Like many artists before her, Lesley Eaton, our featured artist for August, questioned her vocation. It was in college when those pangs of doubt hit her – but like many other creatives, instead of leading her to some truly profitable and practical study like accounting, Eaton says, “I decided studying English literature and creative writing was more practical than art.”
Thus, the call of wild and the creative urge stayed with her and when the Savannah College of Art and Design opened a campus in Atlanta, where she was living and working, Eaton applied and was accepted to pursue an MFA in illustration. We’re very happy to see some of the results of that decision hanging on our walls this month.
The exhibit is entitled “By Land or Sea, a collection of painted paper collage by Lesley Eaton.”
For Eaton collage is a specific, detailed approach: “I paint all of my papers and then cut out and glue each detail. The painting is very free and expressive, and the cutting and gluing is very meticulous. I like the balance of my process and the balance of the result, with the sharp clean edges of my design complimenting the chaos of the painterly papers. The fact that my work is all cut paper is very subtle. I’m always telling people to look closely to see the detail. “
In addition, the exhibit will include a handful of her older collage pieces, and she says, “I’m experimenting with some more expressive designs and am excited to see these hanging next to my other peppered paper pieces.” In some ways this style represents creative recycling because, she says, “My peppered paper is a collection of papers originally used as a type of drop cloth. I use butcher paper to cover my drafting table as I paint my papers, so it catches all of the spills, splatters, and brushstrokes as I paint. The result is this paper covered with a beautiful mess of color and texture; it’s ‘peppered’ with paint.”
The process may sound chaotic, but, while there’s certainly an element of the random and unpredictable, Eaton’s eye creates order out of all these shapes and colors and textures. “The image or idea comes first, then it’s trial and error until I find the perfect piece of ‘peppered paper’ for each part of my object. On my drafting table now is the body of a lobster and part of a shrimp that didn’t make the final cut. Most often I have an idea for what color I want each piece to be, like, ‘I really want these antlers to be bright blue with lots of texture,’ but in the end it’s more important how the piece is coming together as a whole.”
Eaton’s work is vibrant and alive with color and detail. She says that she’s drawn to sharp, delicate edges: “I like how graceful and clean these shapes are when crafted out of cut paper. Clean, sharp lines are a unifying element in most of my collage pieces: whiskers, antlers, antennae, claws, petals, thorns, guitar strings.”
Still, Eaton’s art isn’t chained to precise representation, though, she says, “Most of my work isn’t super realistic, but I like to have the right number of strings on an instrument and legs on an insect.”
You can see “By Land or Sea, a collection of painted paper collage by Lesly Eaton” from August 7th to September 4th, 2016 at the downtown location and September 5th to October 3rd at the West Knoxville location.