Getting Real With Artist, James McLeod

Getting Real With Artist, James McLeod

 

I met artist James McLeod at a friends card party, and right away his mix of New York savvy and N. Carolina (southern) charm intrigued me. However, being somewhat shy of new people (yes it’s true) I was not being much of a conversationalist. Thankfully, the gal sitting on the other side of him was not shy. She, like him, was an artist and they struck up a conversation that eventually lead to James pulling out his cell phone to share pictures of his work. I was amazed, and hooked. His life-like sculptures looked ready to leap out of his phone!

I contacted him a few days after the party and thankfully, he agreed to speak with me. We enjoyed a chat at a local coffee shop, and the more I learned about him the more impressed I became. Down-to-Earth, warm, and funny, James McLeod is as wonderful a person as he is an artist. Keep reading to learn more about this incredible multi-media artist / Renaissance man.

SnS: Hello James and welcome to TheSquidandSquirrel. I understand that you are not from the PNW. How did you come to call Spokane home?

James: Well, I actually grew up in New York, but a few years ago I injured and re-injured my back and couldn’t walk or work for about a year. I lost everything, but I had corrective surgery and once I got back on my feet I had to start all over. So I had a cousin living here in Spokane. He said, “Yeah, this place is great. Why don’t you come check it out?” I told him I was at the end of my budget so if I came I’d have to make it work. I showed up with $400 and a suitcase. That was five years ago.

SnS: Wow, brave! What or who got you started creating art?

James: I’ve always been an artist. When I was four years old I made my first sculpture out of pipe cleaners. I made the big bad wolf. I can remember it like it was yesterday. He had legs and arms and feet, green pants and red suspenders. He was lighter around his mouth and his tail was extra fuzzy. I’ve been creating ever since.

Also, growing up in NY I spent a lot of time in museums and if you go to Manhattan a lot of the buildings are very sculptural. They have a lot of lions and people and muscles and all that kind of thing. I was forced to go to Broadway and off-Broadway plays and every class trip was to a museum, or something to that effect. So I was inundated with fine art, and that level of exposure had an effect on me.

SnS:. Cool. What is your favorite medium?

James: As far as medium, clay sculpture has been my thing for a long time. Now that I’m going to school I’m getting opened up to a lot of different things. Before this I was self-taught, through observing life, and other sculptures. Now I’ve dabbled in acrylic painting, and I’m not sure what to call the style. It wasn’t realistic in any way shape or form, but you knew it was human. You could identify what it was, but it was very folky, so I put it down. That’s not good enough for me.

SnS: You’re a perfectionist at heart.

James: Yes. My goal for my artwork is that when you see it, it should have a life. If it’s a thing, it should look like it’s going to get up and walk away, or at the very least you should see it thinking. That’s my goal when I’m creating anything.

I’m really getting into oil paint now. I took an oil painting class and found I have a gift for it. That’s the biggest thing about school to me right now. I’m being exposed to all sorts of things I hadn’t done before. I’m getting just enough instruction to take it and run with it, and I have plans to do a series of politically influenced works dealing with various aspects of activism. In school I’ve kept my subjects fairly sedate so that I don’t ruffle any feathers, but I’ve been told to take my hands off the wheel and run! So that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve also gotten involved  in bronze. 

SnS: Yeah, that piece you brought is amazing! (See picture below)

image000000

Untitled

James: Thank you. I’ve always wanted to do bronze because when I was little we couldn’t have pets. So I would make my pets out of clay, and they would live and have babies, and little stories attached to them in my imagination. But my brother would come and pull out my clay tray, take them out and chop their heads off. So when I came back to play with them, I would find them mutilated. So I thought, “Well, if they were in metal he couldn’t do that!”

I’ve always wanted to work with metal and the piece I showed you was my first bronze. I’d like to do much bigger pieces but with what’s available to me right now, in terms of tools and kilns I can’t go too big. I would love to have a kiln the size of this building and make pieces that big. So that’s a goal.

