Meet Heather Sleightholm of Audrey Eclectic. Oh and that little cutie with her is Audrey.
She is one of my favorite artists right now and she is my very first artist to be featured here at Art-n-Sewl. She painted a commission piece for me as my anniversary present and it is the most beautiful thing I own.
Here look at this beauty...no, not me, the painting of me and my angels:
I asked her to answer some questions for me. Her work is so hauntingly beautiful.
I can't say enough about her, so I'll let her do all the talking. Enjoy the very first Art-n-Sewl's Artist Appreciation feature.
What do you create?
The best way to describe what I create is mixed media folk art paintings. I like to combine traditional folk art illustration with modern collage techniques.
How did you come up with your business name and does it have special meaning?
Audrey Eclectic is named after my daughter, Audrey. She is sort of the inspiration behind it all. I tentatively started my painting business when I left my 9-5 job to stay home to be with her when she was about 8 months old. Becoming a mom really changed a lot of things in my life, even my ideas and interests in art. She's my inspiration in many ways, so it's only right to pay tribute to that.
When and why did you decide to be an artist?
That's a tricky question…I feel like I've always been an artist, even as a little girl, I was the 'artsy girl' so it was always a part of my identity. I can't remember not drawing. As a kid, I would sit for hours filling notebooks with my little stories and illustrations.
In high school I had wanted to go to art school, but from everyone around me I got the impression that doing that would be frivolous and expensive. So I went to college to get a 'practical' degree, and felt sort of directionless about the whole thing. As I graduated and joined the workforce though, art became more and more a part of my life. At one point I was a jewelry designer (which used a lot of drawing and artistic skill) and then a newspaper writer, photographer and assistant editor.
However, living the life of a full-time artist had always been my dream, and when I was given the opportunity to be home with my daughter on a full-time basis, I just started painting and slowly a business was started.
Where do you find inspiration for your projects?
In many different places, sources, and eras. That's why my paintings aren't all the same. I love history and stories and so I use the past--- such as early America, the Victorian era and even the 1920s as inspiration. I also love to use uplifting words and phrases to deepen the meaning of a painting. I live out on the prairie, so rolling landscapes, big skies, flowers and wooded forests are favorites to put into my paintings. I'm also a big fan of fairytales and fiction….that combined with things that are central to my life—like motherhood, love, faith, and friendship-- all come together in my paintings.
What keeps you motivated and what can make you get in a artistic slump?
I've just come to accept that inspiration comes in peaks and valleys. No one is 100% inspired all the time. Inspiration is like a well and you have to be good about filling it. Sometimes that means taking a break from the painting table. Even if it's just going for a walk, seeing a movie, or reading a book. I'm lucky to have a place that always inspired me--- Eureka Springs, Arkansas. It's a tiny artsy town full of old Victorian homes and shops nestled in the steep Ozark mountains and it really just makes me so happy and inspired to be there. I try to go 2 or 3 times a year.
But most of all, I think the key to getting out of an artistic slump is to realize "this too shall pass" because it always does. This was a hard lesson for me to learn, but I have now. Just let your muse breath and rest for a while, then something will catch her eye and you're back to painting!
What would be a dream project that you'd love to work on?
One day I would love to write and illustrate a book. That would be like the ultimate realized childhood fantasy!
What advice would you give to someone wanting to be a full time artist?
Get involved. You're going to have a hard time finding an audience for your work if you're just painting at home and never sharing it. Get involved with activities and events both online and in your community. Sites like flickr and MySpace can help you connect with other artists and your community. Blogging has also had a huge impact on my art. And be a kind blogger--- take the time to visit and comment with those who've taken the time to do the same for you.
And don't underestimate the community where you live! Get involved in art shows and craft fairs. Start small and grow your confidence. It is amazing where these little events can lead, and it is an awesome experience to actually see and interact with someone who is purchasing your art.
What's the most important thing you'd like people to know/understand about your art?
That it's made from the heart. And my goal in selling to others is that it speaks to their heart—that something that has a meaning to me can in turn mean something to them. That is the best part of finding homes for my paintings—they always seem to find where they will be most loved and treasured!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned as an artist?
Just create what YOU love. Don't worry about others' tastes or what they think is art. If you create what makes you happy and what you enjoy, chances are there are kindred spirits out there that will enjoy it too.
If you had the time, what new craft/medium would you like to learn or use?
I'd like to learn how to make stoneware. I've seen some really beautiful vases and pots and would love to learn how to do it, all I'd need is a kiln! I've also tried several times to learn to knit and always run off track. I guess I am no fiber artist!
What's your definition of a perfect artistic day?
Let's see…Ok, I will have just returned from a relaxing stay in Eureka Springs. It is a rainy day and I am painting--- uninterrupted—for hours, drinking cups of hot chocolate, my dog Henry sleeping at my feet, and probably one of my Tasha Tudor DVDs playing in the background. And oh yeah, what I paint is absolutely gorgeous ;)
Where do you see yourself in 5 years as an artist?
In 5 years Audrey will be in school and so I will have some solid blocks of time to paint! I hope in 5 years to have a steady round of craft shows in my schedule (this is already coming to be!) and selling all my creations whether through shows or Etsy. I'd also love to delve more into writing, perhaps illustrate a book or a story outside of art. I just hope I can continue to add to my family's income through my artwork.
What was the biggest influence on your talent. Who nurtured it and what can mothers do to nurture that in their children?
I suppose the first influence and nurturer was my mom. She took painting lessons when she was expecting me (perhaps I learned in utero?) and was really into the craft movement in the 1980s. I started painting on things—wood, rocks—in the garage with her while she made her crafts. When I was a teenager I was really into the 90s movie "Rome + Juliet" and my mom was totally behind me painting a big angel mural on my bedroom wall from a scene in that movie. I was just sort of given the supplies for art and told to go do my thing.
In my 'grown-up life', my biggest nurturer is definitely my husband. He is the one that supports our family out in the 'real world' and supported me leaving the workplace to care for our daughter and pursue my dream of painting. I literally wouldn't be doing this without him. And he always thinks everything I make is wonderful and lovely!
As for what mother's can do to nurture artistic talent in their children, expose them to art, for one thing; and when they show interest in a particular thing, look deeper into it. Take it seriously. Send them to a summer art camp or a dance clinic, something that will give them a memorable experience in the medium they love. Just be supportive and expect messes! And no matter what, always let them know they're free to express themselves with your support.
Thank you so much Heather!
OK- you all have to check out these awesome ornaments. They are very reasonably priced and she will have them back in her shop after a big show this weekend. Get one, get two. Buy them all.....muahhahahaha :)
If you have an artist you would like to see featured please email me at leylands (at) gmail.com