As LAAG begins the New Year with the promise of a new name and a new logo, we also welcome a new President, Leah Schwartzman. We look forward to her ideas on promoting our group and our efforts to increase art awareness in our community. Through this interview, we will try to get to know her as an artist.
Leah believes she was "born" with an interest in art - painting/drawing/coloring, crafting and being creative in general. In elementary school in Kinder LA, she would spend hours coloring and drawing and never missed the television art shows on weekends. She received her first paint-by-number at age 10 and it hangs in her dining room today. As an adult, she always has been making, painting or drawing something for family and friends.
Leah says she is mostly a self-taught artist. There were no art classes in the schools where she lived. She learned mostly from art books, magazines, television and trial and error. After retiring from state government, she was very excited about the prospect of spending time painting. After joining LAAG she began taking some of their workshops and a few other classes with artists that she met through her association with the organization. Today she feels like she is in her element and living her dream. She has learned so much and plans to continue to learn.
Leah would love to paint daily; however, other priorities always get in the way at home. She manages to set aside every Tuesday to paint at LAAG Open Studio - it takes away those "priorities"/distractions she experiences at home. She plans her schedule around Tuesday's open studios as much as possible.
Relative to painter's block, Leah says, "Indeed I do ... I have an awful time with painter's block and try to learn from other artists ... how they deal with it and resolve it." She remembers something she read in an art magazine that has stayed with her: Instead of looking at the blocks as a negative time, look at them and use them as an opportunity to grow ... to experiment ... to try new techniques or materials; that can be quite inspiring!
When asked what she hopes others see or "get" in her art, Leah responded, she hopes that when people look at her art, they can smile, have a feeling of warmth, enjoyment and relaxation. She hopes that they see something of beauty that perhaps evokes a fond memory, or inspires them to create something of their own and, for just a little while, that they would forget the anxiety/sadness/anger they might be feeling from the bombardment of negative news and events that we all face in life.
Leah has dabbled in all mediums of art including graphite and pastels, but until about eight years ago she primarily used acrylics. She tried oils and found them to be messy and smelly and didn't have the space to have several paintings sitting around to dry. She always liked the look of watercolor but was petrified because she had always heard/read how difficult the medium was. Then she went to a $5, three hour introduction to watercolor event and the rest is history. Leah loves the lights in watercolor, the ease of it, and the challenges it presents. She finds that watercolor has a life of its own, but as an artist, she gets to guide it - each painting is like raising a child in that respect. She still uses other mediums on occasion, but watercolor is her love.
The beauty Leah sees everywhere is reflective on the subject matter she chooses to paint. She indicates that all her life, she has looked at the smallest or simplest things and seen them in her mind as a painting. She looks at everyday things and wonders: "... now how would I capture that in a painting?" When a fellow artist and friend once said, "she doesn't choose her subjects - they choose her". Leah said: "That's it! That describes it perfectly ... I want to paint everything, every sunset/sunrise, all mother nature's offerings, etc., but only some of those things touch me, speak to me and they say, 'choose me, choose me'."
If Leah were to advise beginning artists, she'd say take as many workshops as you can from multiple artists who specialize in specific subjects, like glass, shiny things or landscapes ... they will each have a different approach. Don't take everything one instructor teaches as "set in concrete"; another artist will have an alternative view - take what works for you and leave the rest. Can't afford workshops? Read art instruction books/magazines and practice, practice, practice what you read."
Leah is most proud of being accepted in her first national art exhibit, the 2015 River Road Show. "To be accepted in a national show is a huge step from where I came from. And now to be trusted as President of the Louisiana Art and Artists' Guild is quite an honor and milestone accomplishment for me. I will do my best to fill the shoes of my predecessors and commit to doing the very best I can for the good of the organization."