I’ve also done a little 3D design, but it’s not really my thing. My focus is the imitation / replication of life. Not just the angles, but also the feeling of it. I’ve seen people who are technically perfect who could sculpt you perfectly, down to the eyelash, but you know it’s a statue. There’s no life in it. So I try to incorporate both perfection and life. Sometimes I make things a little bit stylized to give life to it because nothing in life is perfect. Sometimes when you cartoon it a little or give it an imperfection it makes it more lifelike. That’s the only departure from realism that I’ll do.

SnS: Have you had a mentor?

James: That’s hard to say. Yes and no. There have been people along the way that have fed into my box of tools. But I’ve never had a “mentor”.

Tybre Newcomer has been helpful and was instrumental into getting me the position in the sculpture studio as the tech. I get to help the students, which is a big opportunity for me because it helps me to hone my skills. It’s also made me more patient in terms of their learning process. No matter the skill level, whether a Picasso or Joe Blow from around the corner, if you put effort into it I’m ecstatic and I can show you how make it look like what you want to see. When you articulate to me what you want to see I can help you get that regardless of your skill level.

There was also a lady, Maryanne, in Colorado Springs, CO who gave me my first sculpting job back in 1996. In her studio I made animals, because she wasn’t good at that. So I made buffalo, chipmunks, and wolves. I also made generic people in proportion so that she could then take them and make cowboys or Natives to fit her Southwestern theme.

SnS: Some artists have a creative ritual, like listening to music, going for a walk, or rearranging their studio before they can work. Do you have a ritual that helps your creative juices flow?

James: Do you see this thing right here? *He holds up an Iphone with ear buds attached* That’s what I do. I listen to music, tune everyone out and I just work and listen. Listen and work. Dance a little bit.

SnS: So who do you listen to?

James: Oh Lord, I have a big playlist. I listen to a little dance hall reggae, soul music, and jazz. My favorite singer in the world is this lady named Ledisi, I’ve been following her since she was a regular person. She had been singing at the Blue Note in the Village in NY, and after I left NY I’d still go up there to get autographed CDs and now she’s really famous. But I love her. There’s nothing she can’t do vocally. From the highest high to the lowest low. She’s phenomenal. But yeah, so mainly I listen to soul, jazz, a little bit of Journey.

SnS: You just won something in school. Tell me about that.

James: Yeah, so excited!  There are 2 classes you have to take before you graduate as an Art major. One is Portfolio, where you take your ten best pieces, write a bio for yourself, do a resume, get a professional photograph of yourself, and do a Power Point presentation. Then every art professor gets in a semi-circle around you and your work and they critique you. They are very to the point. They don’t try to make nice, so none of that “Oh he’s sort of frail emotionally”. Oh no. So I got a lot of good feedback and it was a unanimous decision from all the teachers. Of course, they told me that they didn’t like the orange I used. But I like orange. I don’t care what they’re talking about. The orange is sort of an invitation into my world. It’s telling you that I’m in there and I’ve got more for you to see, so I won’t listen to that one. Still, I won Portfolio and a $250 scholarship. 

SnS: Congratulations! Are you going to display the ten pieces you made?

James: I’d love to, but I need to get ready for (SFCC) Exhibit, so I’m hoping to be able to make more things, better things for that particular show. Right now though, I only have 2, 3, or 4 of a lot of different mediums. I’d like to create a more cohesive group of items that have some type of theme before I show. I don’t want to have a Dollar Tree sort of show.

SnS: Understandable. So, what are you plans after school?

James: I would love to open an art school minus the art history. To me that’s a waste of time. Those people (famous artists in history) are glorified and seen with rose-colored glasses, when usually they are insane, on drugs, or whatever but we’re taught to think they were these awesome people. My only interest in them are their techniques. So the school I want to open up would solely be techniques, techniques, techniques and things of that nature. A place where you could use your own vision, and not be influenced by somebody from 1717. You have your own mind, your own thought process and my goal is to give you the tools to bring out whatever it is in you, that you want to portray to the world. Whatever that may be. I’m not here to indoctrinate anyone in anything, I’m here to give you whatever you need to bring forth what you want the world to see.

