Welcome to the Leni Levenson Wiener part of the blog hop. If you don’t know me, I hope you will take a few minutes after reading this blog post to look at my website and see my work, my books and my voice coaching for artists.
And I want to thank Heather Dubreuil
for asking me to participate. I adore Heather’s work. Although it reminds me of pen and ink sketches with water color wash, it is all fabric and thread. Her most common subjects are scenes of NYC and Montreal (two of my favorite cities). If you are not familiar with Heather’s amazing artwork, please check out her website and blog. You won’t be sorry!
So these are the questions I was asked to address:
What am I working on?
This is an easy question to answer. I am so excited to be having my first solo museum show this summer and I am happily and busily working on pieces for that exhibition. I have to say I had not expected to find myself so caught up and lost in the process when I have no real deadline (I am doing fine without sticking to a schedule) and with no one else’s parameters. I have set my own size limits, stylistic limits and the exhibition is essentially one very large series, but since that was all my decision it doesn’t feel imposed, just structured. It is nice to remember why I fell in love with working with fabric in the first place.
But the truth is I am ALWAYS working on something! For every project on my worktable, there are two in my head and dozens on the computer waiting for me.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
The short (and maybe somewhat glib) answer to that question is that it is mine. There are other figurative artists working in fabric, many of whom are doing work that just blows me away. But each of us brings to our art our own life experiences, our own vision and our own preferences. So the real answer to the question is that it is my unique artistic voice that makes my work different from others doing similar work.
To begin with, I always work from an image—usually my own photo but occasionally someone else’s if it moves me (and I have permission). I am not able to work spontaneously, I need a road map. I don’t want to reinvent the perspective, the proportions, the light and shadow. Starting from a photo gives me all that information and then the fun of what I do is in finding the right fabric that contains all the information I need to convey.
I am inspired by certain images—I am drawn to people in particular, but people in a solitary and introspective moment I can capture without their notice. I guess that is because in those private moments, when we think no one is looking, we are being truly ourselves—no pretensions, no agenda. When people are just being themselves, caught off guard, is also when we are all most alike. Something about that really grabs me.
My technique, as well, isn’t anything unique or unusual. I have found ways to do what I need to do that work for me. But I always tell students in my workshops to take a little from every teacher, every book, every video, and keep what works and throw out the rest. Just because I find a certain process the best way for me does not make it the best way for anyone else. So keep the seeds of what works and find your own process that is easiest for you. Remember, it does not need to be hard or complicated to be good art—that is something else entirely.
Why do I write/create what I do?
The reasons for writing and creating are different, so I will separate them. Why do I create what I do—because I have to. I can’t explain why, I just NEED to make things, and if I am not in the studio making my fabric collage art, I am making clothes or jewelry, or baking, or doing something creative—because when I don’t I go crazy. When I was a kid I always had to have an art project going or I wasn’t much fun to live with (my younger son was the same way). I just need to be making SOMETHING, something that is my own, generated by me, controlled by me. A therapist’s dream I guess, but making art means I don’t need therapy!
Why I write is something completely different. I write because I want to share. For one thing, so many other artists were so generous with their information when I started my art quilt journey, that I want to “pay it forward”. But also, I get so excited about the feeling of creating something from nothing and I want to share that wonderful feeling with others. Like a drug pusher for art. My work is very solitary, so I love to teach and meet lots of wonderful people, and I get as excited as anyone else in the room when the artworks begin to evolve on the tables in the classroom. It is a rush for me to share and see what I know starting others on their path. I can’t teach everywhere (I would LIKE to) so I write books. Nothing makes me happier than getting emails from people all over the world who want to show me what they made using my book as a guide. It is awesome!
How does my writing/creating process work?
I strongly believe creativity requires structure. Everyone who is not creative thinks artists are these wild and crazy lunatics who just pull their art from thin air and live in their own little world. That could not be farther from the truth. Art requires dedication, research, experimentation, examination, and many hours of work. I don’t care what the creative endeavor, whether it is making art, or writing, or creating music—it is work. It may be pleasurable (it should be pleasurable, because we all know that for most of us it is not lucrative) but it requires serious attention to detail.
For me, I need to spend the hours of the day when my brain is most alert doing the most important things on my schedule, and that usually means either the artwork and/or the book with which I am involved at that time. My schedule is pretty structured—I have coffee, get right to work until about 1, eat lunch and take a break—do other things that require my time, and back to work. But my best hours are between 9 and 1 and I am always out of the studio by 4:00 (because by then I am not all that productive). I also never work more than a few hours at a time without taking a break so I can come back to what I was working on and see it fresh. That is what works for me, but everyone is different.
Lots of emerging artists and students in my workshops tell me they don’t have time to do art. Yes, I know–job, home, family, children they all take up time. Even retired people tell me they can’t fit it in. But until you make it a priority it will never fit into your life. When my boys were old enough, I would steal an hour a day to work on whatever creative project I was involved with at the time (I used to be a sculptor). I would tell them “if it isn’t bleeding or on fire, don’t disturb me.” They found their own things to do—often their own creative pursuits (they started making movies starring our pet rabbit as a super hero—they wrote the scripts, made the sets, the costumes [oh, how the rabbit loved the costumes!] and used an old video camera to make the movies) and we were all happier for it. If it is important to you, it is important enough to fit into your life.