Artist Q&A is a weekly online Alive feature that spotlights the process of a Columbus artist. Know someone we should talk to? Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When it comes to making art, Lea Gray just can’t get enough. She makes paintings, purses, Origami lamps, T-shirts and murals. We asked Gray about her process (it’s so transcendent for her it’s practically spiritual), what finally convinced her to become a full-time artist, and, of course, what three artists, living or dead, she would take to dinner.
Why do you create the art that you do?
Each type of art that I make really depends on the mood and can fascinate different parts of me. T-shirts are just the beginning of a dream of having my own line of clothing someday, and it is the creative expression and independence of fashion that drives me to this desire. Making a purse is fun because I make my own patterns which can be challenging. I have an eclectic sense about designing purses that can fit each individual differently, making the process interesting to come by. I love painting and it is a true meditation and deep focus involving the brushwork. The repetition of the brushstrokes carry rhythm and a flowing sense of calmness that is unmatched. Origami is also a meditation, but an easier practice. It can go from simple to complex quickly, but because of the repetition it becomes a form of relaxation. The most magical part is not just the changing of the form of paper from each fold, but the final result that no longer looks like the original sheet started with. Painting murals is a new element to my design palette. I am always looking for new challenges to bring interest into my arena, and large scale painting seems to do just that.
When do you paint?
I have to be in a complete mood of desire to paint. I dream about it all day and have an exhilarating attraction for the moment that arrives. With low lights and candles lit, the night is the best time to paint. My house is filled with music that I would want to dance to but instead is carried through the brush to canvas.
Where do you paint?
Although I have had other studios in the past, I enjoy having my studio be the second bedroom of my home. It makes it easy to paint whenever I please.
Tell me a little bit about your decision to become a full-time artist. Was it a difficult decision to make?
It took awhile to acquire the idea that I might make it as a full-time artist, but once I took a step forward in the direction of my talent, I realized that it is all a matter of the belief in yourself and perseverance to obtain a dream, regardless of the challenges and difficulties lying ahead. These obstacles will happen in order to make you stronger, test you and keep you humble. Along with a great deal of trust, passion, being pushed to the limits, and endurance that centers around art-making, there is also sacrifice.
For me, the sacrifice of a lot is worth it because I believe I was designed to do what I do and nothing makes me happier than to beautify the world. In the end, all of the hard work does pay off. It is only a matter of time when all the gifts, large and small, are revealed.
My best advice for someone looking in to doing this is to just believe in yourself fully and trust that those dreams you have will be matched with reality if you can do the work it takes. AND, ”Dare to dream so big that you have to evolve to get there.”
What has been inspiring your work lately?
Inspiration can spark from any place or experience at any time. There is no pinpointing the idea of inspiration because if it were narrowed down then I would be limiting my ability to gain from each moment. It could be a beautifully arranged dinner, a sunset accompanied by the city lights, a great ensemble of clothing, or even the color scheme used in a film scene. I am the type that sees the beauty in even the small things, so it is the desire to keep my eyes open and my mind clear that will always inspire my work.
What do you do while you work?
I listen to music while I work because the music I choose for art-making has a melodic beat that will put me into the type of trance I need to stay focused. Music can also be emoting and to tap into any emotion relative to what I am making in the moment assists in the outcome of the final presentation.
Do you ever experience artists’ block?
I rarely have those moments because I am always making some type of art that I love in the time that I am in the mood to make it. But when I do, I just give in and allow my whole self to rest in order to rejuvenate and get the create juices flowing once again.
What is your favorite Columbus art event or gallery?
I have always enjoyed Pecha Kucha, not only because there is always the interchanging of new artists/speakers that represent the community, but it has always entertained me in the many different forms of art that is presented at each one. It means a lot to me that these speakers have the courage to lively introduce their ideas to a large audience, and the admiration runs deep enough, that I hope to one day speak at one.
Three artists, living or dead, that you would invite to a dinner party.
Wes Anderson for the quirkiness and the unique presentation of his films. I think he would make for great extravagant conversations, filled with belly laughs and smiles, not to mention his mixtapes would be appreciated by all guests, young and old.
Amy Butler because she has always been an inspiration to me and my crafted work, an Ohio-based artist starting from scratch and blooming into a beautifully talented well-know designer. She would bring much light and positivity to the event, as well as finding out the sparks behind her new ideas.
Finally, and most importantly, Wucious Wong. His expression of the brush through his embodiment of the elements, transcend the physical sense on paper. It is his deep understanding of the spirit behind the trees, mountains and skies that moves his brush in such a way that moves the viewer and captivates them beyond this realm.