SnS: Do you have a favorite artist or two? Someone whose work inspires you.

James: Duane Hanson. I saw his work in my Modern Art class. It was so cool because it was like very realistic. Not only realistic, it had LIFE. Like when you look at his pieces you couldn’t tell that they were not living people.

SnS: Very cool. Where else do you find inspiration? (Nature? Books? A double espresso?)

James: I love going outside, which I haven’t done a lot of since I got to Spokane. I’ve been too busy with school and trying to keep my head above water. But growing up, we’d go visit my grandfather’s farm out in N. Carolina during the summer. I loved it all: the trees, the chickens, the dogs, the cows. I like to get out to the woods.

SnS: If you could travel anywhere for art inspiration, where would you go?

James: I don’t know. Hmmmm. I love the sculptures in Greece and Rome. I love the realism in them even though some, like the David were sculpted to be a little proportionally off. That’s because they were meant to be viewed from a lower position, forcing you to look up. So I understand that. I’d also love to travel to Central America to see the Olmec sculptures.

SnS: Okay, what if you could travel through space or time? Where would you go then?

James: Well, this will sound cuckoo crazy and weird but it’s true. There’s this civilization called the Muu civilization that pre-dates all of what we call factual history. I would love to see that. See these people, see what they did, and how they did it. Half of their civilization is under water, and it’s like giant monolithic structures. So I wonder, who were these people? If they had the skill to make that level of structures, then I bet their sculptures were even more wonderful.

SnS: Anything you want people to know?

James: I’m currently accepting commissions for portraits or sculptures. I’ve done a lot of personal commission work here. Mostly dogs, and I love dogs so that’s not a bad thing. I just need a picture of the head, from the side and top, and the front, and a view of the body and I’ll make it just like it is. I prefer to experience the dog in real life, to understand its personality so I know who he / she is so I can build that in too.

SnS: Excellent. Thank you for sharing your time and talent, James.

If you would like to contact James McLeod you can reach him at – 

jdbonthego1@gmail.com.

 

 

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The Many Layers Of Artist, Linnea Tobias

The Many Layers Of Artist, Linnea Tobias

I must make an admission here, at the start. . . I was nervous to meet artist, Linnea Tobias. Having seen her work for the first time over a year ago, I was immediately drawn in. The world created by her art is layered with colorful details, whimsical creatures, and a depth of vision that I thoroughly enjoy.

Since that first exposure, I’ve seen her art work in more and more places: coffee shops, galleries, small businesses, and even a friends home! After a while, finding her art became like an Easter egg hunt, a thrill to spot. As I became more familiar with her works, I also became curious about the artist. So while waiting for her to arrive for our interview, I was both excited and a little nervous to meet her. Of course, a low dose of panic set in when I realized that my phones wifi wasn’t working and I couldn’t access a picture by which to recognize her. Thankfully, Linnea found me.

Immediately putting me at ease with her gracious good humor, I found that Linnea is quick to smile, very kind, open minded and just generally fun to talk to. I had promised to keep our interview to 30 minutes, but over an hour later we were still chatting. Like her art, she is absolutely engaging.

Keep reading to learn more about this amazing, intuitive artist.

SnS: Linnea, please tell us who, or what, inspired your love of art?

L.T.: My grandfather used to take me to a little art supply store where he lived in Hot Springs, South Dakota. I loved going there – art supply stores are like candy stores for me! I would take my new supplies, hang out in his basement workshop, and draw. He made wood furniture, but he also liked to talk about drawing. My cousin is an artist and I remember as kids he would always have a sketchbook filled with amazing drawings and cartoons that he had created. I was fascinated by them.

