Leah Comerford: Through Rose-Colored Glasses
Jan Farrar: Pooch Portraits
Bob Boyer: New Internet Free Art School
Jim Widess: New Gadgets for Gourds
David Wickenden's 9/11 Proposal
Peter Drewett: Homage to Joan Kerr
Sharon H. Garvey: Calligraphy for a Crucifix
Migration Break, detail of the Faerie
American artist Leah Comerford, "grew up in
khaki-cactus-green Tucson, Arizona., spent many years "living in
not-so-green California," and now resides in Falmouth, Virginia:
"I love Virginia! So GREEN! Well...as soon as winter gives up, that
Although she liked to draw since she was a child, Leah says that her art education didn't really start until after she graduated from the University of Arizona, when she studied portraiture with Florence Quater. Later, in San Francisco, she took commercial art courses and worked as the lead graphic artist at Chabot Community College for 13 years. "During that time," she says, "I learned basket weaving as a hobby and discovered the gratification of holding artwork made of natural materials."
"Next came an eight-year stay in San Diego, California where I made my living as a free-lance graphic artist. On a whim, an old friend and I decided to meet at The Caning Shop in Berkeley, California to take a gourd crafting class from Don Weeke. It took a nanosecond to become fascinated with gourd crafting. . . ."
Don Weeke showed the students how to use the Hot Tool to work on their
gourds. When Leah burned the gourd with the Hot Tool, she loved the
aroma! She soon found how to use a light touch on the curved surface
and intensify by means of texturing and dotting.
Leah's experience was really intense at that 1-day course. While her classmates worked on a beautiful finished project to take away with them, she worked excitedly, trying every technique the instructor demonstrated. Her final gourd looked like a hodge podge, and was--a veritable sampler.
Pastel Lagoon, View No. 4
Leah does some of her gourds without color, but adds color to most to increase depth and add character. She primarily uses Dr. Ph. Martin's Hydrus Watercolors, applied with gentle washes to allow the gourd shell's striations to remain visible. The skin of both people and animals she leaves in the natural gourd color, so that is visually a constant throughout her compositions.
Demonstration by the Artist
Tools. Leah developed her style using the Hot Tool's Needle
Point tip, but now does all her pyro work with the Razertip system. She
does some highlighting with an electric engraving tool, as well.
Designing. Because of the way she works her designs, Leah does not use a pattern to resolve them, but works directly on the gourd surface sketching in the components with a pencil.
Line Work and Shading. The image immediately above shows a close-up view of Leah Comerford shading the line work on her gourd. Burning on a curved gourd surface requires a different touch and special adaptations. Leah does her burned lines and her shading "using a pointillist approach--dot, dot, dotting all the way."
Color. Watercolor is what Leah uses to add color to her works. She does some highlighting with colored pencils.
Finding the Design
According to Leah, a medium-sized, illustrated gourd requires
approximately 50 hours of production time. When she sees a gourd like
the one above, she goes to work on it by looking for what is there in
the gourd itself. "The natural imperfections of the shell provide
generous glimpses of the creatures in residence," she says.
"I might see an eye, a face, or a complete form in the gourd markings.
"After a couple characters have emerged, a theme is chosen and then I do my best to direct the action. However, if the gourd and I are in disagreement about an inhabitant's pose or purpose--or even exisitence--the gourd usually gets its way."
Does she ever argue with the gourd? "YES--out loud!"
In reply to my questions about the curious creatures that populate her
gourds, whether they have some particular meaning in their shapes and
faces between human and animal; whether they relate to something in her
memory or from her past; whether they are a complete departure from the
sorts of pen&ink drawings she used to do, etc., Leah answered the following:
"Their shapes are strictly from the gourd, but their expressions and personalities have shown up in my past illustrations. I love illustrated children's books, and one of my favorite artists is Mercer Mayer. He's got a very gentle touch with his creatures and humans...as do many others, of course. Growing up, I was fascinated with the Disney studio's illustrations, so I reckon some of that influence is there, too.
After finishing one of the Underworld gourds, I remember someone asking if one of the characters in it was me. I started looking at that gourd, and others in that series, and realized they were ALL me!! The haughty ones, bashful, playful, and mostly wide-eyed with wonder...I could identify with every single creature and human in the gourds. At first I thought it was kind of weird...but then it seemed to make sense. Just another artist putting herself into her work.
One aspect I've *always* been conscious of, though: everyone has gorgeous hair ('cause I have hardly any!), and the women frequently get to have bodies that I wish *I* had. The one exception to this is in the audience in "The Wedding" gourd. I more or less represented myself in the plump (being kind to myself) matron with very thin hair and a huge nose."
The Wedding, View No. 1
Leah's niece's wedding was the inspiration for the gourd shown here in two views. On this one, Leah wanted to show some "real people"--first and foremost, of course, the bride and groom. She says she put herself among the guests, as well--the lady in the dark green dress sitting behind the little girl with the purple dress and bow.
The Wedding, View No. 2
Leah Comerford: is the proverbial breath of fresh
air. She is the first to call herself "An artist with no axe to
grind." She claims no social or political statements.
The lightheartedness of her art belies its complexity. She likes to term her art "escapist entertainment." Although it may not have a "deeper meaning" in the usual sense, Leah's gourd compositions, which flow with a dreamlike spontaneity, are beautifully layered with much to explore and enjoy. "The gourds suggest or dictate the creatures, she says modestly, "and I supply the personality." When we contemplate Leah Comerford's gourds, we are seeing the world through her rose colored glasses.
Leah is one of 112 gourd artists who contributed to the World's First
Gourd Quilt, which will debut at the Indiana Gourd Show on April
3, 2004. The idea for The Gourdpatch Quilt was conceived in May 2003
on JKStacy's Gourd Artist Guild online list. Quilt tiles,
history, and construction are on view at www.thegourdquilt.com.
To see more examples of gourd art by Leah Comerford, visit her E-Museum Salon.
Visit Leah Comerford's own website, http://homepage.mac.com/leahgourds.
You can contact Leah by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2004, Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez, all rights reserved.