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Friday, November 7, 2014

First Friday: Lesley Eaton's Peppered Paper

You all may remember seeing a taste of Lesley's work in my First Friday tribute to moms. I'm sure those of you who heard about Lesley then are excited to hear more from her now and for those of you newbies...get ready! I wish I had a small gallery of Lesley's work. It is clean and simple yet messy and complex. And here I am enjoying art with bright, bold colors again! Maybe I don't really know what I like. My home is filled with warm/muted tones but we have one light blue room that has turned into our little gallery filled with affordable art from our travels and favorite places. I am thinking Lesley's work would look perfect in that room. I have a problem though...I need more wall space!

Ok, back to Lesley's art not how much I want to own it. Lesley began Peppered Paper years ago and it has grown into this interesting body of work made up of thistles, bugs, animals and musical instruments. I am having a hard time deciding if I have a favorite group. The patience and focus it must take to create these collage works of the tiniest slivers of paper...I just can't imagine. I would have to get regular messages for my tense shoulders if I tried to recreate Lesley's work. For real. Her work is quite different than the other work I have had on the blog and that makes me so happy! I hope you all enjoy learning more about Lesley!

And buy her work here.


Lesley's work currently at Tomato Head in the Gallery Shopping Center

PP: What made you decide to pursue art after completing English studies at Auburn?

LE: I actually started out taking art classes at Auburn and then ended up loving my creative writing and literature classes, and for some reason I thought that an English major was more practical, haha! I took as many art classes as I could and ended up with a minor in Art History. As long as I can remember I’ve been pursuing art in some way, and creative writing was a natural compliment to visual arts for me. Pursuing an MFA in illustration was a perfect way to combine my passion for words and images, and it’s still my hope to write and illustrate books one day.

PP: Have you always been creative or is there something you discovered in undergrad that made you make a commitment to art?

LE: Always. I’m very right-brain dominant, so I’ve always found joy in and a natural ease to the creative process: writing, drawing, imagining. In elementary school we had an assignment where we were to create a character, their food, natural habitat, etc. I created a creature that lived on a checkerboard, blending in with his surroundings, and I was asked to take it to the principle’s office to show him! I remember being so nervous and thinking it was really no big deal; creating things like that always came very easily for me.

PP: How did you land on creating a body of work centered on collage?

LE: In art school people would always say something along the lines of “your style will just find you,” which is exactly what happened. My process and style came about very intuitively, and continues to develop without me intentionally directing it. There’s something I love about the tactile nature of painting and cutting and gluing papers. I love working with my hands in that way, the resulting textures and vibrant colors, and the contrast created where painterly chaos meets crisp hard edges. 

PP: I love how bright and cheerful your color palate is. Have you always gravitated to these colors? Did you choose them mainly in thinking of illustrating children's books?  

LE: I love bright colors! I think they work well for children’s books, but that’s not my reason for choosing them. I’m just naturally drawn to bright, happy colors, even in decorating our house. In my newer work I use a lot of the same pieces of “peppered paper,” and I’m really happy with how unifying the color is. Some of the same paper that’s used for the insects is also found in the instruments and the antlers on the deer and elk. 

PP: Have you always created wildlife and musical instruments?

LE: My first piece of “peppered paper” work was a thistle, which is appropriate since thistle is considered a weed, and the work is created out of my drop cloths, the paper on my drafting table used to collect the excess paint and splatters, i.e. scrap paper. After the thistle came the banjo, then a few other instruments, and now the insects and wildlife.

PP: What made you decide on this subject matter? 

LE: I’m interested in the use of line and composition creating each subject. There are thin strings and elegant thick lines in each piece, unifying the work along with the paper. I’m also very aware of the design and the negative space, so I have to be able to picture each object in my mind for it to make the cut, literally! Each series starts with one object or element in my mind that I want to shape with my paper: the prickly parts of the thistle, the body of the mandolin, the antlers of the deer and elk, every unique and graceful detail of the insects. 

PP: Does having two busy little boys influence your work

LE: Definitely time in my studio is a lot more precious these days. The creative process is so intuitive for me. I work best when I don’t have to pay attention to time, a luxury I just don’t have right now. I’m learning to work in shorter periods and on a somewhat smaller scale; the insects are a good example of this.

The photo on the left is Lesley's Peppered Paper and on the right are originals

PP: When you create a piece, what does the process look like? Are you drawing the subjects at all? Painting a lot of paper to build your subject? 

LE: As I mentioned, the image is first created in my mind, then I gather references. I want all the details to be correct, even though the shapes and colors are very expressive. Most often I start with a drawing, then I use tracing paper to focus on individual parts of my drawing, finding the perfect piece of “peppered paper” for each component. Even though my painted papers are collections of unintentional color and design, I am very intentional in selecting the paper. Sometimes it’s trial and error until I get it right. By using tracing paper I can usually see if my selection will work before getting out the knives! Occasionally I’m not happy with my first selection and I change it up once everything is placed together. I’ll also paint over papers if I want a solid color for something, but I always make sure some of the “peppered paper” shows through. The final and most tedious step is the gluing. It takes time, but I find it very meditative. 

PP: Tell me about the pieces that currently make up your exhibit at Tomato Head. Are these pieces you made specifically for this show?

LE: The majority of the work was made specifically for this show. Some are continuations of a series; I added some new instruments and insects. The animals are a new series I started in preparation for this show. I began experimenting with tearing some of my papers for the animal series, which was fun and created a different effect. I also played around with not gluing every piece completely, allowing some fur, whiskers, and wings to be more three-dimensional. 

PP: How long will this exhibit be up? Do you have anything scheduled in the coming months?

LE: My work is now at The Tomato Head in the Gallery Shopping Center on Kingston Pike in West Knoxville and will be there through December 8th. I’m hoping to participate in the holiday market on Market Square the first three Saturdays in December. 

After graduating with a Bachelor's degree in English Literature and Art History from Auburn University, Lesley's love of story telling and the imagination led her to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in Illustration from Savannah College of Art and Design. 

Lesley's style incorporates painted paper collage, which reflects her passion for exploring the beauty of juxtaposition. The chaos of the tears, spatters, paint strokes, and exciting textures of painted paper combines with the crisp hard edges of cut paper in engaging compositions. A bright and vivid palette reflects the nature of her stories, which speak of the importance of imagination in a hopeful and fanciful context. Her work is bold and quiet, scary and hopeful, realistic and fantastical, chaotic and peaceful, always filled with the beauty of chaos and order, as is the process of creating. 


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