I got this really sweet request in my email a couple of weeks ago. It was an art student from across the pond looking to interview me for a school project. I spent a bit of time answering her questions, and I decided to post the email conversation here just because I have been an organizer lately instead of an artist and there has not been any new art in a few weeks or more. After a full year of crazy life, a solo show, a surgery and long recovery, my studio has had it. I had so much disorganization it became almost impossible to achieve anything creative. I spent all my time trying to find stuff! So I spent the last month totally revamping, destashing, and rethinking my studio space. I rolled over my ephemera collection and this past weekend, at long last, the procedure came to an end. I am ready to DO ART! Meanwhile, dear reader, enjoy the interview!
> On Apr 29, 2010, at 3:37 AM, Grace Leeder wrote:
> > Dear Julie Sadler,
> > My name is Grace Leeder and I am currently studying for my art A-level in Norwich, Norfolk, England. I came across you work on the internet and was instantly intrigued. I especially liked your "Composition XX4" as I am a huge fan of collagist pieces.
> > For my externally set assignment with the theme of "obsessions and passions" I have to research 2 artists who's work inspires me and that I am interested in. Along with Lisa Milroy, I would really enjoy responding to your fantasic works. To fully respond to any artist as part of my coursework, I have to explore contexual information about the artist, such as education, technique and background.
> > Therefore, I would be honoured if you would be so kind to as send me some such information about yourself.
> > If there is any way I could help this process, should you be so kind as to agree to help me in my studies, please email me and let me know. I would also be happy to pass on my art teacher's details if you'd like.
> > Thank you so much for taking the time to read this email.
> > Yours Sincerley
> > Grace Leeder
> From: Julie Sadler
> To: Grace Leeder
> Sent: Fri, 30 April, 2010 19:35:20
> Subject: Re: Studying your work
> Hi Grace,
> I am honored that you would like to include me in your studies! I teach Design and Graphic Arts as an adjunct professor at SUNY Cobleskill. I am happy to help you in this project.
> Maybe it's best if you set up some questions and I can answer them. I get lost when I try to write paragraphs about myself....
> Let me know what I can do for you,
From: Julie Sadler
To: Grace Leeder
Sent: Tue, 4 May, 2010 14:12:20
Subject: Re: Studying your work
Dear Grace, Thanks, this makes it much easier to figure out what you are seeking. Lets see what I can do here!
On May 4, 2010, at 5:33 AM, Grace Leeder wrote:
> Dear Julie,
> Thank you so much for replying to my email! Here are a few questions of things I'd love to know about - feel free to elaborate as much as you like on the question. Thanks again so much for taking the time to do this for me.
> • When and where were you born?
I was born in 1959...in Oceanside, NY. It's a place on Long Island, just east of New York City. I didn't live there long though. My parents moved briefly to New Jersey, and then to Michigan for a few years. I finished up high school in rural upstate New York, which is where I have stayed throughout the rest of my life. I consider this home.
> • What are/were your parent’s professions and has this influenced your work or lifestyle?
My father....was a research chemist. He worked with glue and resins. He is a sincere lover of culture, even though his job was an analytical one. He promoted music, dance, theater, art....and when our talents became obvious, he gave us extra training and support.
My mom...was a homemaker of the most creative type. My mom sewed...and i don't mean just clothes, I mean she could make slipcovers for couches, and beautiful elaborate valances for curtains. She learned to tole paint and made interesting home accessories. She learned stain glass and made windows for the house. She cooked like a gourmet. She knitted, crocheted. There wasn't much that my mother couldn't do! She was the ultimate host and the ultimate chameleon, creating things from nothing.
Through Dad's love for culture, and my mothers obvious penchant for living creatively, an environment of exploration was created. My parents' never stopped me from pursuing anything that interested me. I know the cultural background they provided me was the foundation that still allows me to think different, be different and therefore create.
> • What training or education have you had?
HA! This question is kind of funny to me, actually. When i was really young, I was in a store and sat down in front of the play organ and began to pick out tunes on it. My mom and dad heard this and were amazed at the fact that I had no training and I was playing music. So began a short career in music. I was given a flute in 5th grade, and my parents immediately started me on flute lessons, too. 2 years later, we also got a piano and I did lessons on that and flute until I graduated from high school. I liked music, and it was something I was easily good at. I joined up in symphonies...got scholarships twice to 2 different music camps. The second one, I won a summer at Chatauqua. 7 weeks exposed to art and music. While I was hanging out with some friends in a practice shack, I saw a girl doing some pen and ink freehand pieces. I was immediately enthralled. That fall, I signed up for my first art class. Unfortunately, I was already a senior in high school, and it was too late for taking any other classes. I loved art. I loved the private nature of it. I could create in silence, in private. With music, people watched me when I played. It scared me. I didn't have a lot of confidence back then, and having an audience all listening intently to me and staring at me was just too much. That and my parents were very annoying...making me practice practice practice when I wanted to go and hang out with friends and grow up. Abruptly...I just up and quit. It really hurt my Dad, who was grooming me for college on a music scholarship.
