Friday, January 20, 2012

Letting Go

Whoa! I've been so insanely busy that I didn't realize how long it's been between posts..which surprises me cause I enjoy writing this blog so much.
Somehow, daily living (oh you know what i'm talking about!) and the holiday season , which began for me in the middle of October and an obivious problem i have with time management got in the way.
For some reason, i've been thinking a lot about my single working girl(not THAT kind of working girl, stop it!) days in New York City and how looking back it seems like a different lifetime.
I thought i was sooo in my studio apartment on the upper East Side..i shared it with a on again off again leak in my closet from the lady upstairs who would fall asleep in her bathtub, and roaches with a New York attitude,some so large and hostile that they wore gang colors and leather jackets. But i loved first apartment, on my own.
My now best friend of 35 plus years lived across the hall, and we quickly learned that we shared a love of eating , going dancing and splitting a frozen Sara Lee cheesecake for dinner the night before payday.
That was my first "studio", my first workspace, where i did freelance art and fashion illustrations, and started feeling like a "real" artist..i was suffering, wasn't I? Staying up late at night at discos, getting a few hours sleep,going to work, living on coffee ( and frozen cheesecake), spending what little money i had on platform shoes and clothes and going to concerts. On my own, learning to be responsible for myself, learning how to be alive.
I think that this is all coming back to me cause my youngest son, Ben, is moving across the country to California to pursue his dreams, and I am beginning to realize why my mother stood in the doorway of our house in Staten Island, crying as my dad put the last of my boxes in the car. So hard for her to let go of me..The end of being someone's child, the beginning of being their adult. Ben has been a man for quite awhile.He became one at 16, the night my husband died. But he's ready to start a life based on what he sees as his future , and i'm very proud that i raised him to not be afraid to try , to dare , or live with regret of things left undone.
And I have to admit that i'm sort of have this tremendous. beautiful open road ahead of him,to weave it into anything he desires, and claim it as his own.
After a few weeks of being melancholy about not seeing him all of the time, i've started to realize that i have all of those unique opportunities in front of me as well..every day there is a new chance to dare to do something you've always wanted to do, to learn, to try..a new language, a new technique for my art, a new attitude toward embracing life.
And I'm starting to feel like that 25 year old girl again..excited and a little unsure..for me and for Ben, but it sure feels good...just like i remember it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Running Towards A Dream

A year ago, my shop ROCKANDROLLHART became a reality.

It always exisited, somewhere in my mind..a place where i kept all those illustrations and ideas that i would do "someday", and time went by.

It took a moment last summer, when i realized how happy i was as i was completing a drawing that a client had commissioned of Jimi Hendrix. In the zone, listening to Hendrix, blasting on the player and I realized i could open a second shop, just for work like this..indulge my creative whims and get lost in the process of celebrating what i and art.

So here we are , a year later and the shop has evolved from only rock and roll caricatures, to funky women's portraits, and psychedelic art and recently, my new love, fantasy art.

To thank all of my fans, those of you that enjoy and collect my work and to welcome those of you new to my shop, I'm offering a SALE ITEM AND a GIVEAWAY.

I usually sell 4 of my blank Rock and Roll caricature greeting cards for $9. from today , 9/5 until the end of September, you will recieve 6 cards for $9 (plus shipping) choose from any of the prints in my shop..rock and roll, funky women, or fantasy fairytale art. These will make a great holiday gift, teacher appreciation gift, or as some of my customers do..put them in a frame and keep them for yourself.

For the's easy..just go to my Facebook page and become a fan, then leave a comment here on my blog.. you must do both please..i'll pick a winner at random at the end of the month and send them a surprise 8.5 x 11" print from my shop, to say thank you for celebrating with me.

It's hard to believe that my new child is a year old..time flies when you love what you do and get to share it with the wonderful people like all of you that i have had the pleasure to meet.

ROCK ON!!! Leslie

Saturday, July 23, 2011

From beginning to end

Every time i get an urge to create a new drawing, it's almost finished before i even get it onto paper.

The art is something that i can sometimes"see" perfectly colored and formed in my mind. Some pieces start as an idea..a sweet photo of my dog Rosie, a feeling about the 60's that i get when i hear a particular song, a little notation on a post it note, a sketch that i did after having to pull over when i was driving brcause i was afraid that i would lose the drawing i was thinking about.

And so when those swirls of color and pencil lines begin to intrude in the day to day rolodex in my brain, i get excited. Sometimes as i refine a pencil sketch, the art goes in a different begs for an emphasis in the line work, or a brilliant burst of color..or just a line drawing that comes from my hand to the paper just as i want it..with no need to fix or fret over how i need to make it right and allow it to rest for all time as it is formed (this is VERY RARE!).

But the part that amazes me is reaching that moment when i know that the work is just is and i'm able to let it go because i know that i have made it as close to the perfection that each illustration deserves..that it is as "me" as i can give it and now it will represent me as it goes off into the world.

