My friend Jennifer has amazing taste in art. So I wasn’t surprised to find a painting in her home that I absolutely adored. I demanded to know the artist’s name. Heather Sleightholm, she explained. I then called my husband and told him if he loved me, he’d buy me one of her paintings ASAP. Fortunately, for him, he did. This was just the beginning of my obsession with Heather’s work. If you visit my website, you’ll find one of Heather’s paintings on my Bookshelf page, a commission representing my book that will be out in November. As you see, there is an innocence and depth to Heather’s paintings that pulls you in and makes you think happy thoughts.
Please join me in welcoming Heather!
Name: Heather Sleightholm
Business: Audrey Eclectic
Tell us about your influences as a child. Did you grow up in an artistic household? Did you always want to be an artist?
My mom has always been very crafty. There was always a glue gun on at my house! I used to sit with her and paint in the garage when I was little.
As for always wanting to be an artist, being artistic was always part of my identity. I was always drawing and painting and could do it for long stretches of time—which kept me quiet and busy, so my family was very supportive of it as a kid! I also got lots of praise for it as a kid— I remember my first grade teacher laminated a thanksgiving drawing I made because she thought it was so pretty (lots of tall beautiful pilgrims and Indians) that really stuck with me, just goes to show how much encouragement and enthusiasm molds children.
How did you hone your craft? Did you study anywhere specific?
I was a dabbler. I took lots of art classes in high school and in college and attended the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute as a high school junior, which was a big deal because you had to audition for it. I thought I would end up doing graphic design because as a college student everyone insisted that you had to major in something practical and fine art just wasn’t practical. So I sort of meandered through school (my major ended up being Liberal Studies, enough said!) I always had a feeling that what I would be ‘when I grew up’ wasn’t something I could major in at school. That turned out to be true I guess!
My biggest influences and learning tools have turned out to be art magazines such as the Somerset Magazines, Cloth Paper Scissors and just getting exposed to other art and artists online.
Discuss your art, your preferred medium. What’s your process like?
I call my art Mixed Media Folk Art. A very broad term for the sort of mish-mash I create. I start with a basic collage of paper or photocopied photographs (I don’t destroy originals) and mod podge them to a surface such as wood, canvas or matte board. After that is completely dry, I go back and create a painting on top of it using acrylic paints. I love the look because the underlying collage adds such depth to the image, there is so much more going on than just a flat traditional painting.
When did you decide to make art your living and was it difficult to get started?
Well, I just started out with the mindset that it was a hobby. I was home with my daughter after leaving my job as a newspaper journalist and writer. And I am not much of one to spend my days cleaning and doing laundry, so during my down time I liked to try out some of the new art methods I saw in the magazines I was reading. I started out doing just general collages like most people do, but then I decided to try out using my own personal drawing and painting skill with the collage. Prior to that, I’d mostly worked with watercolor and wasn’t extremely familiar with acrylic. It was a lot of trial and error. But I set up a blog just to keep track of my progress, opened an etsy store so I could perhaps sell a few of the paintings I didn’t want to keep and slowly a little business came to be!
Last year I attended my first craft show as a vendor and that was a great experience. It was a whole new world to watch people react to my art and talk face to face with them. I was honestly surprised to be so well received! So far I’ve done two craft shows and participated in two gallery shows. It’s a lot of fun!
Do you remember your first sale?
Well, Ive sold things off and on through the years. I used to sell prints of my watercolors from time to time. I guess my very very first sale I remember is as a kid— I painted some rocks to be paper weights and my mom varnished them and I sold a few at a garage sale. Years later I met a woman who told me she still had one of my paperweight rocks!
Where do you get your inspiration and when do you work?
Everywhere! From books, old photos, the seasons, my daughter, or seeing beautiful art somewhere that inspires me. Inspiration can come from any direction, although some times it comes easier than others. I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to sit back and let the inspiration find you….sometimes you just don’t feel inspired. But you will—soon—and usually the creation of a painting I’m proud of spurs me to paint more.
Who are your favorite artists?
There are tons. Let’s see….as for the ‘classics’ I would say Vincent Van Gogh, Gustav Klimt, Frida Kahlo, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Arthur Rackham.
Contemporary artists I enjoy include Kelly Rae Roberts, Dj Pettitt, Sarah Blank, Jane DesRosier, Amy Abshier-Reyes, Laurie Meseroll and many more.
I also enjoy art dolls, especially those that look like primitive toys from the past. Some of my favorite artists from that genre are Christine LeFever, Racheal Kinnison, Christine Crocker and Julie Bailey.
What advice can you give aspiring artists?
Create what you love and what interests you. Don’t worry about what others are doing or what they’re selling. If you paint honestly, people will respond to it. Be true to yourself and you’ll be genuinely happy with where your art takes you.
Of all the pieces you’ve done, do you have a favorite?
No, I wont say that paintings are like children— or else how could I sell them? But I like different paintings for different reasons. Some I’ve kept for myself are “Where ever we wander…”, “Celestine” and “Home is where you bloom.” Although there are many I have loved and sent off to other homes, because I can only keep and display so many…its no good to have paintings stacked in closets. I want them to be loved.
What do you do when you’re not working?
Try to keep my toddler from destroying my house 😉 I read a lot too, and love to be outside. Winter is hard for me! I worked in a garden center all through college so I love flowers and plants and working with them. They are like a big experiment, you never know how a garden will end up year to year! Also love to haunt book stores and antique malls. Recently got my husband addicted to antiquing which has been so much fun!
What are some of your favorite authors/books?
Do you have all day? Mostly my favorite genres have to do with history. I love a good historical novel. But most of all I love a book that is creatively written.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Outlander, Little House on the Prairie, The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Thirteenth Tale, The Lace Reader, The River Wife, The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, Fall On Your Knees, Anne of Green Gables, Christy and generally anything about ghosts or Tasha Tudor.
Where can we find you on the web?
Also love email! My address is firstname.lastname@example.org
What are you working on now?
Right now I am working on a big commission for a friend who lives in New England. I’m painting her family of six amidst a traditional New England setting on a large plank of wood. Can’t wait to see how it turns out!
Thanks Heather! Make sure to leave a comment or question along with an email addy. One lucky person will win one of Heather’s Ornaments! Contest Ends Saturday!!!