I am completely self taught in art. Thru the next decade, I got married and had 2 daughters. In my spare time, art was always a form of self espression. Pen and ink. watercolor. Later on, I learned rustic furniture skills and began drawing on baskets I would make from birch bark I collected in the woods. It was a slow process.
Finally my daughters grew up and moved on. That decade was spent intensely making collages. Until now it is second nature.
I took out library books from the Utica library to learn to use color. I put myself thru a rigorous watercolor study, and I painted en plein air in the buggy Adirondack woods for 2 years straight. Finally, I craved a change...some freedom. I saw some collage work on the internet. Immediately, I got myself a small journal and filled it with crazy dragonfly collages. This particular piece was my very first collage experience. I have it online here...
My mom loved it. She told me I had talent in this. I was astounded. She never really told me that before. Not even when I was a musician. This must have held heavy weight in my mind, because I still remember it.
I joined up in several Yahoo groups...Art Erratica, Collage, Assemblage, and Altered Books. I absorbed like a sponge various mixed media techniques. It was a free for all, after the very restrained watercolor work and pen and ink work I had done previously. I loved it.
I tried altering a book....called it Dreamiverse. I also did the journal Composition XX4, that you mentioned. I loved this free attitude. This idea of making things look random, but yet having them work into something else, it was like magik. At the time I wore geeky yellow glasses. Hence, magikglasses....the website name.
My style kept morphing and changing. I did literally thousands of collages. Worked in peoples' round robin projects. Worked with Melissa to create AEZine and produced that for a few years.
Somewhere in here I learned how to create interactive pieces, using flash. It was something I needed for work, but ended up being helpful in my own artwork too.
Just recently I did a series of 6 movies, based on some collage pieces. I got to use my music skills, which sometimes I yearn to do.
The learning continues I hope forever.
It's all been so amazing. Published in books, been in a DVD. Had a successful solo show.
My latest project is barely started. I am writing/illustrating a fairy tale.
> • Did you ever consider an alternative career?
Well, actually I have one. I have supported myself in computer graphics since I was 25. I learned to typeset and paste up. Later, I learned desktop publishing on a Mac...and ran the department for a union print shop. When the internets became vogue, I learned web publishing, networking...
My day job consists of maintaining 15 websites, mac training in Photoshop, Illustrator, Quark, InDesign. I advise on software purchases; I design 4 color ads for publication in magazines; it's a great job and always I am learning.
Last year, I got a part time job working as an adjunct professor at SUNY Cobleskill. I taught InDesign/computer graphics. This past semester I taught Design 111 in the art studio. It's been absolutely terrific. I love working for the college!
> • Are there any specific events in your life that have influenced you in your work?
My love for the Adirondacks...the balsam woods. The birches. There is a part of me that resists mankind and loves to be in the middle of a deep wood beside a lake painting. With no one around but an occasional squirrel or black bear.
> • Are there any artists that you take inspiration from?
Charles Burchfield: for his watercolors, and the idea of expressing sound with visuals
Homer: for his exquisite watercolor technique
O'Keefe: for her fantastic extravagant view on things
Maxfield Parrish: for his flamboyant color usage, and turning me onto the Golden Spiral
> The Canadian Group of 7: nature painting
Mark Ryden, Jeff Soto: lowbrow surrealism
Camille Rose Garcia: ability to create consistent characters across narration
Kiki Smith: feminism expressed in her art
> • Are there any artistic movements that you take inspiration from?
ALL of them!
I use everything and anything that I think will express my intention.
> • What are your favourite mediums and processed to use in your work?
Golden Acrylics, for smooth backgrounds. I use them like watercolors. The binder keeps the pigment from floating when I get heavy with glues or mediums.
Talas Jade, for gluing objects that have to have surface texture.
Photographs: for their realism!
Typography: I deconstruct it and it creates and odd otherworldly feeling
> • Have you explored any media in your career that you found unsuccessful? If so why?
I am looking into encaustic. Not sure it's for me. I haven't formed my final opinion on it yet.
I like the long term preservation of this media.
I would like to explore oils. But I don't think I have patience for it.
> • Are there any particular figures/objects/scenes that your enjoy observing and documenting?
Yes. I seem to be drawn to scenes without people. I love stumps, swamp plants. Woods. Forests. Forest animals. Lakes. Streams. After I work on a background, I most often am compelled place a figure in it. I know it's semi-autobiographical. It's me resting among the flora and fauna. Sometimes I have company in my mind...and in these pieces I place my lover, or my family. I try hard to change the scenes, let this all become more spontaneous, but when I let myself go into that creative trance-like state, usually a scene from nature will be poured onto the page, and not things of a man made nature.
I am also quite fond of the stars above. I feel the presence and influence of things that I don't think we can see directly. I try to place floating objects in a lot of my work. They represent these unknowns. I feel that the stars affect us in some remote way and lately I find myself taking photos of clouds and sky formations.
I predict you will see more of this in my future work!
Good luck Grace. Had we been doing this in person, I think I would have talked your ear off!
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions! I can't wait to respond to your techniques - and I really think that the information you have given me will really give me the edge in my work - a lot of my class mates get rather good at googling artists and copying and pasting into their sketch books...I really appreciate your giving me such a personal insight into your life - past and present.
I look forward to perhaps sending you some of my work to see whay you think!