SnS: Are you classically trained, or self taught?

L.T.: I always drew as a kid, but I also took quite a few classes as well. I studied art at Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA and spent my senior year in Europe, at the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts on the island of Paros, in Greece. I also took classes at Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA, a few years later.

SnS: So how long have you been in Spokane, what drew you here?

L.T.: After graduating from Evergreen State College in 1991, I moved to Mendocino, CA and lived there for a few years before moving to Arcata.  I moved to Spokane about three and a half years ago, when my husband landed a job here. I have a sister who lives here too, so this area wasn’t completely unfamiliar to me.

SnS: What mediums do you work with, and which is your favorite?

L.T.: I have worked with almost everything you can imagine, and I have liked all of it. I’ve worked with pastels, watercolor, oil, acrylics, encaustic, gouache, collage, colored pencil, printmaking, and clay. 

Currently, I love fluid acrylics, watercolor, and experimenting with a combination of encaustic and pyrography.

SnS: For folks like me, who are not artists, please explain encaustic and pyrography? I’m guessing pyrography has something to do with fire.

L.T.: Yes, it does. Pyrography is wood burning. Encaustic is a mixture of pigment, beeswax, and varnish. You heat the mixture up and use the resultant colored wax to “paint” with. It isn’t precise, but is fun to work with.

SnS: How would you describe your style, and which artists (if any) influenced it?

L.T.: I’ve always found that a hard question to answer. I love color and nature. I paint intuitively, starting with an idea or drawing that inspires me. I add pattern to it, or abstract imagery, and I put it together going with what feels right. It’s like putting together a puzzle, and only my intuitive self knows the answer.

Quite a few artists inspire me. Paul Klee, Pierre Bonnard, Gustav Klimt, and Odilon Redon are a few.

SnS: Where else do you find inspiration / motivation for your art? Do you listen to music, hike through the woods, drink herbal tea while watching Syfy or Nat Geo?

L.T.: I love to spend time outdoors taking long walks with my dogs, or in my garden. Nature gives me the most inspiration. When I lived in California, I lived next to a redwood forest. It was amazing, and I loved the light. Now that I’m in Spokane, the light is different, darker, but I’m still close to nature and enjoy many of the walking trails and parks throughout town. 

I often meditate before I paint. It puts me in a calm, receptive mood. Puts me in “the zone” so to speak. The zone is where I find my flow, transcend self imposed limitations, and let creativity lead me. I also love to travel, and find lots of inspiration from that.

SnS: Travel is always good. Do you have any destination goals?

L.T.: Oh, so many! I’d like to visit Denmark, Norway, Spain, Vienna, Prague, and Japan. Here in the states, I’d like to visit New Orleans, but not during Mardi Gras. I don’t enjoy crowds that big.

SnS: Me either, but I do enjoy how layered and detailed your paintings are. How long does it usually take you to complete a project?

L.T.: It depends. Often I work in a series of three paintings that relate to each other, and work on them simultaneously. Those can take a few days, to a week, to complete. Some paintings take longer. I may put a layer of paint on them and then let them sit for a few weeks, or months, while I contemplate what to do next. Sometimes I complete something within a day or two, when I can visualize clearly what I want it to look like.

SnS: Has your art changed over time? 

L.T.: My art was much darker when I was younger, probably due to residual teen angst 😉 It changed as I grew up, and when I got married, but one of the biggest changes came after I had my daughter, not long after 9/11. My art became lighter, more joyful, and more colorful as a result. I guess it was my way of pushing back the darkness for myself and my family, and to create a positive atmosphere. 

Moving to Spokane changed it again as I had to get used to the difference in the light. Spokane is darker than California, and has an actual winter.

SnS: what do you think of the Spokane Art scene?

L.T.: The local art scene is small but good. I see a lot of enthusiasm here, and I’d like to think that means that we’ll keep moving forward, keep growing, spreading beauty and hope.

