I am so excited and honored to interview one of my favorite artists, Heather Sleightholm of Audrey Eclectic. She is an American folk artist who paints the most beautiful and endearing works of art. Her work, categorized by portraits, works of faith, and traditions and folklore, tell stories rooted in family, tradition, faith, and love. Each piece encapsulates an enchanting multilayer story, kindling a sense of family tradition and heartwarming memories. One of my favorite things about her art, is her use of icons within some of her paintings. These pieces in particular, personally create such a sense of home and peace. In addition to her captivating art, she has a lovely blog where she shares her process, stories, projects, artwork, life, explorations, faith, and the things which inspire her. I am so very honored and thankful she took the time to do this interview, and can’t wait to see what’s ahead for (as well as continue gifting and decorating our house with) her beautiful and meaningful artwork.
My Patron Saint : As a member of the Episcopal Church, I didn’t receive a Patron Saint upon Confirmation. However, I have several saints I love (St. Francis, St. Lucia, Julian of Norwich) but I have an especially strong affinity for St. Nicholas!
Company Name: Audrey Eclectic Folk Art
What I make (do): I consider myself a folk artist. I make illustrations, family portraits, card designs, and sometimes I dabble in art dolls and little holiday accents.
Why I love it: When I paint I feel calm and peaceful. It is very much like a meditation when all is going well. I also love that I am able to create meaningful pieces for others to enjoy. Whether it is a gift for a friend, a family portrait, or a holiday post card, I am honored when people choose to use my artwork to adorn their homes or share with those they love.
How it started: Well, I have drawn and painted things since I was very little. My mother took painting lessons when she was expecting me, so perhaps it began then? But art was always my favorite part of school and I took art classes all the way through college. My business, Audrey Eclectic, began in the fall of 2007 after I left my job as a newspaper writer/photographer/editor/phone answerer/ everything in between to be home with our infant daughter, Audrey. It was a big adjustment to go from working full time to being at home full time, and I felt like I needed a creative outlet. What began as just painting at the kitchen table during her nap times eventually turned into me taking part in my first craft show— Indie Emporium in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Over the next several years I started doing other regional shows, gallery events, and then print work. It has been so wonderful to be able to explore my passion for art while being at home with my family, which now includes a one year old son, Robbie. Every show and every project has brought more wonderful opportunities and connections. I’m still a little in awe that people like what I make, and I’m more than happy to keep making it!
How I use Icons in my work: Especially when I’m doing family scenes, I love to include icons tucked into the piece, a little ‘art within the art.’ I greatly admire those who can ‘write icons’ as its called, as I don’t know if I have the patience or skill for minute detail that those artists have! But I love icons, and have them in my own home and love to use them in my art. To me, placing an icon in a painting lets me quietly tell a little bit about the inner lives of the people I’m painting. It quietly reveals their faith and brings the presence of something Holy into an every day scene, which is a concept I love; to me, there are Holy things in the small things of every day, if you stop to really look for them.
How my Faith influences my work: I feel like my faith and my artwork go hand in hand. Many times, my art will reveal the things on my mind before I even realize I’m thinking about them. As my faith has grown, so has my faith inspired art. I’ve gone from someone very bashful about painting anything remotely religious to having my religious paintings be some of my most favorite pieces. My intention with my faith influenced paintings is to create something that is peaceful or evokes a happy childhood memory. I love to create pieces that involve families doing something together that is part of their faith— whether is preparing an Easter Basket or walking home from Pascha at midnight. I like to paint people living their faith in honest and simple ways— and also create paintings that are calming, including, and give a sense of peace. There is so much difficulty and sadness in the world. I feel like my contribution is to create a little light and hope where ever I can.
What inspires me: SO many things! Faith, stories, family, good books, history. Legends and folklore have always fascinated me, and I love to learn about different cultures and far away places. I’ve been known to paint to Christmas music all year round, I find that it is so soothing and usually has such an uplifting and hopeful message. Perhaps that seeps into the art I’m making, I hope so!
As a child, my favorite children’s book was or My favorite children’s book is: I’ve always loved “old timey things’ so some of my favorite books were the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I was always drawn to books with wonderful pictures, and still am! As an adult I will take a moment to pause over Bernadette’s “Varenka” and I love “John, Paul, George and Ben” by Lane Smith and also “The Miracle of St. Nicholas’ by Gloria Whelan. I am also a big fan of the illustrators Tasha Tudor, Carl Larsson and Patricia Polacco.
If I could tell aspiring young artists one (or several) thing(s) it would be: If art is your passion, embrace it. Life is too short to save what you’re passionate about for “someday.” When I worked as a newspaper writer, I was always interviewing artists or other creative people and trying to figure out their ‘secret.’ I came to realize that the real secret was— they dared to follow their creative passion. They finished that painting. They completed that novel. They didn’t push it aside for a perfect time. Even if its just 10 minutes before class, or before bed, take some time for yourself to let your creativity have free reign. It will add so much joy to your days, and even if you just create for yourself, it will be so satisfying. But you have to start!