Most pieces start in pencil..refined a few times to get the composition on the paper that i'm looking for..i usually end up covered in pink eraser shavings. After the drawing is where i want it, i place it on my lightbox, and cover it with the type of paper my finished art will be on. When the box is turned on, i can see my original pencil lines and then "paint" over them on the fresh paper with color and outline..this way you don't get dirty pencil marks from the traditional way of copying by tracing, nor do you get away from the elegance of the original lines by drawing over them..sometimes , even a few milimeters of re-drawingcan change the whole look of a show you some examples i've attached the original and finished art on some of my prints.

The Little Witch was one of those rare pencil drawings that just worked from start to finish..i knew exactly how she would look when she was done. The "Magical Night" print was a custom piece done from very specific instructions and a request to illustrate someone's experience with a mouse that she wanted illustarted as if it were from a child's storybook...this went thru several drafts until it felt as special to me as her experience. The "Art Deco Girl" was finished just this past Tuesday night. I was watching the Yankees and suddenly wanted to draw..i just sat down and she evolved 30 minutes later as a sketch and i was compelled to finish painting her before i went to bed...i couldn't wait until she was finished.

For me the process of creating these pieces of art that people buy for their homes is such a humbling experience. It would almost be enough to just make them and have them as a testament of what i do. The idea that people want to own them, that people enjoy them, that people want to hang them in their homes,or share them with their friends, or collect my art is almost more than i can brings me so much joy to know that i exist in another form for many different people in many different places and no matter what, I will go on even after i'm gone.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Living in the Material World

The alternate universe to the usual day to day running of my online shops and selling to stores across the country, is doing murals.

It's like another world, where i'm bizarro Superman and everything is backwards.

You go into people's homes and stand in front of a blank wall, and suspending time and fear, you begin to paint. The first couple of times that i did this i thought , as i was painting "Am I insane? What if i make a mistake? What if they hate it? You can't erase a wall!! I need to leave..if I just go out the door, they can't make me come back.." Once the screaming in my head subsided, I was able to finish. But the fear is always there..You're in someone's home..the most private space there is in their world, and what you do is something that they will have to live with and you better get it right.

One of the first murals i ever did was for a couple that had just had their first baby..they asked me to a John Lennon themed wall in their nursery with his whimsical characters. I agreed to do it in one day because they were having a party the next day (people do this ALL the time!) I told them the price, gave them a sketch and the next weekend, began the job..I got there at 7 am and painted thru lunch til 5:30, and they loved it. The mom handed me an envelope and the husband helped me load my car and we hugged and said goodbye and just before i drove away, i looked in the envelope..there was $25 in it!! I laughed, thinking that it was a joke and walked up to the house and rang the bell.."Very funny," i said laughing and the mom said "why?"

"Well you gave me $25 and we agreed on $500" "NO" she said I never would have paid that kind of money.." (Lesson #1..after that job, i learned to always get the estimate signed and half the balance before i started work) After about 40 minutes of my yelling and embarassing her in front of their neighbors and the husband threatening to have me arrested and me threatening to go in and paint the wall black..they threw $200 at me and slammed the door.

Once when i was painting a mural, the mom said "You're almost finished..I have to go to the ATM to get the rest of your money..the baby is sleeping and i'll just be gone 10 minutes" before I could say "no!!!", she left and of course the baby (who was two) got up and seeing me and no mommy started to scream and continued for the next hour and a half until mommy came back from her mani/pedi..i charged her an extra $100 for babysitting.

I was painting two rooms in a beautiful house for two exceptionally, physically obnoxious twins..i don't say this lightly..these devil children terrorized me the entire time i was there, smacking me in the back, throwing around my supplies, as the mom said "aren't they adorable?"..finally i had to barricade myself in one of the rooms and threaten not to finish the job unless she took them out of the house. When she had her third child and asked me to come back, i was too afraid to go..really afraid..of two 7 years was like the Omen.

One job, a very detailed transportation themed 4 wall job had to be done over a weekend. The morning of the first day, the husband and wife started to fight..he was cheating, she was crazy, she was cheating, he was paranoid..yelling, breaking dishes and then one of them would come in "Do you need anything? Water? Coffee?" And then they'd start again..the first afternoon, she came to me for some therapy..crying while I painted ..what should she do? I 've sort of touched on how hard it is to create in someone's home, and to be able to focus and bring their vision to's even harder when you are giving advice to a stranger..even harder when the husband comes into the room and makes a pass at you from behind while you are painting a helicoptor, (which became a hot air balloon, 'cause my brush went nuts)

Or the time that i started to paint a Pooh mural for a young couple and the mom asked if she could watch.."Sure" i said even tho it's a little difficult to concentrate with someone sitting behind you , asking questions about why you're using that big brush instead of the little one and wouldn't it be better if the blue was yellow and why is Pooh bigger than Piglet? At one point, I turned around and there were 5 people in the room, eating , drinking coffee and watching me..and then her mother -in - law said "Why are you paying this woman to paint? We could have gone to Target and gotten some stickers"
Of course , there have been clients that welcomed me and cooked for me and treated me like where i have painted rooms for each new child and repainted as they outgrew their nurseries and became big kids. And those are outstanding memories, just like my more "unusual" clients.

