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story.lead_photo.caption Courtesy photos -- Artists Leana Fischer (left) and Madison Woods (right)

Northwest Arkansas is a hotbed of artistic talent. Through a new feature -- Makers' Round-Up -- we're going to be shining a spotlight on the folks who make up the creative, diverse heart of the region's art scene.

Leana Fischer, May We Fly

Leana Fischer's lovely watercolor prints celebrating the beauty of everyday nature grace calendars, cards and prints. She has created licensed work for large-scale greeting card companies like Papyrus and Hallmark and teaches classes and workshops.

Q: Please tell us a little bit about your work. What do you create?

A. My work is a daily practice of celebrating tiny miracles, delighting in simple pleasure and framing the moments that make our lives beautiful. I paint mainly with watercolors and turn my paintings into products like greeting cards, art prints and calendars.

Q: Where can we see/purchase your work?

A. If you are local, you can visit me at my studio shop [at 221 S. Block Ave., No. 6, Fayetteville], which is open every Friday from 1 to 6 p.m. You can also find all of my products online at maywefly.com.

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Artist Leana Fischer creates beautiful watercolor illustrations under the shop name May We Fly. (Courtesy Photo)

Q: As a writer, I sometimes experience writer's block. Do you experience "creator's block" and, if so, what kinds of things inspire you to get over that?

A: The biggest thing that helps me when I'm brainstorming or have hit a creative block is to take a break. I've found that inspiration most often strikes when my mind is rested, so things like taking a walk or spending time in the garden really help give my mind space to think of my best ideas.

Q: What's your favorite part of the creative process?

A: Once I have an idea, whether it's a painting or other creative project, I love the designing phase, which for me typically looks like a process of sketching out different concepts and testing a variety of color schemes.

Q: Was there a teacher, relative or friend who particularly encouraged you to pursue your art?

A: My parents are both artists as well, so they were extremely encouraging while I was growing up. Also, though I studied architecture in college, I took an elective course in pottery and had an absolutely wonderful teacher who was a big encourager of my artistic pursuits as well.

Q: Have there been any responses to your art that you found particularly moving or memorable?

A: I'm always amazed when I hear from customers about the impact my art has had on their lives or how meaningful it is to them. Recently, one person told me that the piece she got helped her feel peaceful during a particularly difficult time.

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“My work is, most often, about simply documenting and sharing the beautiful things I’ve noticed in my world, with the hope that it might help others notice the beauty that’s in theirs,” says Leana Fischer. (Courtesy Photo)

Q: How has your work changed or evolved over time?

As I've practiced and practiced over the years, I've gotten much more confident in my watercolor technique and am able to now paint a wider range of subjects than I once was. I will always love painting botanicals, which is where I got my start, but am finding myself currently most drawn to landscapes and animals.

Q: What are some other artists/creators that inspire you?

A: I'm fortunate to be friends with some extremely talented local artists, such as Amber Perrodin, Stacie Bloomfield, Dani Ives, Tram Colwin and Faith Whittle. These women are a constant source of inspiration and encouragement to me. From afar, I admire the work of many artists, including Robert Bowers, Michelle Morin and Erika Lee Sears, to name a few.

Q: What is one tool in your studio you can't live without?

A: My No. 12 Winsor and Newton paintbrush!

Q: What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

A: When it comes to the creative process, a wonderful piece of advice I was once given was to "draw what you know," meaning, you don't have to have it all figured out at the beginning, you just have to start with the smallest bit of what you know to do, and the rest will follow.

Q: Has rejection ever affected your creative process?

Absolutely! Whenever it happens to me, whether it's not getting an award or not selling a certain product, I do my best to take it as a challenge to learn from, improve upon and try again. There's always a mini pity party, that goes without saying, but I more often than not try to take rejection as a message of "not yet" rather than "I'm not good enough."

Q: If you could change one aspect of society through your work, what would it be?

A: I'm interested in the practice of noticing. My work is, most often, about simply documenting and sharing the beautiful things I've noticed in my world, with the hope that it might help others notice the beauty that's in theirs. Perhaps this isn't a society-changing concept, but I think if everyone were to keep their eyes open to those small, simple, beautiful things, it would lead to a society that is marked with more patience and gratitude.

