Artist Inspiration: Emily Leonard

It occurs to me from time to time that one of the best reasons to live is to experience the look of the sun coming through a window.

It is such a joy and an honor to share the work of my friend Emily Leonard with you all today. Emily is a superbly talented painter whose paintings are included in numerous private and public collections around the world.

I’ve been trying to remember how and when Emily and I first met; it’s a challenge since we probably crossed paths dozen of times before actually getting to know each other. I do remember watching her do a group live paint with my friend Scott up in Seattle. I also remember working with her on an album for our friend Peter Bradley Adams. She had created a whimsical drawing of an owl for the cover while I was designing the album packaging. The final result was Peter’s Leavetaking record, which is honestly one of my favorites.

I have been a fan of Emily’s paintings since I first saw them. Organic, haunting, romantic and complex, her works showcase a love affair with nature. Trees remain her most consistent muse, yet each painting takes on a clear personality of their own as if each is almost a portrait. Her paintings take time, patience and a keen eye for the beauty beyond the literal.

My process and practice mimic these movements: I break down an image and build it back slowly with hundreds of washy layers, glazes and gestures that are more searching than literal. My pieces both take time and contain time. I want them to come upon the viewer as such – slowly and intimately, as if the viewer feels like he found this image instead of me. I want to get at the experience of being in your body in a place. Rather than painting the tree out the kitchen window, I want to paint what it feels like to stand at the kitchen window, looking at the tree while your kettle boils. The moments of mindlessly casting a gaze upon something are to me filled with the real plain life, the simple breath of it all.

Emily is currently spending her summer in France at an artist residence but was kind enough to answer a couple of my questions.

Trees are obviously your inspiration for most of your paintings. When did you become so interested in painting trees? What is it that inspires you about these tree landscapes?
I wasn’t particularly interested in painting trees when I started painting them, I was just interested in painting.  I like to paint things I know well.  I spent a lot of time in the woods in my teenage years, as my parents had just moved onto 60 acres in Franklin, so I knew trees well.  As artists, I think our subject matter is not really the thing we’re saying, it’s merely the language we’re saying it in.  Landscape always felt like my native tongue.

How have you kept yourself growing as an artist?
Mostly, I just keep working.  I’m afraid to take a break or quit, for fear that I might find that I quite enjoy not painting!  It’s important to me to get out and look about from time to time (like I’m doing here in Brittany), but it’s really the steady hours in the studio that lay the path for mature, careful work to find you.

Do you have any plans or goals for the next year?
I’d actually like to take a break from studio practice for a bit.  I have another residency coming up in the fall (in Wyoming).  It’s all by design – I wanted this year to be about getting out of the studio and trying some new things.  I’m working on a new body of work, but it’s way to early to attach any goals to it right now.  I also think I’d like to teach or lecture sometime in the near future.

Finish this statement: I wish 10 years ago I had know…..
Honestly, I don’t really have any regrets.  All of the things I’ve learned in the past 10 years needed to come to me in the time that they did.  BUT, strictly from a business point of view I would say to artists: set very specific goals, put them within a time frame and work backwards telling yourself the things you have to do every month, week, day, etc to achieve them.  Anything is achievable if you can break it down that way.  Also: eat more and dance more.

Thanks, Emily! You artwork is just beautiful. This is great advice for all creatives.

If you’d like to see more of Emily’s work or buy prints of her work, visit her website

Don’t forget, it’s not too late to get your name in the drawing for one of my screen printed Shared Joy posters! Read about it here.

Artist Inspiration: Tad Carpenter

One of the best and worst things about being a designer and illustrator is the ease with which we can see what other designers and illustrators are working on all the time. We can read blogs and see websites, find inspiration in design magazines or even just in your neighborhood Target stores. On one hand, it’s completing inspiring but on the other, it can cripple you with comparison.

On a good day I can look at another designers blog and walk away excited to dive into all my projects, but on a bad day, the kind of day where I’m not feeling inspired or don’t feel like I can crank out the type of illustration I want to, seeing someone else’s work can make me feel discouraged. I can dive into that “I wish I could do that” pit of dispair.

Comparison is an evil mistress.

Lately, however, I’ve been in a good place. After all, I’ve been blessed with an artistic gift which has led me to gain some amazing clients. Lately, seeing the work of talented designers like Tad Carpenter truly inspires me to create. If you haven’t heard of him or seen his work, you are missing out. In my creative option, this guy can do no wrong.

Tad is a talented illustrator and designer based out of Kansas City, and his work can be seen just about everywhere. I’m not exactly sure how I found Tad’s website, I only know that all of his illustration pieces have the ability to make me smile and make me want to be a better designer. He is truly talented. Check out his website and while you’re at it, check out his store as well. He has some sweet posters for sale. And Tad, thanks for encouraging me to get out my sketchbook and draw. I still might think, “If only my stuff looked like this guy’s” but at least now I’m taking out a pencil and letting it move me to create.

*all works shown here are ©Tad Carpenter

Artist Inspiration: Scott Erickson, Live Painter

“…Bringing the making of art into public places”

That’s the vision of my uber talented friend Scott Erickson. He’s a live painter. That doesn’t mean that he’s living and breathing (although obviously both are true) but that he paints publicly, while others sit, listen, sing, watch. Scott is the artist-in-residence at Ecclesia church in Houston as well as a traveling artist, creating art during sermons, worship services, concerts, conferences. He’s just amazingly talented (oh and an awesome karaoke singer… but that’s for another time). As an artist myself, I can’t imagine allowing hundreds or even thousands of people to watch me go through my creative process every time I create an illustration or book cover or whatever. It makes me nervous just thinking about it!

I met Scott probably about 6 years ago. I remember him having a few extra days in Nashville and us taking an afternoon to work on our own individual painting projects in my back yard. So fun. Around that time he was touring with a musician, painting live during each concert and then selling the finished work at the end of the show. He painted whatever stirred him about the songs, the place or whatever was on his heart and it was always amazing. If I were at the show I guarantee I wouldn’t be able to take my eyes of him creating. Why is that?

“It is the process that draws us in. And being an artist, I can say that the process is the best part of the art experience. Very few people ever get to see it though because we are a culture of finished products. We see finished art pieces hanging in galleries. We buy polished music records which have been worked and worked on until they are considered worthy to be packaged and sold at the local music store. Sure you may see a “making of” program on TV or on the special features menu option on your DVD, but most people never get to be on the creative process of making art.”

Man oh man do I love Scott’s paintings. They are bold, graphic, moving, funny. I was looking at Scott’s website today and was amazed many different things he paints these days. Beautiful pastel washed canvases, bold graphic patterns, Vespas, portraits for the TV show Lost (I’m not kidding). I’m still partial to his beautiful portraits of African children (many of while were sold to benefit organizations like World Vision, to provide for orphans and tell their stories), but as I designer I can’t help but love his newer graphic paintings. I’m already making a mental list of all the prints I want to buy and hang up all over my very tiny apartment and office. These two top my list:

So while I’m wadding up my doodles and deleting rejected photoshop files that aren’t “worthy” of being seen by my clients much less the public, Scott is bravely showing the world every step of his painting process, mistakes, imprefections, beauty and freedom, all within the time constraints for a sermon, concert or talk. And doing so brilliantly I might add. High fives to you, friend.

Check out Scott’s websites here and here. Wanna buy a print or painting? Check out his store here. Seriously. Do it.

All paintings © Scott Erickson

And because I know Scott would enjoy this as much as I do… a lil Friday funny for you all.