Sitting here at the computer it suddenly feels good to be safe in my Omen twins, or babysitting, or audience, or backache, or husband ambush....but in spite of the basic insanity of mural work, it's very special to be able to create the vision that some one sees in their mind and thinks enough of you to have you place it on their wall..sometimes.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

What Would You Do If I Sang Out Of Tune?

I was working yesterday, painting and i had some cd's playing and i realized that the music i had picked was exactly how i felt.

You know what i mean..good mood..happy music..sad mood..sad music.

And as i was chair dancing to "Stayin Alive" by The BeeGees (don't judge me!!), i started thinking about how we're all affected by those little bits of a song that bring us back to a place or time in our lives.

After i heard "I Saw Her Standing There" (Beatles)..i put my barbie doll in a box..childhood was over..and it is such a clear memory to me now, that it could have happened yesterday. The doors "Light My Fire".. my first bad boy infatuation..with Jim Morrison and the guy i had a crush on that summer. Beach Boys? SUMMER!! you smell the beach, the ocean, i can hear my friends laughing on a blanket next to me. When i hear "Sugar Magnolia" by the Grateful Dead, i remember waking up in the Fillmore East (a concert venue on the Lower East Side in NYC) realizing that i had slept thru the first show and my curfew and my mother would kill me. Joe Cocker? I was at Woodstock, and we were so far away that the artists were specks on the stage..but the news came up the rolling waves of people that he was onstage..everyime i hear "I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends", i feel damp, tired and happy. When i hear "Sarah Smile" by Hall and Oates..i remember being pregnant with my first son, Joshua..when i hear any song from Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA", i think of my younger son, Ben who was a toddler and obsessed with the album (that's what we called them back in the day!)..not suprisingly, Springsteen is one of his favorites even now..And almost 9 years after my husband's untimely death, music brought me back to the world..Paul, the man i began to see, gave me a set of Coldplay CD's a gift because i loved the song "Yellow"..The first time i heard that song it broke apart the pain in my heart.

The beauty of music to me, is the way it shapes our lives in a subtle way's there part of the moment like a whiff of fragrance, that comes back to you ,years later like a friend saying hello. I think that's why i opened "RockandRollHart"..Music is so much a part of me, i doubt that i could live without it..why would anyone want to?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Groundhog Day

i woke up this morning and had my first cup of coffee and read the paper and laughed at the idiot politician and his need to share his underpants pictures.

and i went online and answered my mail and convos and shared some stories with friends and promoted my work and got into the studio at 10 am and started to paint..and stopped to research the justin bieber bank that i was painting (no, i am not kidding) and then i had to peek at my mail and then went back to the bank and then it was time for lunch..but i had to finish something before i stopped to eat, so i painted a wipes case and went downstairs and hated all the lunch choices , so i made more coffee and read the paper and laughed about an idiot politician who thought that paul revere was warning the british.

and i went upstairs and painted justin and then i went online and answered some mail and convos and did some research on a new group of caricatures that i want to do and then finished the bieber bank.

and then i started a step stool and while the name was drying finished another wipes case, and realized that i had to order some inventory and was on hold with a supplier til i realized that i had listened to the same music for so long that i was humming a tune that i had never heard before.

so i finished the step stool and it was time for dinner.

and after dinner, i went upstairs and went online and answered some email and convos and shared some comments on facebook and promoted my work and realized that i couldn't remember what day of the week it was. i am living the movie "groundhog day".

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Becoming part of the Family

I think one of the things that i like best about my StymiepieStudios shop is the special occasion work people request. Baby showers, birthdays,recitals, graduations..what ever moment that they choose to celebrate in their lives, when they ask me to create something for that special day, it's an invitation into their lives.
I don't take it lightly..i think it's kind of an honor to be asked to become part of a memory that lasts long after the party is over, and i'm always touched and pleased by the thank you's and sharing of stories about the gift giving.
There's one lady that has asked me to make a bank for each new grandchild..(fortunately she has 7 children,,I LOVE HER!!) and each one has to be as unique and special as the new child that is to receive it. She is thoughtful and specific and it is a fulfilling collabrative effort every time.

And one of the most challenging and rewarding pieces was a gift that a customer asked me to make for a new baby, to memorialize the child that the family had recently lost. That's how the "Memory Star" frame evolved.

A grandmother asked me to make a volleyball bank for her granddaughter who was going to college, the first time she would be away from home..she felt that the bank would make her feel "at home", and it probably makes her think of her Gram and home each time she looks at it.

The "Art Fund" bank was from one teacher to her retiring colleague, hoping she could finally save for all of those treasures she wanted....we had a lot of fun deciding that i would do famous works of art on her bank. It made me laugh to paint my versions of the Mona Lisa, Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso and even Michaelangelo's pieces on a piggy bank!

When my customers' return to my shop, i always feel like we have become part of this large extended family..they rely on me to create that perfect gift for the person that is so special to them..i appreciate their making me important in that way..and so we go..on and on..and on. Every piece i create is special to me in that way, 'cause i know that once it reaches that shelf or the top of a dresser or the corner of the room belonging to the person it was made for, it becomes part of their lives, and the memory of the day it was made to celebrate.