On my flight to DC I spoke with a man from Virginia who told me about his fascinating life, including the perils of government work in Colombia where he met his wife, Leslie. Our chat about everything from social security to social media eventually lead to my aspirations for being an artist, and he informed me that his wife was an internationally renowned artist located in DC whose life was equally as intriguing. I was thrilled to contact her for an interview to ask her some of my burning questions. Her tips are extremely useful to all aspiring artists.
Your background is intriguing. You studied National Security Resource Strategy and worked at the US Department of State before becoming an internationally renowned artist. How did these experiences influence you?
I see a direct link between my artwork and a lifetime of keeping national security secrets, sometimes having a cover identity, and traveling in hostile areas. My figurative work tends towards emotional ambiguity, with a variety of meanings. This makes the artwork unusual and interesting, I believe.
You lived and worked abroad. Where was the most interesting place you lived?
Bogota, Colombia and other areas of South and Central America continue to fascinate. I met and married my husband there.
Did Colombian culture influence your work?
The Indian influences favor bright colors, which I've adopted. Faces are interesting, reflecting what can be a hard life. It's an exotic and sometimes dangerous place. I try to infuse my artwork with those qualities.
Did you receive any formal training in painting?
I studied under a number of international and national artists, taking workshops and classes here and there.
Did it change your style?
It exposed me to different styles and techniques, but the most important thing I learned was to make my own, personal artwork. So, I try to paint my own life in every figure.
You capture motion and gesture exquisitely. How would you describe your inspiration?
My intention is always to express a feeling, not delineate the model. I'm interested in suggestions only, so parts of my figure paintings are purposely vague, letting the viewer fill in the blanks.
What is the most difficult thing about being an artist?
Not everyone is going to like my artwork. But I prefer that people either hate or love it, rather than be bored by it. That's the most difficult thing about being an artist, constantly pushing oneself to engage, to break new ground, to attempt what is not certain.
What advice would you give to an aspiring artist who is just starting out?
Stop taking lessons or classes. Visit lots of galleries and see what's out there. Then, hole up in your studio and think about something never seen before. Create your own artwork. Make lots of it and don't hold back. Forget what everyone else is doing. If it's something you've seen before, change it.
Do you have a golden rule of art?
If it looks like a greeting card, you've gone in the wrong direction.
Touchstone Gallery’s opening reception is tonight,
Friday October 5, 2012 from 6-8:30pm.
For more information regarding Leslie’s art,
901 New York Avenue
202-347-2787 -Jen Schiller
For more information regarding Leslie’s art, contact:
901 New York Avenue