Interview with Violent Hippie Leaf Art
An interview with Dessie Jeanne Marshall of Violent Hippie Leaf Art
We talked art recently with Dessie Jeanne Marshall in our swanky online coffee house and had an opportunity to ask her some questions about the art world in Canada and her unique art work which is grabbing attention, including ours.
Violent Hippie Leaf Art is a talented artist posted on ehCanadaTravel.com from Drumheller, Alberta. She is a Featured Member and was a TOP Canadian Travel Influencer on our eh Canada Travel website for January 2016.
Thank you Dessie Jeanne Marshall for taking some time out of your day for this fact-finding online interview and for sharing your insights with our followers, travelers and participating tourism businesses.
1. Please tell us a little about who you are and what you do?
I grew up on a little acreage in Verdant Valley outside Drumheller, Alberta. We lived off the land and had no TV, wood stove for heat, and plenty of fresh air and fun on the backs of horses. I was an avid reader and artistic from a young age. In the fall of 2007, when I was 21 years old I noticed a large cottonwood leaf on the ground. To my amazement, I saw that it resembled an elephant’s face. I carved the image into the leaf with a razor blade, and although at first I thought it was a fluke I began seeing images in leaves everywhere. A new art form was born, and in 2010 I moved to Mexico to search for new leaves. I debuted my art in Puerto Vallarta, and since then have moved on to do shows across the continent in Mexico, the States and here in Canada.
Artist: Dessie Jeanne Marshall
Artisan Business: Violent Hippie Leaf Art
Online Profile: https://www.ehcanadatravel.com/alberta/drumheller/3527-violent-hippie-leaf-art.html
2. Tell us what makes Violent Hippie Leaf Art unique and/or interesting?
That is the one part that needs no real help explaining! The images themselves which I find hidden in these leaves never cease to amaze me in their sheer variety and depth. The delicacy of the veins, which I leave intact, add to the ability of the leaves to capture the eye and sometimes the end product borders on optic illusion. Although there are an increasing number of leaf artists in the world who do incredibly detailed and interesting work, I remain the only one who does more finding than creating–which is to say that rather than use the leaf as a canvas, I feel I am bringing out an image that is already there. I also freehand every piece, without the use of stencils or aids of any kind. Just a razor blade, and a lamp.
3. How did you get started in art? What made you want to become an artist?
I can’t remember ever not being interested in art and have always been surrounded by, and fascinated in, the miracles of nature itself. I was helplessly addicted to doodling in school and would sneak them into the backs of my notebooks, slowly filling up pages. Invariably, by the time I made it halfway through one the rest of it would already be taken up by drawings. I never did have much exposure to art history or the art world itself, and actually quite resisted pursuing my art in my early twenties. It took a great leap of faith and letting go of my fear of failure.
4. What do you like the most about living in Drumheller?
I no longer live in Drumheller full time and have spent a lot of time travelling in recent years, but it is always so nice to go back to visit. The valley itself is beautiful and unique, with the layers of the badlands forming bold horizontal stripes. I’ll never get tired of hiking through that valley and fossil hunting with my father, or riding through it on horseback with my sister. It is world famous for its dinosaur fossils, and tons of tourists visit every summer to attend the Royal Tyrrell Musuem or explore the valley itself. The town has a friendly, familiar feel where people still greet eachother in passing and contains no shortage of characters!
5. Please give us some insight on what, you see, as the biggest mistake visiting travelers do?
I learned more about this from Mexico than Canada, but my answer is totally relevant to travellers everywhere including Drumheller (if that’s what you’re asking?). A lot of people visit an area without knowing much about it and, especially if they aren’t the most inquisitive types, end up really limiting their own experience. It’s important to know what kind of experience one would like to have before going into a travel situation, and also remaining adaptable to that journey. I think that is one of the greatest things about your organization, because its goal is to help people really have a rich experience wherever we go in Canada whether we are looking for high adventure (that would be me!) or just a relaxing break from the daily grind.
6. What would be the biggest advice you would share with people who are looking to art as a career?
Geez that is an enormous question! The business aspect of art can be very challenging to artists for a variety of reasons, one being that art is often such a personal and emotional thing for the creator. There is no real formula, and the approach one should take depends on the individual and what it is they want out of life. Business skills are a big advantage, as well as connections in the art world. I don’t have much in the way of either of these although I have made some progress! It is very important to believe in your art if not in yourself, although both are ideal. Perseverance is key, because no matter how amazing your art is, it will always take a ton of work to get recognized by the art world. Beyond that, its one great big mystery to me!
7. Who is your artist role model and why?
I had very few artistic influences growing up, but I will never forget the first time I saw the work of Robert Bateman. My reaction was a mix of reverent awe and utter horror! Reverent awe because the man paints such brilliant, detailed and accurate wildlife scenes, and utter horror because it had never occurred to me that there could already be a master at such a thing. Up until then I had dreams of becoming a wildlife realism artist, and in one moment I dashed my hopes and thought to myself, “Well this is just great. The best I could ever hope to do is be confused for Robert Bateman!” I suppose I always wanted to be different and to stand in a field of my own. I feel incredibly grateful that Mother Nature gave me just such an opportunity.
8. What is the funniest moment in your art history?
The first that comes to mind is the story before my first show. I was planning it carefully and with great angst, and had put a lot of money into having invitations and business cards made. At the time I was travelling around by public transit in Mexico, and rode the bus to pick up my invitations. They were beautiful, and I was so excited I jumped off the bus at the venue and ran to the owner to show him. With a huge smile I told him how beautiful they were and suddenly realized that in my excitement I had left the package on the bus! There are about 300 buses in Puerto Vallarta and despite this, after a 2 hour hunt and good memory I tracked down the particular bus only to find them gone. Crestfallen, I texted the print shop to tell them I needed to reorder, and they told me to pick them up the next day. I was on my way to pick up batch #2 when my phone rang and a Mexican lady told me she had found my invitations on the bus yesterday!!! I was overjoyed but I knew I still had to pay for the second batch. I walked into the print shop and the owner came rushing over worriedly to say that they had run out of ink that morning and couldn’t start on my order. “Cancel it!” I yelled, and practically did cartwheels out of the store. Fate, it seemed, had decided that my negligence wouldn’t be too severely punished and I went on to sell my first piece at my first show.
9. What are your future plans, projects or goals for Violent Hippie Leaf Art?
The sky is the limit! I hope to have it recognized as a new fine art form. I would like to see it known and enjoyed on a global scale, and start a movement in the art community. I have been overjoyed to see kids putting down their Ipads after seeing my art, to go to the nearest tree or bush to see what they can find in a leaf. I hope that this art can bring people as a whole closer to nature, and to rediscover the vitality and relevance of the natural world to their lives. Ideally I would like to see more unity in this world, to move forward together to seek our positive potential. Big dreams…and big possibilities. I am currently in BC working on a new collection and have several projects in mind, but right now one of my priorities is creating an international association of leaf artists.
10. What do you see as the biggest challenges in the future of art in Alberta?
Alberta has always been a challenging place for artists, in part because historically there is less of a priority put on the arts by the government or general population. This isn’t to say there is no art culture here or that nobody cares about art, but it has always been one of the harsher environments physically and I think the culture has reflected that. The winters are cold and long, and this has bred a population of survivors who necessarily are more utilitarian in their thinking. Agriculture and the mining of natural resources are our legacies, and those things are not always closely associated with art. However, I do see a shift towards a a future that embraces the arts as a whole, and there has always been a strong undercurrent of artistic creativity here. The biggest challenge may be to develop Alberta’s image as a supporter of the arts in the minds of the rest of the world.
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