SnS: Well you are doing a good job of that. 🙂 Did you / do you have a day job?

L.T.: This is my job. In the past I have worked for art galleries, non-profit art organizations, and I’ve done some graphic design work. I worked at a summer stock theater in Custer State Park for six years, during college. I painted sets, ran the box office, whatever they needed. I had lots of other boring jobs in between.

Fun fact: my first job, at age 15, was as a tour guide in a commercial cave in the Black Hills of South Dakota where I grew up.

SnS: Obviously, you’ve been working on, around, art and artists a while now. What are your goals as an artist? Have you reached or surpassed any previous goals?

L.T.: One of my goals is to keep trying new techniques and ideas, to stretch myself as an artist. I’m always searching for new ways to express my ideas. 

In the past year, I’ve been experimenting with encaustic, and that has been really good for me. Working with beeswax and pigment forces me to give up control over the end result, and let the materials take over.

SnS: Speaking of control. . . If you could control space and time, travel through it to enhance your art, where would you go and why?

L.T.: I love to visit beautiful places like national parks, gardens, the ocean, lakes, etc, and this past week I went to Palm Springs to see the desert bloom in Anza Borrego State Park, and Joshua Tree National Park.

As for going back in time? When I spent that time on a Greek island, I was fascinated by the ancient ruins and old marble mines where they found the marble to use for sculptures on the Parthenon in Athens. I’ve often wondered what it would have been like to live in ancient Greece, so I’d visit there.

SnS: Nice! Would you ride along with “The Doctor”, H.G. Wells, “Doc Brown”, or “Bill & Ted”?

L.T.: Probably none of them. I’d rather bring my dogs instead.

SnS: Well that sort of answered my next question of, which would you prefer as a companion: a dog, cat, squid, or squirrel?

L.T.: Beside my dogs, I do have a cat I adore, so she’d have to come too.

SnS: Okay, final question. Do you have any causes or charities you support that you’d like to share here?

L.T.: I love PBS and NPR. I support local public radio stations and television. I’ve donated to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the Humane Society in the past year.

If you would like to see more of Linnea Tobias’ work, you can find her locally at: Pottery Place, Artemesia in the Women’s Club on South Hill, Lindaman’s, the Chocolate Apothecary, and during the summer, Entree Gallery in Priest Lake, ID.

On line you can find her at: LinneaTobias.com , Etsy , Instagram , or Facebook

Coming soon!

Coming soon!

An interview with the People’s Choice winner of the “Origins of Fear” exhibit at the Little Dog Art Gallery

There are still 3 days left to vote. If you haven’t stopped by to experience the chilling art work or to cast your ballot yet, you’d better run down there. RUN, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!

Then, stay tuned guys and ghouls, to find out who caused a shiver to run up the collective spines of all those visiting the gallery this month, and learn just how twisted they really are! Muahahahahahahahaha!

The Urban Art Co-op – Spokane WA.

The Urban Art Co-op – Spokane WA.

urbanartcoop  urbanartists

According to their website, the “Urban Art Co-Op is a group of talented and diverse local potters focused on promoting and supporting the arts in our community with the intent to expand to include artists who work in other mediums . We have created a welcoming environment for all levels of potters where artistic growth and collaboration happen. We teach classes and workshops, exhibit, sell and give to the local community. Our structure is supported by artist’s participation in all duties and functions of the Co-Op which allows us to maintain an affordable space for all members.”

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing two of the founding members, Karen Mannino and Nick Lowe and one resident artist JoDee Moody. Their energy and good humor made for a fun and relaxing time as they showed me around and gave me the scoop on the Urban Art Co-op.

The idea for the Co-op was born December of 2014 when a group of Spokane pottery artists dreamed up their perfect space. Autumn Bunton, Karen Mannino, Nick Lowe, John Newman, Keith Harger, Jo Dee Moody, and Libby Schoedel are the founding members of the Urban Art Co-op. Their idea was simple yet powerful. Create a space where artists of all kinds can come to share ideas, inspiration and tips of the trade. A place to make friends and build community connections.

