Artist Interview: Erin Leigh

Name: Erin Leigh
Name of Business: Art by Erin Leigh
Creative Influences: Michelle Allen, Carla Sonheim, Teesha Moore, Pam Garrison, Sarah Ahearn, Kelly Rae

Preferred Medium of Creativity: Mixed Media: paper, paint, charcoal, pastels

My name is Erin Leigh and I'm a mixed media collage artist, which means I use paper, paint, pastels, markers, and anything I can find to create. I combine rich texture and color with quotes and scripture that encourage me daily. My hope it that my work will do the same for you and your family.

I believe that we are all born with a gift that is meant to be used and given away. It is pure joy to have discovered this gift and to trust that God will use it for his glory. In being able to create, and provide for my family, I am living a dream for which I am unspeakably grateful. I create all of my work in my little room at home, while chasing around my 2 year old, teaching kindergarten part time, and figuring out cheap and healthy meals to cook for my family, among other things.

What is one of your earliest creative memories?

Spending countless hours in 4th and 5th grade  perfecting my “bubble letters” and doodling endlessly.

Did your creative habits make a smooth transition into your adult life?  What did the evolution look like?

I have spent my life putting off creating art, knowing that it was a part of me, but not making time or space for it in my life.

In high school I took foreign languages and AP classes instead of the art I wanted to take, in order to get into the college I wanted to get into.

In college, I wanted to major in art in but I was steered towards something more practical, something I could “make a living” doing. Little did I know that thousands of people make their living in art related careers every day! But I am really thankful that I took the path I did. I would have loved to go into full time ministry, be on Young Life staff, but the thought of raising my own support overwhelmed me. So I did the next best thing: I became an elementary school teacher, a career, passion, and a calling that I could not be more grateful for.

For 10 years after college I was focused on being the best teacher I could be, traveling all over the world, and Young Life Ministry as a volunteer leader. My life was full and, while I felt the pangs and callings of art, I still never made the time and space for it in my life.

Ironically, it wasn’t until I was pregnant with my son, 3 years ago, that I picked up some canvases and paint and started creating things for my son’s room. I finally had time (a whole summer off) and space (our house had a whole room for me to play). My studio is still my dream come true.

When I was finished creating everything I possibly could for my baby boys’s room, I didn’t want to stop, so I didn’t. I just continued to paint and paint and paint. Then I stumbled across Somerset Studio magazine in Barnes & Noble and I knew that I had found my calling: mixed media collage. I started playing and never stopped. 

The most important lesson I’ve learned is to keep moving forward in baby steps. The whole art thing can be very overwhelming. If you only look at how far you have to go, or if you start comparing yourself with other artists, you will always fall short. The key for me has been simply the next baby step. What is the small thing I need to do next? First I painted, played, and experimented with a bunch of collages. Then I approached several coffee shops and got them up. I was shocked when some of them sold, for much too little, but what a thrill! I really couldn’t believe it. I entered several more local art shows.  

Then I set up an etsy shop. It took 3 months for me to sell my first piece.  I forgot that I even had a shop! With lots of trial and error and research through google, I started to make and sell more. Against my will, at the advice of other artists, I created a blog and connected with other artists, which has been pure joy. Eventually I submitted pieces and articles to Somerset magazine. Having them published has been a dream come true. Truly, more than I ever thought possible. Attending Artfest, an art retreat, changed my art life more than anything. I realized that these people that I had been idolizing over the internet, were simply people. That’s it. They just made a decision to make art. And it wasn’t until then that I knew, I really knew that I could live this artful, creative life too.

Even today, I get really overwhelmed by things I could do, or want to do, and by how far I have to go. But I always go back to my baby steps: what is my next doable step? 

How has GOD been a part of your creative process/lifestyle?

This creative life has been a pure gift to me from God. It has breathed new life in me and introduced me to a part of myself that I have never known. Not just the artist self, but the start-your-own-business self, as well. Who knew I had it in me? Only God.

At first I clutched it tightly, afraid that He would take it away. And little by little I’m learning to surrender my art to God and allow him into the process, to lead me and guide me. The book  Finding Divine Inspiration by J. Scott McElroy helped me to let go of my art. To give it back to him and to let him in. It takes effort and practice to invite God into the process, but I am learning that it is much more gratifying and peace-bringing with God in charge instead of me. To be on this creative journey with Him, being led by him, knowing that he knows the way, is a thrill and a joy.

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