Her brave use of color when combining fabric, stitch and paint sets Lucy Levenson apart from the crowd. With intricate details, her fanciful work invites an up close and personal look.
How has your creativity has evolved over the years?
My creativity has evolved a lot over the years. I am evolving and learning all the time, and always trying to improve my work. I am always experimenting with new styles and mediums. Some experiments work and some don’t, but that’s the process of evolving.
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Do painting, applique and embroidery play nicely together? What are their similarities and differences?
Yes painting and appliqué and embroidery play nicely together. It’s nice to paint on fabric,and embroidering over it with details. As you can get different textures with thread and paint when layering them. The differences are painting is quicker and hand sewing is a much slower process.
How does your background as a photographer influence your current work?
My background as a photographer has been a big influence, as I see things with a photographer’s eye. I used to shoot in large square format as a photographer, most of my artworks are square. As I still see things as if shooting with a square format camera, yes it influences my work. I find taking pictures handy. I use my photos sometimes as a reference for my art work, if I see a colour or shape I like. So I take a picture and use it at a later date.
What inspires you? Are there recurring themes in your work?
I am always inspired by the world around me every day. Also I love children’s paintings because they inspire me with their use of colour . I find them magical – they have no concept of what you should draw. If they see a pink tree in their head they paint a pink tree – they’re not afraid of using their imagination. It’s so magical, and I take a leaf out of their book. My themes tend to be folk art style, with painted faces and lots of flowers.
When you begin to create, do you visualize the finished piece? Or does the work evolve?
When I create, an image tends to pop into my head. Then I visualise how I would like it to look in the 3D world, and it evolves as I go along experimenting with colour.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
Well, I suppose I am not afraid of colour, and clashing colours. My pictures are from my imagination, so they’re quite fairytale become folk art. People say they recognise my work straight away, the painted faces and the colour. Also lots of details in the pictures. So I suppose it’s the dream-like world of colour people recognise .
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
When I create I am more of an improviser. I am rubbish at planning, never works with me. If I plan something I never enjoy it as much. I like the journey of not knowing how it turns out.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
Yes, I have a dedicated space for working. I work from my cellar basement workshop. I can hide away and make lots of mess lol. It’s full of history, as my house used to be an old pub. So we have cellars which I use as a workshop, and the beer used to be kept in these cellars. And the history is great in my house, an old ruin of a castle at the end of the street. I even have a friendly ghost or two.
How does your studio organization contribute to your work process?
I try to be organised when I start a new piece of work by clearing and cleaning the space around me. But it doesn’t stay like that for long, as I pull fabric out and threads, throwing them all over the place. Chaotic Organization you could say.
If you could have just 5 items in your studio, what would they be and why?
If I could have five items they would be thread, needles, scissors, paint brush and fabric. Because with thread you can sew onto the fabric and create an image. Scissors to cut up fabric and details. Paint brush to paint faces.
What is your favorite lesser-known tool for your trade?
I use my paint brushes for everything. I don’t use them for just painting. Using the end of the brush, I use them to curl and shape fabric. I also use cereal boxes for templates. I draw on them and cut out – they’re just the right thickness.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, movies? What kind?
I love listening to music – jazz, classical, rock, pop – whatever mood I am in. I also listen to radio plays. Also I have sometimes a video film playing in the background…. Okay, going to admit it – I love Star Trek, LOL. I am a trek fan, and I love space films. Also old black and white films.
How do you make time for creating? Do you try to create daily?
It’s hard to make time, as I have a daughter with special needs, so she comes first and I work around her. But when she goes to school that’s when I crack on with work. Also when she goes to sleep at night I tend to make the most of the time and work. Yes, I try to create everyday, because it drives me crazy if I can’t .
How do you balance your personal life, work and creative endeavors?
My work fits in perfectly with my life. As I started doing this through Katy being ill for so long, it was something I could do whilst I sat next to her on our many visits to hospitals. And because I am self-employed, I work around making time for family. I pick and choose days when I can crack on with work, so that’s the beauty of being self-employed.
What was the biggest challenge that you encountered on your creative journey? What did you learn from it?
At first it was finding time to meet deadlines with Katy being ill. But I learnt to tell people if I was doing a commission for them, it would take time because of my circumstances. People would be very kind and let me take my time. Also I am dyslexic so I have a big problem with paperwork and organising myself. It used to stress me, but now I just have to take my time and not stress about it so much. And just do things when I can.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people – or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
I think, yes, there are very talented people out there who are just born to it. Its comes very naturally to some people. I think people can learn – with a good teacher I have seen people produce amazing things. And if you love something no matter how good or bad at you are, if you love it then do it. I like to encourage people who often say to me I can’t do this I have no artistic ability. But I tell them just try and if you love it, don’t worry about anyone else.
What are you working on now, and what’s next for you?
I am working on a large elaborate picture of a lady at the moment. Also sorting out luxury workshops I am doing in the south of France next year, in the most beautiful setting. There are a few things in the pipeline, but at the moment have to keep them secret. LOL. Also after summer holidays, I will start thinking on Christmas products.
Follow Lucy Levenson on her website and Instagram.
Interview published July, 2019.
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