Leslie Graff is a prolific painter with an intriguing collection called the Organic Series. She lives and paints outside of Boston with her husband and three sons. Graff says, “My organic works explore growth, connection, and our social experience. Drawing on the inherent metaphors of rooting, branching and fruition, these pieces represent the energy and yield that comes from our efforts, as well as our relationships and connections with others. It uses repetitions of small shapes and visual busy-ness to show the vibrancy of life, power of potential and the almost imperceptible, yet real, nature of change and growth.”
You color choices are bold and striking. What are your thoughts on color? I joke I use color obscenely, I have no palette modesty. Other people can do limited palettes but I love the full spectrum. Its hard for me to do pieces that are even confined to an analogous range. Its always instinctive for me to “cross the (color) wheel”. Its probably the element of design that captivates me the most. It’s probably also why I have a very big wardrobe (acquisitions mostly from the thrift shop) as l love pairing colors. You can create so much mood and feeling with color. I have loads and loads of colors of paint, as only certain lines make certain colors and I appreciate the subtle properties of color a lot. You can use color to just be flashy, but there is a lot of nuance in color, the subtlest shifts in intensity, or color make all the difference in nailing a piece with good color harmony. Color and flavor always have a relationship for me, I cook a lot (because I love to eat really good food) and paintings for me have a similar dynamic each piece, like a recipe is influenced by all the ingredients.
What’s the most gratifying part of being an artist? I would rather paint than eat or sleep and I very frequently give up both of those to paint. I often force myself to bed at 2 am. It even comes on vacation with me. I absolutely love the act of creating. Artist life is a perfect fit for me, both in purpose and structure. I love to inspire people, to share ideas, to help them feel powerful, deliberate, and valued. I see the work of art is to relate and inspire, to awaken people to deeper understandings of the world, to slow down, to notice, to feel, to capture the essence of things, but mostly to connect us. I love having others in my studio, and I think people can recognize it’s unique energy—or maybe they just like my playlists and treats. I thrive in an unstructured environment it makes me insanely productive. I am very “flavor-of-the-week”, always falling in love with new pieces I am making, and there is this constant crush energy—only its infatuations with ideas, colors, and patterns. Creating art in very psychologically intimate for me, part of my personal thoughts are embedded in every piece, there is always some thought, emotion, or meaning in my work I hold back only for myself and don’t share with others.
I am a very connecting social person, but I also love the solitude of painting, it’s process and experience. I usually have one of my many playlists on or audiobooks, podcasts, movies. I zone in and out of paying attention to them. I find I have developed a deep self-awareness as I spend so much time in my own head tapping into thoughts and feelings. It allows a unique awareness of the nuanced flavors of emotions and energies. It gives time to explore the deeper parts of human experiences, tensions and bigger existential conflicts. For me creating is energizing but also very calming in almost a meditative way, It lets me make more sense of life’s complexities.