True Spirit Art: Creativity and Inspiration from Artist Leslie Sabella
Ever come across an artist and simply LOVE everything they create? That's how I feel about Leslie Sabella of True Spirit Art.
As a creative human she speaks from the heart with colors and imagery that evoke a sense of joy, depth, wilderness, spirituality, and play. As a working artist she explores different ways to share her art, including as prints, stationery, clothing, laptop and phone covers, coloring books, and more.
After fangirling Leslie on Instagram and purchasing several of her pieces I finally took a chance and asked her if she'd share more about herself on this humble blog and lo and behold, she said yes!
What follows is an interview that offers insights on the things that help to cultivate creativity in a natural way, through experimentation, observation, learning from the best, and simply following the flow of your own intuition. So often we put pressure on ourselves to CREATE from a vacuum, but Leslie's perspective reminds us that the whole world is bubbling with inspiration if we simply look around and gently allow our creativity to unfold organically.
Here she is, Leslie Sabella...
Why did you choose “True Spirit Art” for your brand name?
When I first started out, I just went by Leslie Sabella Studio, but over time I wanted something that spoke a little more directly to my work. I came up with True Spirit Art, because what I create comes from my “true spirit” and hopefully will resonate with yours. It is work that is inspirational and soulful.
How did your artistic journey begin?
I grew up in a very creative household where the arts were appreciated. My mom, Susan, an accomplished and published colored pencil artist herself shared her love of art with me from the time I was little. From taking private art lessons to regular classes in school, I loved being able to explore all the different mediums and styles. Although I loved using my hands to create, in college I was drawn to the history of art. Studying art history opened my eyes to so many new genres and cultures that have ultimately influenced the way I create art. I love being able to pull inspiration from the history I’ve cataloged and create something new and modern.
Where do you find inspiration?
My biggest source of inspiration comes from growing up in the Midwest, the place my heart is no matter where I end up. When I was a kid, I would wander our beautiful acres of woods, creeks and gardens studying the beauty around me. Over time, I slowly developed my style of illustrating that weaves together my love of history, nature, and sentiments of the spirited soul. In addition to my days spent outside, having parents who were young adults in the 60’s also influenced my overall love for the bohemian, free-spirited lifestyle. Whether it is the detailed embroidery on a peasant top, the spiritual imagery of Eastern religion or revival of Art Nouveau style, I am constantly pulling inspiration from this time in history. I have always felt I would have fit in perfect during this decade!
"I think creativity is freeing your mind and letting go, so that the unexpected can sneak in."
What are your favorite materials and why?
My number one material is black Sigma micron pens. I love creating my designs and illustrations in black and white and then scanning them into the computer to start adding color. For me, getting the design down on paper by hand is meditative and allows me to see the balance of the design clearly. In addition, to micron pens, I love working with acrylic paint. I don’t have a preference on paints, anything from inexpensive craft paint to Golden works for me!
What do you hope to communicate with your art?
I never thought I would incorporate words so much in my work, but over time I find the perfect quote or phrase enhances the piece. Words are powerful reminders to me on a daily basis, a simple quote can really lift my spirit and paired with the right illustration, it takes me into a little world for the moment. Because I love illustrating images that are universal, a bicycle, a teepee, bird or flower for instance, anyone can look at the image and relate. I hope others feel a connection to the care-free, bohemian lifestyle we all dream of in my pieces.
Are drawing and painting your primary forms of expression, or do you explore others as well?
Drawing is definitely my primary form of expression when it comes to my brand True Spirit Art. For many years, I struggled with finding my style and often dabbling in other mediums and getting discouraged with my work, but when I gave into letting myself be content with drawing things started to flow. Although, I do spend the majority of time drawing now, I allow myself plenty of time to play with other things like paint, yarn, fabric, and beads to name a few. I find that stepping away from drawing to knit or sew something for fun, often brings in new inspiration to my art.
Are you working on anything new that you’re excited about?
Every day I am thinking of new ways to grow my art business and right now I am busy working on a collection of embroidery patterns that are adapted versions of my detailed illustrations. I hope to have them ready for sale in my shop in the next month. I think it will be a fun way for people to have a piece of my work, but also a hand in creating it!
What do you find to be the most important things in life?
Family and nature are the most important things to me. Having travelled many places and moved a number of times now, I cherish these things because they keep me grounded and focused. Creating art is my passion, and I feel lucky to wake up everyday and draw for a living.
What would you recommend for someone who is interested in kickstarting their own creativity through some form of visual art as a beginner?
I think the biggest mistakes in the beginning, is giving up too soon and not studying art enough. Often in the early stages of something I am overwhelmed with enthusiasm and ideas, but overtime whether it is working on one piece of art or pushing through a slow patch of sales and custom work, it is easy to want to give up. My husband is a professional artist, as well, working for LucasFilm, Ltd. and he has shown me over the years how gruelling it can be to get to where you ultimately want to be. Good things come to those who overcome the tough days and it took me almost 4 years to get my first licensing contract with many turned down submissions. As far as studying art, I think this is such a crucial part of being an artist. Of course I might be a little bias because of my background and love of art history, but understanding what came before you and mastering the traditional techniques will only help one improve their own art. Art appreciation broadens your world for inspiration and knowledge of style and design.
What does your typical day look like?
Most days for me consist of a lot of time with my drawing pad, walking my dog, answering emails, checking social media and editing my work and interspersed yoga sessions. For me gathering all my inspiration includes, thumbing through art and design books, pinning on Pinterest, going through photos of places I’ve been, etc. I am constantly writing down ideas and quotes for illustrations in notebooks and revisit them when I am creatively ready to start a new project. I am definitely not always inspired to work, sometimes I get distracted with a favorite movie or too many phone conversations with friends/family back home, but trying to be creative everyday for years and years is impossible. I think letting the energy flow is better for one’s health and productivity, although it is not always easy to find the balance. At the end of the day, I always make time for myself and husband, cooking is a great way for me to unwind and reset the evening.
Do you have any favorite quotes, books, or fellow artists to share?
“Respond to every call that excites your spirit.” -Rumi.
I love this quote! I am drawn to a wide variety of books, from classics, artist biographies, to yoga philosophy and modern fiction, a story that expresses a triumph of the human spirit and discovering one’s self sticks with me for a long time. A few contemporary favorite artists I really admire are, Katie Daisy, Anahata Katkin, Teagan White, Mary Wangerin and Marjolein Bastin.