Leslie Graff is a prolific painter with an intriguing collection called the Just Desserts. She holds Bachelors and Masters degrees from Brigham Young University. Graff lives and paints outside of Boston with her husband and three sons. She was profiled previously on The Krakens for her series Domestics.
Where do you live? How did you art career evolve? I live in Sutton, MA, a quintessential New England town about 40 miles west of Boston. New England isn’t like suburbs and everything is distinct towns. You get really used to lots of trees and having your own space, everything is on a more intimate level. My town only has one stoplight, just got our first grocery store, and it’s quite charming. My husband, Allen, is a mechanical engineer and designs the home entertainment products for Bose. So he is creative too, but in a much more technical way, we both share a love of modern design. We have three boys 15, 11, and 8.
I have painted since I was young and always took art lessons growing up. When it came time to go to college I was really torn between creative and academic loves. As an education major doing practicums in schools it was really incompatible with studio art classes on campus. At the time, I felt I had to pick one thing or another, luckily now I have learned its ok to be more than one thing when you grow up. So I taught elementary school, went back to grad school in Marriage, Family and Human Development and also trained as a child life specialist, doing therapeutic play and psychological preparation in hospital settings, at Johns Hopkins, I taught at BYU and Ohlone College in CA, worked as a child life specialist, at UCSF but I could never let go of my art. I started painting again, as every artist knows, that need to create is an incredible strong drive and as much as you try to cage it at times, it claws its way out. I left teaching and hospital work, right before my first child was born to focus my time at home; this gave me more time to paint again, which I intended to do just for my own enjoyment.
I am not exactly sure at what point art became my career or one of my careers or even classified as “work”. It was something I sort of fell into a little by accident, after all everyone tells you can not make a living as an artist, so part of me never considered it in that light especially given I already had multiple professional tracks I could keep pursuing. I have to say it probably started when my first son was 2 and I did my first solo show in Massachusetts. It happened after a woman saw a piece of mine in my home and asked to buy it and invited me to do a show, it caught me off guard. I figured why not, then I sold most of the show and its grown and evolved since then. When my children were little I confined painting to the hours when they were in bed, as I found it hard to have the emotional presence I wanted with them and paint at the same time. Now that they are all in school, I have time to be a part of the art community more and do shows, art events, work with galleries, and produce more (and better work). It fits so seamlessly with my mothering. I am a very energetic and passionate person. Art is a lot of hard work, and I take it seriously, I constantly require myself to learn more, to study, to explore techniques, practice skills, and dig deeper. I still travel doing humanitarian missions as a child life specialist and train physicians in psychosocial issues around the world. It is really rewarding to continually have opportunities in multiple areas that I love and feel like I am contributing to the world in useful and creative ways.