Arting Everyday: Leila Simon Hayes part two
"Bare Minimum Is Completely a Success"
So, this newsletter on the art of the daily practice has basically become a fangirl page for Leila Simon Hayes and I’m here for it.
No, I jest, but really do love her work and sage advice on the art of playing art every day. You can find part one of our chat here, but allow me to recap some highlights before we dig back into the juicy second half, and a thrilling update!
I usually make a mess, some sort of beautiful mess. I'm always really hungry for that time on the messy side of my studio, so I often leave things half finished, or I leave little breadcrumbs for myself.
…sometimes we have to set ourselves up to have the types of conditions where we can turn off our working brains to help ourselves get playful.
I found lots of little tricks to help me get into that place and remind myself that making a mess is where the magic happens, instead of trying to create some clean, beautiful thing from the start.
Even though my work is abstract, improvisational, I never come to it with a vision of what it's going to be.
LSH: I think it's a gift that we artists give each other by talking about our work. It can help us strengthen our practice by learning about other people's art practices. It certainly has for me. I love reading interviews and learning about the different ways that people quiet their fears and jump into different experiences in different ways. It's very helpful to me. I don't know that I could do this in a bubble.
RM: No, and we’ve had to do it in a bubble for the past couple of years. In your bubble, do you listen to music? Or podcasts?
LSH: Yes, all of the above I'm a very music obsessed person. I'm also a musician. I'm the drummer in a band-- we haven't practiced since COVID. I listen to a lot of music. And have very, very eclectic taste. It's one of those things that I don't talk about very often, but it's a huge important part of my life.
RM: What do you listen to while you're working? You keep referring to your work as improvisation, which makes me think of jazz.
LSH: Oh, yeah. Don't really listen to jazz. I listen to so much, it’s too long to list. I think we're gonna have to leave it as “I have very eclectic taste.” I love everything from Afrobeat to current pop music. I listen to a lot of hip hop. I love Mose Allison--so, I guess, some jazz.
Here's something cool. This is not the cool part: my brother died when he was 32. We listened to music a lot together. I decided last summer that I wanted to try to collect in a playlist, every song we ever listened to together that I can remember. It’s such a magical way to pull someone in the room who's not physically in the room anymore. And so, one of my main things that I've been doing since last summer is every day adding to and listening to this playlist. I get to feel like he's in the room and is supporting my art practice. Maybe it's a little woowoo, but I have recommended it to a lot of friends who have lost people, that if you just put together this playlist of every song you've ever listened to, you can just pull them in the room any time. It's magical.
RM: I just had an image of him like sitting on a chair in the studio.
LSH: Oh, totally. Yeah, just hanging out.
RM: Asking you questions and commenting like “You're not gonna put that shape there. Whaddaya thinking?” or “Oooh, that’s a good move. I didn’t see it coming!”
RM: So, you had mentioned that when you look back on some of your first work from the initial 100 days, you didn't use the word cringe but that's kind of what I got.
LSH: Yeah, I'd be happy to use that. I actually feel a mixture of extreme pride because that former version of me was so afraid to put any art into the world. And I needed the kind of crutch--for lack of a better word-- of the 100 Day project to really help me show up consistently for myself. And so I can cringe at some of that work, but I mostly just feel so proud of my former self who was so afraid to make things and share them with people, that I consistently made things and shared them with people for 100 days. That was a really big deal for me. So I tried to match the cringe with a little pat on the back..
RM: …with a little bit of pride, like, Hey, I did this and it seemed like it's such a massive stepping stone that helped you get from from where you were to where you are now.
LSH: Absolutely. Yeah. It just built the muscle of showing up for myself consistently. I have a connective tissue disorder and I need to exercise very consistently to be able to hold my head up and stuff. And I am not like a person who is like super comfortable at the gym or anything. But when I started going to the gym-- this was a few years before I started the art practice--I was talking to myself like, Okay, you're nervous. It's uncomfortable. It's not your place, but that's fine. And my rule was that I just had to show up, and I didn't even have to work out or anything. I just had to go there. And of course once I got there, I was like, well, I might as well do something. My rule is still: bare minimum is completely a success. And I have been going to the gym consistently ever since. I have applied that to my art practice as well. Showing up for it is the success, and the outcome is not up to me. But I show up and I do my best work that I can do today. And if I do that I might be able to do better work tomorrow. I might not, but I definitely can't do better work in the future if I don't show up today.
RM:Yeah, just show up.
LSH: You just show up and it all builds on each other.
RM: I was taking a deep dive in your Instagram before we talked. I really appreciate your process videos. It’s fascinating how you work with the shapes. Do you work on an iPad?
LSH: I mostly work with Sumi ink on paper. That’s my main way of working. I also use collage a lot: found paper, tape, things like that. I'll photograph textures sometimes and mix them with the shapes that I use. I do some work on the iPad, I find drawing on the iPad very relaxing. I can do that at home, hanging out with my husband after the kids go to bed or something. I don't have to be in my studio or make a big mess. So I've tried to find ways that working on the iPad feels either similar to the work that I make with ink or has its own flavor. Mostly the work that I do on the iPad has really its own flavor but I love to mix it with analog artworks that I create. I like to mix it all up. At first I was afriad, like oh is the iPad like dumbing down my work? but I really don't think it does. And I think that mostly people don't know the difference [between what I made on the iPad and what I made you know by hand] sometimes I don't even remember. I just have these files full of different shapes. Everything starts black and white. And so sometimes I don't really remember where I made it or what because they all just look like shapes and they all want to play.
RM: I’m a big proponent of playing art.
LSH: I've really been enjoying playing with my patterns on fabric and wallpaper. Once realized I was making was patterns, I really wanted them on fabric. I really wanted them on wallpaper. I've always had this sense that I never wanted things in my home that were representational, ever since I was a kid. I didn't want drawings of things in my house. I was just really drawn to abstract pattern and abstract shapes. I remember being in middle school or in high school and realizing I don't like representational things and it's okay. And I want to surround myself with abstraction and a feeling of play and improvisation. And maybe this is a small niche and I will not find that many people that are excited about it, but the people who are excited about it are very excited. And it's very, very exciting to be able to make some of these things into fabric and wallpaper that people can have in their homes. I've been making these small quilts that I started selling at markets over the holidays in 2021 and they were just like a wild hit. I didn't even put tags on them or my name on them or anything. I didn’t think that they were gonna sell but they almost sold out. The way that I create the patterns is by re-mixing and the way that I make my quilts is basically mixing the patterns, so it just feels like a full circle in a lot of ways for me. It feels like a very joyful way to pull in pattern and play and color into people's homes and my home. I've sewn since I was a kid and I am very excited about how these are coming out. They're very fun.
After we talked, I confessed to Leila that what we discussed resonated with me so much, I decided to stop working on a project that wasn’t serving me and am in the process of creating a project that is in no way representational—which is so far outside of my comfort zone I don’t know where to begin.
Then, Leila confessed to me that after our conversation, she has determined that at 853 days, her project has many more places to go and she is resurrecting it. Follow along…
Go team art!