Monday, October 15, 2007

Amy Leong ... Alberta, Canada

Artist: Amy Leong
Web site:
Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

What do you create?
Paintings, photographs, drawings and I also write in my spare time.

Where and when do you do your creative work?
Every chance I get, but there is never enough time in a day. I find myself planning out paintings and other creative concepts every time I lay down at night. Some of my best ideas come to me right before I fall asleep. I am constantly coming up with new project ideas, I just wish I had the time to execute all of them.

Do you have another "day job"?
I am currently in university doing my last year of my after degree. It is tough to juggle both school and art sometimes. The more exposure my art gets, and the more sales I generate, the more difficult it is to abandon art and get into school mode every September. I make a living in the summer by selling my work, but I continue to get numerous commissions throughout the year. It is hard because I do have to turn down many great art-related opportunities during the school year.

Where and what did you study?
I finished my BFA at the University of Alberta in 2006 and am currently in my fourth year of my Education after degree.

Where do you find inspiration?
I would have to say that I find other artists to be my inspiration. Not just a select few, but all artists in one way or another. There are so many talented people in the world. Right now I am experimenting with a wide range of mediums and subject matter. Other artists continually challenge me to push the envelope, to try new things. It is important to never let yourself get too comfortable with what it is that you are doing, then your work loses its spontaneity and a great deal of its intrigue.

What motivates you?
It always helps when other people appreciate what I do. It motivates me to keep trekking along. It's a great feeling to know that so many people have brought a part of me into their homes by hanging my art on their walls.

When did you start doing this?
I have been selling my work for the last seven years in various venues ranging from art galleries to hair salons and I just began selling my work online a little over a month ago.

Do you remember getting into art as a kid?
From my earliest memories I have always loved art. I would sit and draw for hours when I was a kid. I also remember meticulously filling in coloring books with pencil crayon, taking great care not to venture outside the lines. My grandmother's house had a large den with a counter that ran along one entire side of the room. It was always overflowing with my sketches, various craft projects and poems. Art has always been a very important part of my life.

When and why did you decide to start your own business?
I sort of fell into selling my art in a way. In the beginning of course, I wasn't overly business-savvy. I would say it hasn't really become a business until the last two years or so. I am starting to understand more about the complexities of selling. I realize now that it takes far more than just talent to be a successful artist. It is largely about promotion and confidence, and it takes a long time to figure out even basic things like how much to charge for your work. I realized however, that if I was to devote adequate amounts of time to doing art, I had to find a way to make a living at it too. Working a 9-5 office job wouldn't have allowed me to pursue my art career to the extent that I wanted.

What do you love most about creating your work?
I love the experimentation. Working with new materials or new subject matter is always exciting. Sometimes it doesn't turn out at all and I fall flat on my face, but then there are the times when I discover something new and create something that is really successful. That's the best feeling in the world. To look at something and know that your hard work has paid off and that you are growing and improving as an artist. It's that feeling of limitless potential that I love. I am always striving to do something great, and once in a while when I do, it makes it all worthwhile.

What's the most fascinating place you've been?
I travelled to China this spring. The history there is amazing! It was definitely a place where I encountered a sensory overload.

A book you love:
The Time Travellers Wife. I had a lump in my throat for an entire day after I finished it. I haven't met a woman yet who hasn't loved it.

What is the most interesting thing about you?
That is a hard question to answer but I would have to say that one of the unique things about me is my background. My father is Chinese and my mother is Irish, Scottish, Welsh. After immigrating to Canada in the early 1900s my Chinese grandfather opened a store as a practicing herbalist, my grandmother was an accomplished musician. On my mother's side, my grandfather owned one of the first photographic studios in Edmonton. The name was McDermid Studios, and the majority of Edmonton's early history was recorded by photographers in my family. My parents came from two very different places but growing up was a unique experience because of this. My beliefs, values and perceptions come from such a wide range of influences, and I feel fortunate to be a part of two very distinct cultural backgrounds.

What achievement are you most proud of?
I am proud that I have come as far as I have over the last while with respect to selling my work and gaining exposure. Mixing art with the business world is a bit daunting at first, but I think I have begun to find a place for myself amongst all the confusion. I just turned 25 and think I am a lot farther ahead than I was even a year ago.

What advice would you give women starting their own business?
I think confidence is key. When you are first starting out it is all that you have. I really think that if you believe in what you are doing, other people will too.

What's the biggest challenge you face in your work?
The biggest challenge I face in my work is how to balance creativity and business. Sometimes I will paint something that ends up being extremely commercially successful. I know that if I keep producing the same thing that they will likely sell very quickly. After a while though, an artist can become like an assembly line worker. If you stick to the same thing over and over, you lose a passion for what it is you're doing. It is not good for art to become too formulaic. When paintings are predictable, I believe they are no longer successful. I think it is really important to balance business (what the customer wants) and the need to explore and experiment and continually challenge yourself as an artist. It is never easy, but in order to be successful, it is necessary to find that happy medium.

What do you love to do in your free time?
I love shopping in decor stores. It's an addiction! I also really enjoy trying out new restaurants – mostly I go straight to the dessert menu!

What are you working on right now?
I recently tried my hand at illustrations. I became inspired by '50s images of children from old storybooks. I am currently selling these prints online. I am also in a bird phase right now, but my most recent project is a series of collages using blown up old stamps and other vintage ephemera.

What do you hope to achieve next?
I am so overwhelmed with ideas right now that I hope to be able to devote as much time as I can to my art over the next while. My next project in the way of selling my work online will probably be to begin posting some larger works. I sell mostly oil and acrylic paintings in and around the city, but I would really love to reach a larger audience.

My goal is also to be able to combine my two degrees and find a full time position as a high school art teacher. That way I can concentrate a lot more on what I love most. I think it is so important for youth to be able to express themselves creatively. It is a freeing experience and something I hope to share with as many young people as I can.

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