July 16, 2018
Leigh Anna Newell
BY BEE PAPER
Meet our artist feature, Leigh Anna! Leigh Anna makes tiny, lovely creations. Learn about why she makes them so small, why she sometimes doesn’t use paper, and her advice to other artists like yourself!
1) When did you begin making art? Was there an inspiration for that or was it something you always wanted to do?
My earliest memory of making art was when I was a young girl, maybe 6 years old, sitting on the couch with my mom one Sunday afternoon. She had her sketch pad and a pencil. I had my crayons and a desire to learn how to draw. She taught me about form, value, looking at my surroundings and bringing things into existence within a blank page. From there, I drew any and every thing that I saw or imagined. Being an artist was definitely something I always wanted to do.
2) Your pieces are so small and lovely! What was the draw to tiny art?
Thank you ever so much. Honestly, tiny art began on a whim. Life happened with an early departure from college, marriage, children, and 10 years in a career I never wanted. Art, on the other hand, was not happening as often as needed. So I left said career to become a stay-at-home mom and artist thanks to my husband’s encouragement. My dad even talked of opening an art and photography shop together. At a small desk in our bedroom, I began… But life has a strange way of turning plans upside down. In 2012, I became terribly ill, my father passed away unexpectedly and making art became unbearable. To help cope, art session times were reduced to 15, 30 or 60 minutes. Mediums that were easier on my hands were chosen, as well as taking more walks and photographs.
Then one day having some left over scrabble tiles from a children’s project, a personal challenge was set to draw a fully detailed image in pencil, then ink, and finally paint while keeping all the tiny details. It worked. The next challenge was to recreate a landscape painting on a bit of wood measuring just 17×22 mm while keeping its full impressions and atmosphere. It too worked. Elated and captivated by the tiny art process, I began… Some years later, we would learn that my great uncle was a miniature portrait artist. So though tiny art began on a whim, it continued out of necessity and a deep passion for the process.
3) Often you chose not to work on paper, when did you start using things other than paper for your art and what’s the most unusual canvas you’ve used?
The art schools I attended 25 years ago were pretty big on assignments, yet encouraging when it came to experimenting beyond the set perimeters. Often scraps of wood, mats, glass, tapes, plastics, metals, unusual papers and such would inevitably ended up as substrates for my art pieces. That certainly did not change when I began creating tiny art. Loved ones have even begun collecting found objects for me to use, like tiny crystals, push pins, rocks, metal items and such. The most unusual thus far would have to be the pistachio shell we found on the beach thinking it was a seashell. It began a whole series of pistachio shell paintings.
4) Favorite Bee Product?
Hands down, the 100% cotton watercolor paper in 140 lb. sheets is my favorite Bee product. With good absorption, lift, and durability, it is delightful when using watercolor, gouache and ink. Love that the sheets are under 10 inches, which allows for ease in handling, storage and cutting down into various tiny pieces.
5) Any advice for an artist trying to find their style?
Not one for giving advice, as our individuality means life experiences can be so varied, but here’s what I found helpful. Know yourself. Know what you like in art, not just what you like to look at, but what you actually like to create. Think about those moments when you are bored and aimlessly doodling. What do you draw? What are you drawn to? Frustrates you? Excites you? Lean into those things. Challenge yourself. Experiment. Practice. Observe. Learn. Repeat. In doing this, I often see a pattern emerge, a flicker of curiosity and follow it, which is how my art style, as you say, shifts and grows.
6) In celebration of world watercolor month, do you have any advice for the new watercolorist?
My previous answer would work just as well here, but I would add one more step: PLAY. Do not let any one belittle the importance of playing. As children, we discover our world through play. It is no different for us as artists. Try different techniques and tools just to see what happens. Be curious. Seek the enjoyment of engaging with the water, pigment, brush and paper. Discover what they do and how they interact in different scenarios. Then play some more.