Q: Do you have any advice for other creatives who might be just starting out?

A: I would say, the most important thing is to choose to take your work seriously by prioritizing it every day. Whether that's drawing in your sketchbook for 10 minutes or painting for two hours, if you're wanting to build a lifestyle around your creative endeavors, you must make sure that making time for your creativity is a daily habit. The other benefit of this is that, the more you make, the better you get!

"My work is a daily practice of celebrating tiny miracles, delighting in simple pleasure and framing the moments that make our lives beautiful," says Leana Fischer of her work. (Courtesy Photo)
"As I've practiced and practiced over the years, I've gotten much more confident in my watercolor technique and am able to now paint a wider range of subjects than I once was," says Leana Fischer. "I will always love painting botanicals, which is where I got my start, but am finding myself currently most drawn to landscapes and animals." (Courtesy Photo)

Madison Woods, Wild Ozark

Artist Madison Woods translates the natural beauty of the Ozarks to her canvas -- but what makes her truly different is that her canvases are painted with materials found in the very landscapes that she creates. "I make [paints] by crushing rocks, clay, charred wood and extract certain leaves to create pigments which are then added to a binder to make paint," Woods explains. "By working with these materials to make paint, I feel a sense of collaboration and partnership -- a harmony I have no other way to translate other than by making art."

Q: Please tell us a little bit about your work. What do you create?

A: All of my work begins with foraging for pigments. I go to the creeks on our property to look for rocks. We have colorful sandstones in various hues, but they're easiest to see while they're wet. I'll also collect leaves from a couple of trees that give me pigments I know are light-fast, and root bark of the sassafras tree when I can find upturned trees, and bones of all sorts. These are the things I use to make my watercolor paints. Then I'll finally get around to the blank canvas on the easel. My paintings are a reflection of the Ozarks, both in subject and medium. My favorite subjects are the raptors that live here, winter over, breed, or migrate through here. I'm working on a collection I've titled "Ozark Birds of Prey."

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Madison Woods uses natural materials from the Ozarks to create beautiful works of art. (Courtesy Photo)

Q: When did you first start thinking of yourself as an artist/creator/maker? What were some of the first things you remember creating?

A: I've been creative all of my life, but until recently I only engaged in drawing and sketching. A few years ago, I did a bit of sculpting and other crafty things that I enjoyed, but it didn't quite satisfy the inner seeking. But then I followed a random, instinctive urge. I picked up a cracked rock on the driveway, and rubbed the pigment dust on a scrap of paper in the summer of 2018. That was the pivotal moment. That set me off on a experimental journey to figure out how to make a paint, what binder to use, and how best to prepare the pigments. I had finally found the art form that led me to call myself an artist. This making of paints from the pigments I've collected by hand and then making the paintings from them... this is truly satisfying. It is my calling, and I'm so grateful to have finally found it after all this time.

Q: Where can we see/purchase your work?

A: I have original art on exhibit in a couple of different locations at this moment, and some of it is here with me and available online at my website. For anyone in the area who would like to see the ones on hand in person, I'm happy to bring them out for viewing by appointment. I don't have an official "studio" at this point, but I have websites which I've listed below.

"Destination Unknown" is a painting of a red-tailed hawk on exhibit at The Museum of the Red River in Idabel, Okla., until March 1. After that it will hang at the Nesbitt Gallery in Chickasha, Okla., from May 5 to May 23. My two goshawk paintings ("Rhapsody" and "Goshawk No. 1") will hang at the Center for Arts & Sciences in Monterrey Bay, Calif., for the Convergence Show, a joint effort between the University of California/MB and the Big Sur Land Trust, through Aug. 7.

I'll take the rest of them with me to pop-up galleries in Downtown Rogers for the Art on the Bricks program on the second Tuesday of each month March through December. For the month of March, I'll be set up to exhibit at American Estates (103 W. Walnut St.). I keep that information updated at my website under the Exhibits tab. For the month of February, I may be out of the country, but will be available via email if anyone wants to ask any questions or set up viewing appointments in March or beyond.