With this goal in mind, the group met weekly to write up by-laws, hammer out membership parameters and contracts, and generally figure out how to get started. Excitement grew as they worked well together and by February of this year the group had built enough capital and gathered enough donated materials to begin. February of this year, they found a space at 3017 N. Monroe and began remodeling it to fit their needs. Despite a few structural difficulties to overcome, it didn’t take long for them to settle in. Their Grand Opening & Mug Sale was held on March 28th and 29th. Amazingly, not only did they get their studio ready but the artists created over 200 mugs and six special prizes to be raffled off, some of which are pictured below.

Urbanartdragonjar  urbanartfacejug  urbanarttoadhouse

According to Karen and Nick, “It actually came together amazingly easily. Everyone of us was able to contribute in different ways, from building the website to constructing special sinks that can collect clay run off without clogging. We are proud of what we’ve started and hope to expand into other mediums; let other artists use this space to create art and hold workshops.”

They are off to a good start. The Co-op currently has seven potters wheels, and (for the moment) 1 working kiln with 3 more to be installed soon. They offer wheel throwing, hand building, pinch, coil, and slab sculpting classes. The classes are eight weeks long, with an additional two weeks for final touches and cost only $125.00. This includes clay, glazes, and kiln time. Pottery, however, is not the only medium they teach. As with so many artists, the core group has a list of other skills to offer. Their talents include painting, photography, writing, basketry, glass creations and more. It was this mixed bag of interests and talents that helped shape their goals for the Co-op and lay the groundwork for them to offer special workshops beyond the pottery medium.

Their first workshop was called “Fastenings and Findings”. Two of the co-ops members, jewelry artists Jo Dee Moody and Mary Cooper taught how to wire wrap ceramic pendants, make bails, adjustable clasps, and decorative knots in cord, and two styles of earring heads. JoDee was very pleased with how well the workshop went. “Everyone was happy with it. Mary brought in so much information for our students, things they probably wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere. For only $40.00 they left with at least four items. Everyone made two pairs of earrings, a wire wrapped pendant and fastener/finding, and a necklace.  Our workshops last one or two days and vary in price and difficulty. This first workshop was geared toward people with some experience in making jewelry but we also offer workshops for beginners.”

urbanartpendant  urbanartpen2

More workshops will be offered soon. A Felted Vessel workshop is already open for reservations on their website (link at bottom of post) and will be held on May 31st. Plans are also in the works to hold an August workshop teaching Eco-printing on silk, and an October workshop teaching how to create mugs/jars with faces like the one pictured above. Bookmark their website to keep on top of all the amazing workshops offered.

With a current total of fourteen co-op members, including six teachers, and three resident artists they are hoping to expand their co-op into other mediums soon. According to Karen, “We are currently available to host date nights, ladies nights, birthday parties, and corporate events. Our ultimate goal though, is to own a larger building, bring in small groups of artists that work with different mediums and are willing to bring their talents and enthusiasm to teach more workshops, share equipment and collaborate on projects. We need people willing to put in a little seed money, time and talent to help us grow.”

“All members help with upkeep of the studio and donate a portion of their work for sale so we can keep prices low. We want to make it a good deal for the artist; give them an incentive to be here.” So far it’s working out nicely. The co-ops artists, using a variety of techniques, have made some beautiful and useful items.

urbanartpiedish  urbnartutensiljar

urbanartwall  urbanarttable

Interested in taking a class, attending a workshop or becoming a member? Are you an artist in need of some space? Do you, or anyone you know of, have any items you’d be willing to donate? Check out their website at http://www.urbanartcoop.org/ .

** The co-ops wish list includes more cabinets, pottery wheels, and an extruder (think giant Play-doh press).