Cathryn Leyland is an artist in residence at Main Street Arts! She’s working in one of our two studio spaces during the months of September–October 2016 (you can stop by the gallery to see her studio and work in progress). We asked Cathryn a few questions about her artwork, life, and more:
Q: Tell us about your background.
A: I grew up in the house of an artist and a paper engineer, so materials were always accessible and projects abundant.
After starting another career path, I headed back into art through an interest in scientific textbook authoring and illustration. Upon finishing an MFA, I found myself teaching computer graphics amid courses in professional and technical communications.
I owe my teaching pathway to printmaker Eric Bellmann, who was art chair for the evening division at RIT. He entrusted me with teaching so early in my working years. And Tom Moran, my chair during the evolving years of computer graphics.
Teaching led me into writing and illustrating online course materials, and developing new courses. It took me a while to realize that curriculum design was essentially book publishing, with a smaller audience and immediate feedback. I suppose one could conclude, “You can always do science for a hobby.”
This fall my courses are online, which frees me to settle into Clifton Springs for this great opportunity at Main Street Arts. It will be refreshing to produce art there, meet people, and see what emerges from workshops.
Q: How would you describe your work?
A: Everyone sets their balance between order and chaos, dealing with what arrives. Life brings disarray, and we scramble to pack it into order. Often the interruption is order; we just haven’t recognized patterns yet. My artwork respects chaos, and the order that can be formed from it.
I pursue ideas that I’d like to teach others, or find adventures in trying new tools.
I can’t resist sandboxing fabric ideas at Spoonflower.com, and have hidden vices where print-on-demand services wrap my images on new products.
For short time, I designed surface pattern for fashion and fabric through an agent. Seamless pattern design could be an interesting topic for a gallery workshop.
I’ve sold ceramic sculpture to people carrying it through a crowded festival; painted public art while onlookers shouted from their cars; designed promotional materials, to find that different opinions make us such snowflakes.
In artistic expression we tell our individual stories, and should expect others’ to be different. Then we are delighted when ideas connect, when visual communicators seem to understand how we were thinking.
Q: What is the most useful tool in your studio?
A: Scissors beat paper and rock. Vital tools are bitmap software, MS Notepad, small graphics tablet, phone camera– to jot down ideas or carry out a full vision.
Acrylic paint on board conveys what’s on my mind most effectively.
Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
A: Projects often start with curiosity about materials, combining things in unexpected ways. I see what I already have to work with, and build on that. My pewter phase began with videos of survivalists melting cans and pouring molten metal on garage floors. Who can resist.
In approaching a project, I pick up peripheral information. Learn everything, then narrow to how I’d like to carry it out. Art-making is about choices, and is not necessarily an additive process. Try removing as fast as you add.
Q: What are your goals for this residency?
A: Work will emerge in both pewter jewelry, and acrylic abstracts.
In preparation, I cast pewter into organic and geologic forms, and will combine these with semi-precious stones, amber, freshwater pearls, a little sterling and other metals. Shapes were melted ahead of time, to keep the gallery off speed dial to Clifton Springs FD.
I have small paintings to finish, which will gradually appear outside my second floor studio.
During the residency, you will see the progression of a painted series, on Finger Lakes waterways. The depth of Seneca Lake, winding of Flint Creek, elevations, watersheds, and glacial structures… I would like to highlight fluidity, sprawl, and vulnerability in upstate waters.
And oh! I look forward to offering workshops, seeing what each person brings in experience and insight.
Q: What’s next for you?
I expect to carry the pewter idea further, into art jewelry exhibits. Pewter is malleable and melts at low temperatures, so it’s wonderful to work with, and opens up many possibilities. I had the opportunity to wax-cast silver when I was young, and am building that experience into the way I cast pewter.
I continue to teach, freelance, write, take on other work… and am always eager to explore new opportunities.
Q: Where else can we find you?
Q: Do you collect artwork?
A: I have stoneware and abstracts that harmonize with life. Art might arrive through connection with an artist, friend or relative, or a discovery I can’t pass up.