Last month, I interviewed Annie E. Existence, a Louisiana artist. This month, I'd like to introduce you to a local artist: Leslie A. Kebschull. (By "local" I mean Cedar Falls, Iowa.) Leslie has a painting show at the downtown Cup of Joe coffeehouse through February 19, next Sunday.
I know Leslie through church. I play bass in the praise band at St. John Lutheran here in town and she is married to the pastor, Dave Kebschull. Leslie has received awards for her art, for example, first and second prize as an amateur in the Denver, Iowa, art show; this past year, at that same art show she won third prize in the professional category for a painting titled "Victory"— that painting is in the show at the Cup, the last of the images below. Besides creating beautiful paintings, Leslie is also a dedicated haiku poet, a fine singer, and a wonderful photographer. About this she said, "I do enjoy photography also, but am just a "point and shoot" kind of gal. I don't have a lot of formal training, just a decent eye." I think Leslie's got one heck of a photographer's eye; check out her work at the online JPG photography magazine.
Vince: Could you share some personal background? Where you were born and raised, that kind of thing?
Leslie: I grew up in Iowa: born in Charles City and raised in Cedar Rapids. My husband Dave and I have three daughters: Lauren, Whittney, and Micah. We've lived in Missouri, West Virginia, several towns in Wisconsin, and Green Valley, Arizona. In Iowa, we've lived in Tama/Toledo, Dubuque, and now Cedar Falls.
Because of all those moves I have worked in a variety of jobs, from cake decorator, to making fine, quality glasses in about an hour as a lab tech at LensCrafters, to managing memberships at a YMCA.
Vince: What are some of your earliest memories about art? Do you remember starting to make art?
Leslie: My earliest memories are pretty sketchy. I remember my mom painting scenery or still life and I would use her paints. I drew a lot, mostly women, and my paintings, as a kid, were more realistic. I had never really seen abstract art while I was growing up.
My brother and I also had this drawing game we would play where one of us would just do a scribble and then the other would try to draw something from the scribble, which made us really have to use our imaginations.
Leslie: I went back to school in 2006 to get a degree in Art Therapy and after almost 20 years of not creating any art I just didn’t think I could draw to save my life, but I found out I could. What inspired me to try painting abstract was a young man, named Adam, whose easel was near mine. I loved his work and so I decide to try my hand at it. As a teen I had always done more realistic pieces, so this was very new to me, and I loved it. Then Art History classes exposed me to other artists, such as: Robert Rauschenberg, Theodoros Stamos, Helen Frankenthaler, Hans Hoffmann, Franz Marc, and many others.
Vince: Are those artists your influences in painting?
Leslie: Most of the paintings in the show were inspired by Frankenthaler’s style, but at the same time, totally me. That is the one thing I have discovered with Abstract Art, it truly comes from the artist. Just like I would have loved to do the type of work Adam was creating next to me in school, I couldn’t, because it was his own spirit and experience coming through in his work. I find the inspiration from others, but my work is a reflection of me. I would not say it’s my emotions coming out so much as my inner spirit being revealed in my paintings. It is also fun to hear how others react to the paintings, what they see, feel, etc.
Leslie: I decided to use haikus rather than titles for my pieces, because they are also an expression of me. In the last two years I wrote a haiku almost daily. Usually I was observing something around me, such as a coffee house songstress, or the chimes blowing in the wind, or a spiritual revelation, or just a thought, and I wanted to share them with people. I have so many haikus and no one really sees them except the occasional Facebook reader. Also using haikus instead of titles gets the observer a little closer to the painting to really take it in. All the haikus posted under the paintings were written before I created the paintings. I just tried to find a haiku that would somehow fit the painting.
Vince: In the book that accompanies the exhibit, you say that yes, you do think in haiku. Which of the haiku you've listed there do you like best?
Leslie: Here are a couple of my favorites because they are two of the funnier ones.
Vince: Both of those are hilarious! I like how they're about everyday life.
Leslie: I love playing with words and think haikus are a fun way to express myself. I think my favorite haikus are the ones that express that playfulness. For a while there was an online group I was in where I had created a thread called “Haiku” and we would all respond to each other in that form. It was a fun way to communicate to each other.
Leslie: About three weeks before this show at I really did not have a body of work that went together and I was beginning to think I would have to use paintings that didn’t really show a body of work and had no congruity to it. Then something happened: one of my inspirations, Helen Frankenthaler, passed away and I began to look at her work again. On the day she passed away I painted four paintings and four more the day after she passed. In those two days I had ideas, colors, and composition coming at me and I couldn’t stop painting. It was only when I ran out of canvas and decided I had plenty of paintings for the show that I stopped. Besides I only have so much room in my basement to store all these paintings.
Vince: It's wonderful when that kind of creativity happens to us, isn't it? Okay, how about a final word?
Leslie: All in all I just love to create whether through words or paint. It's an extra perk if someone else enjoys my work, but ultimately I just like having fun being creative. ;-)
Everyone, please leave a comment below
If you came to this blog post because you saw an announcement of it on facebook, would you please leave a comment here instead of in facebook? Or maybe in both places if you'd like, but certainly here, please.
If you live near Cedar Falls, go see Leslie's show — up through Sunday, February 19. The paintings are marvelous to see "live." And they're for sale, so if you like something a bunch, Leslie would love for you to own it and give it a nice home. Her own home is already where they live, but she'd like them to travel and see the world! Also, if you happen to see Leslie hanging around her paintings at the Cup, say hello
I hope you enjoyed the interview. Take care, friends. Ingat.
Added later on 9 Feb 2012: I've made a change in the painting images. Changed the last one, I should say. These images of the paintings are from Leslie's facebook art portfolio. The bottom image above, when you see it in person, is very different from the facebook image. The painting on the wall appears more yellow while the computer photo is more like peach or salmon. So I tweaked it more toward lemon in Photoshop and then asked Leslie what she thought. She prefers the original photo because in the photoshopped version, while its color might be more true, "the brush strokes are no longer there and the picture looks more graphic rather than hand-painted," as Leslie wrote to me. So I've changed it back to the image from Leslie's facebook. Truth be told, I liked that image better than the photoshopped one, anyway.
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