If someone took one of your workshops and had never done mixed media or assemblage before, what would you tell her before she began?
I would remind them that they are there to have fun, to meet like minded people, to learn and try new techniques, and not to stress about the final outcome. I encourage new students to stay open and let go of any expectations about the workshop. I tell them that there really are no mistakes that they cannot fix, and that it is impossible to screw up. To keep their eyes open for happy accidents. To try new techniques, but then pick and choose what they love, and focus on that, rather than struggling with a technique that they don’t like or isn’t working for them.
You’re a favorite of our local mixed media artists and have been here numerous times — What’s your favorite thing about teaching in Northern Colorado?
I love the clean air, the gorgeous mountains and the cool weather. The abundance of art galleries, antique stores and the cool vibe in Loveland and Fort Collins. For selfish reasons, I love the fact that CO is close enough to drive, just a short 6 hour drive from Taos, that I can pack as much crap in my car as I want, and don’t have to worry about weight limits on my bags! I also love that I am able to spend time with wonderful friends that I am not able to see very often.
When you visit NoCo, do you have any special shops where you like to stop in and browse?
The number one stop on my list is always Les Sunde’s shop in Fort Collins, Swamp Gas & Gossamer.
There are 4 or 5 antique shops in Loveland that I always visit, but can’t remember the name of any of them! And there are always great exhibits at the Loveland Museum.
Last year I discovered the Mishawaka, a beautiful concert venue right on the river where I saw Conor Oberst.
What should a new-to-you artist expect from one of your workshops?
My workshops are laid back and relaxed. There are no rules or mistakes & there is nothing that you can screw up….yes, reader of my words, even you!
My workshops are like a buffet at an AA meeting. I offer a plethora of techniques, tips & tricks, you can take what you want & leave the rest!
I do not teach cookie cutter workshops where everyone makes the same project & each piece looks exactly the same. Even though we are all using same basic supplies, the end result is wildly different for everyone.
I like to play music, giggle a lot, tell stories and laugh! The most important thing for me is to make the class fun & make sure people enjoy whatever it is that they are working on.
Of the workshops you’re teaching this September, which is your favorite? Which do you predict will be our favorite?
I swear that I am not trying to be politically correct when I say this, but I love all of them for different reasons. They are all so different! I love to teach people how to create beautiful surfaces with plaster, gesso & ink. I love walking people through the problem solving aspect of assemblage, and bookmaking is just so satisfying in the end.
When I am at home working on my own art, I love the variety and I don’t think that I could ever just focus on one thing, I guess this is why I don’t really have a favorite. When I am making assemblages, I am in my head a lot & doing a lot of problem solving. I spend a lot of time arranging objects, solving attachment issues and staring at my work! Nothing looks right until after I assemble all of the parts, but then it all comes together beautifully at the end.
When I get tired of being in my head so much, I move on to surface design, which is more ethereal, meditative & free form. I don’t have to put much thought into what I’m doing, I just enjoy the process & being in the moment with the mediums & textures until I come up with something that I really love.
It’s the same with bookmaking, sewing the book is the brain work, but I love spending time playing with paint & gesso to create the pages.
Do you have any surprises in store? Can you give us a hint?
No… the word is “surprise”, right?!
How do you differentiate your work from that of other assemblage instructors?
I guess I am more of a purist. I don’t often alter the found objects that I use in my work, even though I absolutely love that look and so appreciate the talent that it takes to work in that way. I use found objects that I love, either because of the memories that they invoke, or because of the beautiful colors, patinas & textures and I just can’t bring myself to alter them.
And I almost never use glue, I try to find a more secure way of attaching things.
Do you still have the first piece of art you ever made? What do you think when you look at it?
I don’t have the first piece of art that I ever made, I don’t even remember it, but I do have the first assemblage that I ever made hanging on the wall above my computer.
When I look at it, I think “What were you thinking? You’ve come a long way baby!!!”
That said, I can’t seem to let it go.
A few years ago I invited Jesso Reno, an extremely talented painter, out to Albuquerque to teach a workshop. When he came to my house, he saw this assemblage & asked me if I wanted to trade it for one of his paintings. I was so honored…and stunned that he was interested, but I just couldn’t do it!
To fully appreciate this, you have to understand that Jesse is god to me! I love his work so much, I have 3 or 4 of his paintings hanging in my studio. His 3 day class was one of the best workshops I’ve ever taken & on top of all of this, he is such a great person.
What do you wish I had asked you in this interview?
After a nine hour drive home from Art Unraveled yesterday, I wish you had asked me if I’d like to take a nap. Someone- anyone- please give me permission to take a nap!!!!!
What’s your favorite word?
My latest favorite word is “perspective”. Several months ago, I was in Bryce Canyon photographing the rock formations. I noticed how even moving the camera a half inch offered an entirely different perspective. It’s been a rough year, and I try to apply this to life events. I find that when I shift my perspective ever so slightly, my whole attitude & emotional frame of mind can change drastically in an instant.
Leighanna – You have permission to take a nap, after all, you live in the Land of Mañana! But seriously, we cannot wait to see you in September and the surprises you have in store for us! Thanks for the interview and we look forward to your workshops this fall.
Do you have a question you’d like to ask future workshop instructors? If so, please email your questions or comment below!