but really at this point in my life I am allowing my emotions in any given moment to influence what comes out on the canvas.
6. Do you have a favourite painting technique?
I love working with mixed media and try to incorporate it into everything. I’m a huge fan of palette knife work, but mostly my technique is kind of all over the map. It’s really whatever is inspiring me in the moment. I know that isn’t really favored in the art world, but it is honestly how I work. I think I would drive my art professors insane!
7. You are a purveyor of the idea that is art is therapy? How do you contextualise this within your work?
To me, there really is no better therapy than art. I want the observer to
really feel something from my work. I am really laying my emotions bare on the canvas and that is a very scary thing to do personally. But I feel that I would be doing myself and the memory of my daughter an injustice by hiding these very. powerful emotions behind a pretty beach scene or a pretty portrait. Her death has brought such a focus on how we view death as a society, especially the death of a child. She was 32 when she was killed, but it brings us no solace as a family that we had so many years with her. My husband and I have found that even in grief support groups we are very isolated. No one really wants to talk about a child who has died and then because we are non-religious, it isolates us further. So I use my art as
therapy to show the isolation and the pain that is what we live every day.
8. What was your most enjoyable piece to paint?
Oddly enough, my most enjoyable piece so far has been one that my son
inspired. I had asked him what colors he thinks about when he thinks of his sister. He told me the colors, but then he also said he thinks of chaos and complexity as well. The piece is a fluid piece, and the technique is called a modified chaos pour.
9. How you see your painting evolving over the next 10 years?
Over the next 10 years I would like to see my art and the non-profit we have just created “The Invisibility Project” meld together to become a powerful way to connect grieving people with artistic outlets. I also hope that I can use my art to educate on how vital it is that we change how we view grief and its complexities. I hear from other parents how people
around them will give them a time limit on their grief and how they feel as if it is only acceptable to grieve in private after that time. It’s very wrong to me to impose these ideas on people who are already experiencing such a life changing event. Grief comes in many forms and from many life events, but to limit how much a person can grieve is tragic in its own way. I hope that “The Invisibility Project” can provide people with a safe space to help in their healing process, no matter what they are healing from.
10. Do you collect art or have a favourite painter?
My husband and I love to travel and we buy a piece from a local artist everywhere we go. Over our 35 years together we have amassed quite a collection of artists work from around the world. I must confess though that I am particularly fond of Berthe Morisot (1841-1895) as she broke through the predominately male art world with her impressionistic
paintings. I love how her style looks almost unfinished. It just fascinates me.
11. We were enthralled by the brilliance of your solo exhibition. Beautiful abstract and figurative works that resonate with love, loss and grief, and yet remaining joyous. Do you have any advice to a young painter starting out?
Honestly, the best advice I can give any young painter is to not become so convinced of your own brilliance that you don’t listen to helpful critique. I have never been what would be considered an arrogant artist, I’m quite the opposite as I drive my agent insane by doubting my work. But I have come across many artists who are so convinced that their own work is brilliant, they miss the opportunity to grow by listening to how others are perceiving their work. And for goodness sake, don’t expect to make millions right out of the gate! Money should not be the motivating factor in art. I do want to sell my paintings to buyers who love them, but it is not my intrinsic
motivation. When an artist is emerging as I am, it is most important to look at this endeavor as a journey of self-discovery. I think life is all about discovery and learning, even learning about things that nightmares are
12. Thanks a lot for your valuable time and interest. You can include any other details you want to talk about here?
Thank you for the opportunity to talk about such a difficult topic. I know my art is sometimes difficult to contemplate, but I think it is precisely that difficulty that makes it important. I hope that people who are viewing a
piece of my art will be able to walk away contemplating an issue that is important to them.