Stationery Icons #1 - Leslie the Art Therapist
We spoke to Leslie Herger, who runs the RSVP Podcast, blogs about art and stationery over at Comfortable Shoes Studio, and works for RAW Art Works, a youth organisation in Lynn, Massachusetts.
Leslie has, in her own words, been making art since she could hold a crayon.
Lately, she’s focused on binding books and making prints. She also uses watercolours and keeps art journals. She’s dabbled in building motorised bikes, the odd piece of furniture, car repair, and generally “hacking whatever tools” she has, “to do things they should not”. On top of all this, she’s a keen gardener and loves to ferment things - from hot sauce to kombucha to kimchi.
Tactile: Could you describe some of the philosophy behind your art therapy practice?
Leslie: I believe that art can soothe and heal. We spend much of our day processing our world in words, so when we add images and colour to that process it changes how we look at what has happened to us, as well as what we have done to others.
Art is a process that helps us communicate not only with the world around us, but with ourselves. If we work on how we communicate internally and externally it can only improve our lives.
Specifically, with my current workplace we look at art as allowing kids to feel seen and heard. We’re there to help them process their lives through art, but also give them a safe place to be kids. RAW encompasses my art therapy philosophy in a way no other workplace has, and because of it my practice is thriving.
T: What advice would you give someone who feels they’re ‘late to the party’ when it comes to being creative and making art?
L: Try one thing at a time, use it if it works, discard if it doesn’t. Keep in mind there are no mistakes in art, only learning experiences. My creativity is fueled by learning new things and jamming together the old and new. I read widely and often find that something I initially thought was useless comes back as useful later.
If you never get started nothing ever happens. Getting started is the hardest part, once you do, the scary part becomes continuing and maintaining momentum.
T: What materials and techniques do you recommend for someone getting into painting for the first time?
L: Buy the best brush and paint you can afford.
I’ll speak to watercolours since that’s my medium of choice - a good large sized brush with some snap will serve you well for years. The size of the brush will be determined by the size of your sketchbook, the smaller the book the smaller the brush. I use a number 8 round Escoda sable travel brush and a handful of water brushes for detail work.
T: And for the paints?
L: Pick up a few tubes of colour at a time or a set of pans that you can afford. Start with 3 primary colours and build your set up over time. You don’t need every colour, see what colours you can mix with the 3 primaries and add to it.
T: What do you get out of sketching and taking notes on paper? Why not keep track of all your ideas digitally?
L: I find that working digitally sometimes stalls out my process. If I’m feeling stuck there is nothing like a fountain pen or pencil and a piece of paper for noodling out ideas and getting myself unstuck.
Before COVID I would take this and go to a cafe and grab a cup of coffee and just let myself think while listening to some good music or the sound of the cafe. Now I take myself to the park with a travel mug of coffee. I leave my computer at home, and let my mind wander as much as it needs to.
The paper and pen allow my thoughts to flow. This works for writing, art, and even for working on classes.
Besides stationery, Leslie is also fond of fermenting foods like Kimchi. Photo from jcomp @ Freepik.com | https://www.freepik.com/photos/kimchi
T: Before, we talked a bit about turning phone notifications off to prevent digital life from consuming real life. What other habits do you think can help with that?
L: I’m fortunate that I work in a physical medium. My classroom time is device free, so other than using my laptop to play music, I have set time in my life where I’m not on a device.
Printmaking can use tech but it is also a very analog process. When I’m scratching into a plate or setting up a Vandercook for letterpress, I’m not looking at my laptop, I’m looking to my sketches for guidance.
When I’m writing I do turn off things that can be distractions. I removed most social media apps from my laptop and phone, and I only log into them through the browsers, which makes the experience of social media pretty terrible. I also have a series of playlists without lyrics that I use to help me be less distracted.
T: Slight change of topic - what prompted you to start RSVP podcast?
L: Dade [Scolardi, of The Weekly Pencil] and I had been talking about creating a podcast for a few weeks when the guys from Erasable asked us and Lenore [Hoyt] on for their April 1st gag show. We had great chemistry and the conversation flowed smoothly. I keep RSVP going because I can’t imagine life without it.
T: How long has it been going now?
L: The show has been going for close to 4 years at this point.
T: Are there any episodes from the archive that are particularly memorable?
L: I think my favourite episodes are those where we all just jammed about a topic. Lenore did a great episode talking about the chemistry of graphite. We also had an episode where we discussed the ridiculousness of gendered stationery.
Thanks for joining us Leslie!
Leslie’s tools of the trade
I keep a pocket notebook…
…and small bundle of 3 x 5 cards on my person at all times.
These are housed in a Nock Co (RIP) Fodderstack XL.
Also in that case I carry a Parker Jotter with a ballpoint or gel refill.
I also carry an antique bullet pencil.
I also always have a fountain pen on me, lately it’s a salmon colored TWSBI Swipe with a medium nib inked with J.Herbin 1676 Stormy Grey.
These form the backbone of my idea capturing, plus my daily to do list.
At work I carry a 8x10 ish sketchbook, lately it’s a Talens brand. But I’ve also used handmade sketchbooks. This contains all my work ideas- doodles from staff meetings and class notes. I fill them pretty quickly. I add additional ribbons as place holders.
For my outside of work sketchbook and notebook I always carry something in A5 size- lately it’s been Global Arts Hand Book sketchbook. The linen hard cover is just the right weight that I can sketch anywhere and the paper is good for all the materials I use- from light watercolour washes, to pen & ink, to Molotow and Posca paint markers. The price is good for this too.