Leigh, it seems like creativity has entered every aspect of your life, from your art, your writing and now your creative entrepreneurship. What was it that started you down this path? A grade school teacher? Your parents’ influence?
I had an experience when I was 5 years old where a poem came to me fully formed, and I transcribed it — in a sky blue crayon — onto a little scrap of paper. It was such a powerful and wondrous experience for me since it felt like channeling. I can remember thinking, “I didn’t write this.” I knew that it was good and somehow more sophisticated than my own writing ability, and I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around that. I think that moment was a catalyst for a lifelong pursuit of creativity.
You’ve been a teacher, a screenwriter, a producer and director, an artist, a gallery owner and much more. Did you ever imagine you’d wear so many hats? Did one thing lead to another or are you always attracted to a new challenge?
I’m definitely a curiosity addict. I love trying new things. Part of wearing so many hats comes from that place, which I think is quite positive. But, the other side of it, which I grapple with all the time, is overcoming a fear of commitment. It’s always been hard for me to decide to do something with 100% of my time, energy and attention. That’s how the drive for curiosity can be a negative. It can pull me off my path. That said, it’s not like I’ve worn all of these hats for a couple weeks then moved on. I mean, I’ve been involved with screenwriting and filmmaking for 15 years. I worked in galleries for years and owned my own gallery for two years. So while there hasn’t been incredible longevity in each pursuit, I do feel I have a very well-rounded view of various types of creative paths and mediums. That’s been a real benefit to me as someone who supports and encourages other artists. I feel I have a good handle on the challenges that are specific to each path in addition to those creative challenges that are universal.
What is your typical day like? Do you have one part of the day where you find you’re at your creative peak?
Unfortunately there’s no such thing as typical! On a scale from “willy nilly” to “total discipline” I’m way over on the willy nilly side. However, in the past year or two I’ve gotten much better about having some routines in place. As strange as it sounds, having a dog really helps that. These days, I wake between 6 and 6:30. I do about 40 minutes of gentle yoga and breathing exercises. Then, I sit at my altar and express my gratitude for everything in my life. Then I shuffle a deck of oracle cards and ask, “What should I keep in mind today?” I use the card that I pull as an anchor I can go back to during the day. I have some other practices that act as anchors too. Things like a mission statement and other inspired texts that help me focus. Next, I feed the dog and walk her for about an hour. I live on a wooded peninsula by the beach so I get a lot of inspiration by being outside. It’s essential for me to have time in nature every day. I always bring my camera with me, and I take a daily “Good morning from Rhode Island” photo that I upload to Facebook. When I get home I eat breakfast. By then it’s about 9. After that, all hell breaks loose! I spend too much time online, too much time wandering around the house, too much time staring into the refrigerator. These are the perils of working from home, and the reason why it’s important to have anchors to go back to. Somehow by 6 p.m. I’ve managed to send emails, plan new programs, facilitate online courses, make paintings and keep moving forward. The evenings are spent cooking dinner, hanging out with my boyfriend, and watching some well-written scripted TV.
Nature and spirituality are important to you and you say they go hand-in-hand with adventure. How so?
I am a consummate road tripper. I’ve driven across and around the U.S. probably twelve times. When you’re road tripping (without having to rush to your destination), you allow yourself to explore and be lead intuitively; you are fully in the moment. Because of that, incredible serendipity happens. The right people, places, and things show up exactly when you need them. It’s hard to recreate that openness and “in-the-momentness” on a daily basis, but that’s part of my morning walks in nature. It’s the one hour of the day that I can follow my nose and just see what arrives. Often it’s pretty magical.
I remember wearing the “starving artist” label like a badge of honor when I was in my 20s. What is your best advice to a young person who might be romanticizing the life of the “starting artist?”
Oh boy, there’s so much to dig into about the whole starving artist archetype. I actually teach an 8 week e-course a couple of times a year called “Starving Artist No More,” so it’s an issue near and dear to my heart. I whole-heartedly believe that creative people are the soul of the world and that it’s time for us to stop keeping ourselves down. A lot of starving artists are folks who see the sickness inherent in our socio-political systems and want to keep themselves outside of that, which is totally understandable. I think, however, we need to transform the system from the inside out. We need to redefine the role of artist in our culture and restore its standing to a place of reverence and power. To young people starting out in the arts — or any artist, really — I say don’t give your power away. Don’t buy into the brainwashing around art being a luxury, or artists being flaky dreamers. Focus on what you’re devoted to, but find ways to do it that are sustainable. Band together and create community around you. Make friends with money and know that it’s your greatest fuel. Let yourself receive abundance so you can make more artwork. Don’t waste your life trying to make ends meet when the world needs you to be shining your creative light. And, mostly, find a way to tap into your inner confidence and stay in your strength.
What’s next for you?
Right now I’m finishing up a screenplay I was hired to write and am focused on creating a sustainable, daily painting practice. I’m also working on a picture book that’s based on a recent series of night sky paintings I’ve been working on. I am in the midst of planning some artist events in my home. (My boyfriend is a carpenter and he just built me a gorgeous ten person table from reclaimed wood.) On top of that, I want to keep supporting and encouraging other artists to grow and shine, so more online courses are sure to be in the roster for 2015.
Leigh Medeiros has been an exhibiting mixed media artist for much of the last twenty years. She has worked in various fine art galleries and art-related non-profits, and also owned her own gallery for two years. She’s an award-winning screenwriter and two-time Screenwriting Merit Fellow through her home state of Rhode Island. As a reporter with Patch.com and regional travel blogger for the (now defunct) ExploreNewEngland.com, Leigh wrote more than 100 published articles and posts on art, culture and the environment. Recently, she associate produced the movie THE ATTICUS INSTITUTE, created a short video about an artist with leukemia that was released nationally through the Newport Folk Fest and SPIN magazine, and directed/produced a book trailer for children’s book author Anika Denise. She mentors and inspires other artists through her website AllCreativelike.com. Follow Leigh on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.