Guest Artist: Leanne Grimes
ink on paper, 2013
Charcoal on paper, 2011
ink on paper, 2013
Rainbow Surf Hostel, Maui, 2013
ink on paper
From MittWitts, 2011
oil on linen
oil on mylar
Cherry Top, 2012
oil on mylar
Dream Car, 2010
INTERVIEW WITH LEANNE GRIMES
How long have you been painting?
I’ve been painting most of my life. My mom is an artist and teacher, so she always had creative things for me to do as a kid. I remember using watercolors when I was 4 years old. I would put shapes of colors down, and build walls of colors that filled the page, almost like a brick-layer. I try to go back to that memory and process in order to connect with the simple joy of painting. Too often in my studio, I feel the weight of external pressures, which can be very dangerous for the creative process. But it took me awhile to pursue painting in a real way. I’d say I’ve been painting for 10 years.
What are your influences?
It might sound weird, but I’m influenced by driving. I don’t have a car right now, so it is always a special treat when I get to drive. I find that it clears my head, and allows room for very specific and often cathartic thoughts to arise. I’m also influenced by physical movement – whether it be biking, walking, dancing, practicing yoga, or swimming. If I am not connected with my body’s physical presence, I find it very difficult to paint. Lastly, I am influenced by beautiful fruits and vegetables, no matter how hippy-dippy that sounds. I love cooking, and I relate that process to painting. Some of my favorite paintings have been inspired by meals I’ve made or shared with friends.
Who are your favorite artists?
Paul Klee, Peter Doig, Matisse, Ellsworth Kelly, Rothko, James Turell, Agnes Martin, Cy Twombly. I’ve gone through many different love affairs with certain artists, but I find that I always come back to these ones. It’s funny because most of them are minimalists, or as I prefer to name them reductivists.
Do you draw and paint from observation, memory, or imagination?
I use all of these ingredients! I used to think they were mutually exclusive, that I had to pick one way of working in order to “be a good artist”. But that is not true at all. Some days I really need to go outside and draw a tree or a landscape. Other days, I am forced to look at a photo for visual information. Some days I feel like a slave to observation, so I put all of that away and make a drawing straight from my imagination. This is actually terrifying, but equally liberating. It feels like a direct link to my subconscious, which can be unnerving. Memory is a whole other process. I find that in order to work from memory, I need to have a very specific and clear image of what it is I am remembering. Otherwise, there is not enough information, and the result can look generic. Like how if you ask students to draw a tree, 9 out 10 of them draw the iconic symbol for a tree, which is not a specific tree at all. The cool thing about working from memory though, is that if you draw something from observation, it commits it to memory. So if I go out and draw a tree from observation, when I go to draw it from memory, chances are I will produce that same observed tree, minus a few details.
How do you begin a painting? Do you start with an underdrawing?
I spend a lot of time drawing, which informs my paintings. However, I think I “draw” very little in my actual paintings. I love putting down large chunks of color, and little spots here and there, and then building the rest of the painting around those moments. My paintings actually deal with color theory more than anything. I am very interested in the process of mixing colors, and how they behave in a relative way.
Your mittens titled “mittwitts” are really playful. How do they relate to your drawing and painting process? Or are they something different?
These little sculptures were made for an installation. I teamed up with a video artist. and we performed a few days worth of activities, such as eating, swimming, driving, cooking, and grocery shopping. The point of the Mittwitt is to force personal interaction with people. At the opening, people were encouraged to take them off the walls and spend some time joined in the mitt with a stranger. At one point, there was a circle of 6 of us joined in the Mittwitts collectively drinking wine. The process of making these was actually very intense, but also fun. I found it to be closely linked to painting, but even more immediate and direct. I used fabric from clothing I had been holding onto for years. Some of them are made from shirts I had since I was 14. Others had fabric from a hat a friend made. I loved the process. There was an internal narrative embedded from the beginning due to the stories behind the fabrics. It was actually really weird, because I found that the colors of my clothes were similar to the colors I gravitate toward in painting.
How do your sculptures relate to your painting process? Or are they something different?
I use sculpture as a way to work out ideas. It is a different process than painting, but it is all in the same vein – to realize a vision that occurs, and becomes strong enough to facilitate a creative endeavor. The dream car sculpture was exactly that – I had been having a lot of dreams about cars, especially an invisible one. I didn’t think it would be served well as a painting, so I set out to make the object and photograph it. For me, that was enough. It did not need to be painted.
Do you ever have truley awful frustrating days in your studio?
Yes. Not only frustrating days, sometimes weeks, or months. I think the important thing is to embrace this time. We can’t always be producing masterpieces. Painting is a practice for me. In viewing it this way, it has alleviated the pressure to constantly be perfect in the studio. Through practice, things develop.
What are your feelings on academia?
I have mixed feelings about academia. I went to art school. I graduated with a bachelors degree and spent three years out of school floundering around for a bit. So I went to grad school. I had a great experience in grad school. It opened up my creative process and moved me across the country which exposed me to a whole new landscape and allowed me to experience life, which I ended up translating into paintings. The tricky thing about academia is that it does not give you any actual skills to make money. And there are student loans to repay. So what do you do for money? Because more and more, I feel like the idea of living off of painting is not a reality. Sadly, our economy is very different than it was 10 years ago. So I am currently exploring some ideas about how to balance all of this. I’ll get back to you when I figure it out!
What is your advice to young/ emerging artists who want to show their work?
I think you need to be confident about your work and go out and meet people. Talk about your work. Arrange studio visits. You have to be able to stand behind what you’ve made, and the more you can talk about it with your peers, the better you will become at this.
Leanne Grimes graduated in 2011 from the University of Washington with an MFA in painting. She has exhibited nationally and her work has been featured in the New American Paintings blog.
To view her work: