Leslie Wiegand: Going Against the Grain

I’m a fan of this week’s featured artist, Leslie Wiegand. I first spotted her work hanging in Love’s Gallery, the framing and poster shop owned by her partner Adam and his family in Victoria, BC. A couple of weeks ago I came upon some more of her paintings at Mille Fiori Spa, and it reminded me that I really wanted to interview Leslie to find out more about her and her work.

In her own words, Leslie says: “Half of me was raised on a hobby-farm near Qualicum Beach, BC. That half runs naked through the alder and steals eggs from your chicken coop. The other half earned a BFA from the University of Victoria in 2003 with an honours in Visual Arts. It struggles with student loans and occasional neurotic insecurity.” Leslie creates evocative paintings that incorporate wood grain and conjur up stories and memories.

Previously living in Victoria, Leslie and Adam love the country life and so, with their baby Frances, recently moved to Leslie’s parents’ property where she grew up. With the shop as well as her art in Victoria, she is frequently there, and considers herself dually-based between the capital city and the rural community of Hilliers in central Vancouver Island.

Leslie found some time when Frances was sleeping to answer some questions:


What is your background, creatively speaking?

No one cares about my angsty oil pastel collages from high school, right? My clay faerie, and hellraiser-style masks?

At the University of Victoria I was accepted into the Visual Arts program. I took lots of art history, art theory and studio classes: printmaking, etching, silk screening, drawing, photography and Photoshop, and in my final year I was accepted into the honours program, which was self-directed. I worked on collections of old and modern photos, making installations.

After UVic I shared an art studio with a couple of friends in Chinatown, Victoria. Eventually I started showing my work around town. I moved to Montreal for a year, thinking I might apply to grad school at Concordia, but in the end, I happily decided it wasn’t the path for me. I did take some fun courses on comic book art and a refresher on silk screening. When I moved back to Victoria, my work was selling well and I was asked by the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria to participate in the Moss Street Paint-in. Things have been going well, though I did take a break during my maternity leave, which just ended this month.

How long does it typically take you to complete a painting?

If left to my own devices and procrastinations, it could take years… I have many started and unfinished paintings. I started a piece with a pencil drawing of my grandparents, maybe in 2004? Yikes! Typically, depending on the photo I use, it takes about eight hours of critical thinking and brush to board. But there’s all that time between to come up with ideas, fixing, mixing, drinking coffee, or wine, and now… Frances our little girl comes into play. Holy moly, she won’t let me out of her sight right now, which is making painting very difficult! I recently finished a rush commission in three days, though. If I have a show, or a deadline, things can be finished way faster.

The women who I’ve been close to in my life, my family and friends… my mom, my grandmother, my creative loving people… they inspire me to make nice things to give them, to exchange ideas, to grow and be better.

Which part of the process do you enjoy the most?

I have to laugh, my first thought was ‘the finished product,’ is that even considered ‘part of the process?’ It’s funny, but it’s true. I like seeing it when it all comes together.

I also like looking through photographs a lot though, probably just as much as seeing the end result of a painting. I can spend hours squinting at my parents’ old slides from their party days, or Facebook, or even Google images if I am looking for just the right thing to finish a painting. Even other people’s pictures. Usually the painting part is a bit painful though… stressful, hard work.

What is your working environment like?

Location, location, location, it’s all about location. Five acres nestled between farmland. We have chickens, a garden, an outdoor stage, forest and places to explore. The property is called ‘Song Farm’ after my dad’s band’s practice space/ recording studio he’s had here for about 30 years. We live in a big barn-style building, in a suite above my dad’s shop and my new studio space. It’s cramped and a bit of a disaster right now, but it’s perfect for how I like to work: cement floors with no concern for dripping paint or sanding dust, a window with a view letting in natural light, a place to scatter my things and leave them, without having to worry about bumping my projector or easel.

When someone commissions a painting from you, what do you suggest as criteria for a suitable photograph?

A photo that resonates meaning to you. Usually if it has this, I can make it work. Next I would like to suggest the photo is in focus, sigh, but I don’t, and then I end up with some pretty hard images like one I am working on right now. Well, should be working on. However, one of my favorite commissioned pieces had an out of focus, screaming baby, and it turned out beautifully.

Personally, I love the strange objects, the patterns on couches, fabric, things that date pictures terribly. Sometimes I’m asked to leave out things that I think are what make the picture so awesome, I might say something, or I might let it go because it’s not my moment I’m creating.

Once I left out details not realizing their significance, but fortunately my client communicated her disappointment, and I was able to fix it in time. I prefer more than one photo to choose from, or I like to see a few sometimes just to get a feel for the characters I am painting. But if there is just one photo that they are stoked about, that’s fine too.

What creative Canadian women inspire you?

I’d have to say the women who I’ve been close to in my life, my family and friends. My mom, my grandmother, my creative loving people. They inspire me to make nice things to give them, to exchange ideas, to grow and be better. I have made a lot to give away, and when it’s for a friend, I don’t feel as shy to experiment, use wallpaper, add a foreign element like a gold leafed horse, or a patterned shirt.

On a side note, I read ‘Growing Pains’ by Emily Carr just after high-school and she was very inspiring for me. That book empowered me, and encouraged me. I know she is a pretty obvious Canadian woman artist, and I am sorry I cannot think of anyone who is less mainstream. I think she’s great though, as is her art.

Outside of painting, what other creative things do you do?

Photography, baking, playing the drum set with my friends jamming out covers of our favorite songs. I love dancing, just free style, I’m not a professional or anything but it’s a creative outlet, no? I make my own greeting cards and lots of whimsical little drawings from my imagination. After designing my own wedding invite this year, I was asked by a friend of a friend to design theirs, which was a fun project. I’d also like to think I get creative decorating and organizing my house with little oddities I find on my walks, or things I acquire from people.

What are some challenges you encounter, and how do you overcome them?

My biggest challenge has been to stop thinking, procrastinating, and just get to work. I love being outside, camping, walking, socializing, resting, thinking, biking, travelling and I find it hard to make art happen! To get motivated, in other words.

Promoting myself has definitely been another challenge, so it’s been a slow process getting recognition. I overcome it by always having at least one thing on the go… a show coming up, an idea in pencil on wood, or just an idea of a project, someone’s birthday to make a painting for, a card, whatever, but I can’t finish a painting and then… nothing.

A commission or my own ideas are all good to me, because that will keep the creative ball rolling, and inevitably inspire the next project.


Thanks, Leslie! It’s been fun getting to know more about you and your art. And thank you Frances, for sharing your mom with us for a little while!

To see more of Leslie’s work, visit her web site. In Victoria, her paintings can be seen at Love’s Gallery and Mille Fiore Spa. Leslie invites commissions, comments or messages via Facebook or on her web site.

I’d love to know what you think, too! Which of Leslie’s paintings is your favourite?
















All images courtesy of Leslie Wiegand.



2 Responses to “Leslie Wiegand: Going Against the Grain”

  1. June 26, 2012 at 6:41 am #

    Love the artwork! I especially like all the unfinished areas. Very imaginative.
    I think, ‘good for her to be continuing her art with a small baby underfoot’ ! Her farm sounds like a great place with lots of scope for the imagination, too.

  2. Alice
    June 26, 2012 at 11:58 am #

    Thanks Kate, for introducing me to Leslie’s work-I love it!

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