11 questions with artist Leslie Supnet

The 11 Question Interview Series continues with artist Leslie Supnet sharing her thoughts on drawing and animation. Learn more about the artist and visit pivotartgallery to see the featured portfolio.

'Revenge'  by Leslie Supnet

‘Revenge’ by Leslie Supnet

1. When did you first begin to draw seriously? Or rather…take your drawings seriously enough to consider sharing them?

It was after meeting my partner, Clint Enns, that I decided to share my work and have an exhibition at local gallery in 2007 – Semai Gallery, owned and operated by Winnipeg based artist Takashi Iwasaki. Clint was very supportive, and encouraged me to think about actually having an art practice. In return, I did the same for him, pushing him to make films.

2. How did drawing translate into animation? Was there a sharp learning curve?

As my arts practice started to emerge, I became interested in artist-run centers and creative communities in Winnipeg. I signed up for a circuit-bending workshop at Video Pool Media Arts Centre, and after that started voraciously taking workshops there and at the Winnipeg Film Group – animation, filmmaking, Super 8 and 16mm experiments and editing. Definitely the animation process became easier over time.

'Hand Cranked VHS' by Leslie Supnet

‘Hand Cranked VHS’ by Leslie Supnet

3. Can you describe your technical process a bit. Do you sketch out ideas? How do you turn your drawings into animations?

I usually think of an experience, or emotion I would like to concentrate a drawing or animation on, then think of a good title that conveys that experience. Humor has always been a healthy way of coping with grief or tragedy for me, so I try to infuse that in my titles which then carries over into the animated narrative. This is how some of my drawings turn into animations — there’s always a back story in my drawings.

4. If you have artistic/creative role models, who are they and how do you relate to them?

Margaret Kilgallen is someone I look up too. She was a San Francisco visual artist, street artist and musician who passed away, loosing a battle with cancer in 2001. The way she drew from folk art, hand painted signs in her neighborhood, and the beauty of every day life, and created art that was sincere which didn’t need art-speak to justify its existence was really inspiring.

'Sunny Day' by Leslie Supnet

‘Sunny Day’ by Leslie Supnet

5. What is most satisfying to you about the creative process? 

Figuring out a way to communicate an experience or feeling with colour, movement and light. And intuitively knowing you’ve hit on something, that usually I can feel in the gut area. I really really really enjoy that! It’s like that moment you get a joke. Pure joy.

6. Your work seems to have ‘characters’ that are pulled from various sources. How do you define these roles for your ‘cast’?

The characters in my drawings and animations started off to be fairly generic, with the intention to be as universal as possible, rather than be specific. Hence the lack of hair colour, and ambiguous ethnicity in my early characters. But when someone thought I was only drawing Caucasian blondes, I knew I had to address that with specificity. So with my animation Gains + Losses, I decided to draw upon characters in my own life and experience, the central character in that work my cousin who committed suicide in March of 2010. Since then I’ve drawn upon people around me, and also base a lot of the characters on myself.

7. You have also studied mathematics. How does that influence your work?

I graduated with a BSc in Statistics. I’m not sure if that education influences my work at all, on a conscious level anyway.

8. How autobiographical is your work?

Most if not all my work draws on personal experience. Though personal, I focus on experiences most of us go through – loss, grief, longing, loneliness, awkwardness and love.

'The Nature of Schemes' by Leslie Supnet

‘The Nature of Schemes’ by Leslie Supnet

9. How do you feel about contemporary art and your contribution to it?

Since I started animating, I’ve been focusing more on the black box than the white box. I really do enjoy experimental film – making it, watching it (other people’s work!) – over anything else at the moment. I really like the nature and experience of experimental moving images – accessible, ephemeral, hard to monetize. I find it more freeing than making art objects that often gets a value attached to it to be sold to whoever can afford it.

10. What, if anything, do you want viewers to learn from your work?

What I hope people take from my work is a sense of empathy and connection.

11. What can you add that would help us understand you and/or your work better?

I’m an introvert, and spend a lot of time looking inward for answers. I trust my intuition and feel that when I listen to myself, it’s the most honest thing I can do.

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