Prints are available at War Eagle Mills in Rogers, Kingston Square Arts in Kingston, and through my Wild Ozark website (Paleo Paints and pigments are also available here).

My online galleries can be found at PaleoPaints.com, and the website with the exhibits information is the main site at WildOzark.com. My email address is madison@wildozark.com.

Q: What is one tool in your studio you can't live without?

A: A good, sturdy, mortar and pestle. I could probably live without everything else and still make art. But getting a good reduction on the pigment is important to me.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

A: I wish I could remember who first told me this or where I heard it, but this one phrase saved me from a life of OCD distress. I think it was Barbara Sandefur Worth, my friend and fiber artist from Kingston. To paraphrase, "A painting isn't supposed to be a photographic rendition. It is your interpretation of the subject that makes it a work of art." That said, I am enthralled by the paintings I've seen that are so realistic I could step right into that world and never know I'd left reality. I think I'll always be amazed by that level of talent and skill. But I've come to accept that perhaps that is not my calling. And I'm at peace with that. But it doesn't mean I'm not always striving to be more accurate in my depictions of whatever I'm painting. Even fantasy, when paired with at least some elements of recognizable reality, is better received (in my opinion).

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"All of my work begins with foraging for pigments," says Woods. "I go to the creeks on our property to look for rocks. We have colorful sandstones in various hues, but they're easiest to see while they're wet. I'll also collect leaves from a couple of trees that give me pigments I know are light-fast, and root bark of the sassafras tree when I can find upturned trees, and bones of all sorts." (Courtesy Photo)

Q: If you could change one aspect of society through your work, what would it be?

A: I would love it if my work facilitates respect and appreciation for unadulterated nature. So much of what our society now experiences as nature is curated. For example, with my series on the raptors of the Ozarks, at first glance they are just beautiful birds. But their beauty carries with it a brutality -- the cycle of life and death -- and its inescapable fate for all things on earth. Just as I am destroying a thing (the rocks when I smash them) I am also creating a thing (beautiful, natural, artwork). This duality is inherent in nature. My work is a practice in this concept. It touches on a core that is often ignored. Too often curated nature hides behind the beauty and ignores the brutality. It is like Jung's "shadow side." We all have one. It's inseparable from the whole, and it's the wholeness I'd like to see respected more often.

Q: Do you have any advice for a creative just starting out?

Tap into your gut and trust your instinct. When I first began painting (and this was fairly recently, in 2018, so I'm not sure how qualified my answer is) I had suggestions from all directions on many things. One of the main suggestions was to just buy pigments to incorporate blue and green to my work, since those are two colors we don't have here in the Ozarks. But my endeavor was, and still is, and probably always will be, to reflect the environment around me. And right now, I'm in the Ozarks. So that means no true blues or greens in my light-fast palette. By working with this limited range of colors I feel like I've developed a strong voice and a true brand. Had I gone with the options of filling in the missing parts of my spectrum, I think my work would be less ... Just "less." Other suggestions were to study under someone to learn proper technique. I didn't want to do that because I was still finding myself as a painter. I would be more comfortable now learning some techniques to improve my work, but I am glad I put the blinders on initially. So my advice is to find yourself beforehand. And then don't lose that part of yourself once you do begin seeking outside input. But keep in mind that this advice is coming from a self-taught, stubborn artist, and it may not be the right path for anyone else.

"My paintings are a reflection of the Ozarks, both in subject and medium," says Woods. "My favorite subjects are the raptors that live here, winter over, breed, or migrate through here. I'm working on a collection I've titled 'Ozark Birds of Prey'." (Courtesy Photo)

Leana Fischer

May We Fly

Studio: 221 S. Block Ave., No. 6, Fayetteville

Website: maywefly.com

Facebook: facebook.com/maywefly/

Instagram: mayweflydesign

Madison Woods

Wild Ozark

Website: wildozark.com

Facebook: facebook.com/WildOzark

Instagram: wildozark

NAN Our Town on 02/20/2020

Print Headline: Makers' Round-Up

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