Florida / United States
Leslie, you’ve had quite an interesting childhood. You were born in Colombia, then moved to Florida and then back to Colombia. Tell us more about you and your journey into the art world (brief bio / history / backstory)?
I was adopted even before I was born, and I actually came early, so my grandmother picked me up while my mother travelled from Miami to Colombia and then I was brought to live in Miami. My mother has always been an artist but stopped painting when her natural daughter ( she would be my older sister) passed when she was four before I was born, so I didn't grow up seeing her paint. She came to Miami to study English and got married. Some years after, the marriage didn't work, and she took my sister and me back with her to Colombia to live with my grandmother.
There is a lot of art and art appreciation in my family. My grandmother always had her home full of art from all over the world, my grandmother's brother is an art collector, my uncles and all my family and people I know have their wall full of beautiful art and have great respect for it, so I grew up surrounded by it.
I have painted and wanted to be an artist ever since I have a memory. I can't even remember a second in my life where I wanted to pursue something else. My dream, which I am very focused on working on from this year on, is selling my work and getting more exposure regularly, creating and painting is in my veins.
You have a degree in Graphic Design and you worked as a freelance illustrator for several years. Can you describe the differences in your art practice and how it evolved over the years?
I studied graphic design to have a way to pay my bills. I have always felt that in art, you are either a great amazing artist or a starving artist. So my “grey zone” was a graphic designer; I didn’t know that it would take most of my time not letting me dedicate time to my art for the past ten years.
I loved studying design because it helped me understand many concepts of colour and a straightforward way of how imagery influences an audience. I don’t like that in graphic design, you have to please the client ( talking as a freelancer). I love that in fine art, you please yourself. My graphic design journey took me to children illustration, which I love. I love working, knowing it will be for kids enjoyment and education and let me experiment more with animation, which is why I came back to the US. I wanted to be an animator; I wanted to work at Disney.
I stopped working as a graphic designer when I gave birth to my first daughter because the most I wanted in my life was to be a fantastic mum and wife, and for that, I felt I just needed time. My daughters gave a whole new meaning to my life, but I know that to be a great mom, I have to also focus on myself, so graphic design had no space in my life. Deadlines and staying up late for clients just doesn’t work for me anymore.
Unlike graphic design, art is an expression of my soul; what’s on my brain is incredibly affected by what surrounds me.
Your current body of work focuses on female body and it’s meaning. You are also using old newspapers as a canvas. Where did your inspiration come from?
The newspaper in that body of work was a way to represent what was going on in the world at that moment. Black Lives Matter, Trump, hatred, Covid, unfairness… If you look closely (I don’t think you can see it in the pictures), the newspaper is The New York Times news of what was going on. I needed something to clutter the canvas; I needed to show what was in my mind under my bright colours.
It was also to show how everything that was happening was a background in many lives. As you can see, the main picture is unaffected by the background. The newspaper acts only as a background, not as a protagonist. Once you turned off the news, your day would just go on. I was very impacted by many friends answer to the virus, being worried only because businesses couldn’t open. They wouldn’t be able to go out dining, by the answer of “oh yea, people die every day, and it affects old people anyways” the lack of empathy in people has really affected me in the past year, and the newspaper is a way to show that..
You are a mother of two girls and you involve them in your daily art practice. Kids have brilliant minds when it comes to creativity. What does your typical day look like?
My typical day starts with my daughters jumping out to me in bed and waking us up at 5 am or 6 am. Then while I make breakfast, the girls are usually reading books and playing with my husband. After we eat, we head to a park for our morning adventure. We love picking up trash in the parks, walking in nature, painting, feeling texture, exploring, dancing, singing. We actually love this so much we decided to sell our house and move into an RV to live inside the parks. Around midday, we come home, make lunch, and the girls take their nap or just have quiet time, and we rest. I love to have enough time to paint or sketch, but it doesn’t happen so often. Once everyone is awake, they have a snack, and we head back outside to play, paint, read. My daughters love books so on rainy days they can spend all afternoon with books and drawing. Around 6/7, we have dinner, and then the girls sleep, and I have a date with my coffee, paper and watercolours for a few hours, then go to sleep.
How did motherhood affect your art practice?
Motherhood was my wake-up call to pay attention to my dream and take it as seriously as I did when I was a child. I want to show my daughters that you can have a profitable business doing your passion. All that we loved to do as kids don't have to end when we grow up, and we have to put ourselves and our souls first. Motherhood has also shown me how much I need my art, my mind, my soul, my everything needs art. Being a mom is not always easy and painting at night is a space I dedicate to myself only, be in the moment 100% and just enjoy the texture of the paper, the pigments. I love putting on a good art documentary or movie (my favourites are Andy Warhol, Basquiat, Frida, Klimt and Picasso) and just dive into the art world while I paint.
When I had my first daughter, I didn't paint for the first six months. Overwhelmed as a new mom, I felt I needed to dedicate 100% to her, my husband, and the house, but I started to feel the need for art. As a mum, you can lose yourself and forget about yourself, and I always remind myself that if I am not happy, I can't make anyone else happy. I believe in energies, and I feel if I'm frustrated, my daughters will get frustrated, and it just becomes a mess. So I keep myself as happy as possible. Connecting with nature also play a big part in keeping everyone in the family happy and balanced. I am not a big shopper, and I hate having too many clothes, shoes, purses…. If I could wear the same every day, I would wear a white tank with shorts and my fanny pack. I'm not too fond of massages or spas, so I'd have a Chai Tea Latte with soy, buy a book or art materials when I want to treat myself. Regardless motherhood has taught me I need to make art daily.
How did you feel about motherhood in the past and how do you feel about it now?
Actually, I never wanted to have kids. I am the type of person that feels the world is in decadence, and we are overpopulated, destroying this planet and nature. But once close before meeting my husband, I realize if the people who care stop having kids, nature won’t have a chance. I feel we have to raise our kids to be kind and loving and stop teaching the thirst for money and carelessness of nature. So the answer for me was not not having kids but raising them to be connected with nature. As soon as my daughters were born, I knew it was the best decision in my life.
What is the message behind your art?
The message behind my art is just a message of love and passion. I love to leave my art open to interpretation. I like to share what inspired it, but when writing the artist statement and things like that, I feel I’m telling people what to look for. Like a philosophy book, I want my art to be fully open to interpretation which will always be different depending on what life the person is living.
When I say “a message of love and passion,” I love my art to be something that will light up your day if you are feeling down a spark to happiness. I love bringing joy to people, and art does that to me, so I hope my art can do that for people.
What does your art do for you?
My art connects me with my inner child. As soon as I read this question, it came to my mind an image of myself when I was little. It transports me to a world of colours, magic; it makes me admire my talent and love my self more. It’s a little bit of time for myself.
What are your plans for the future (career, parenting etc.)?
Career-wise, I am working on creating a community of people that want to learn to paint with watercolours and use watercolour as a method of distressing and connecting with their inner self. I want to be a successful artist and be an artist my daughters can admire.
We also just made a huge life change by selling our home and moving into an RV. We want to be there to enjoy every day with our daughters and discover the world with them. We are planning on travelling around the US and Canada first, and then time will tell.
What advice do you have for fellow art mums?
Take one day at a time and be in the moment as much as possible and put aside a little time a day for yourself and your art. Always keep in mind that you have to be happy to be able to make your family happy.