Wednesday, April 6, 2022

True Confession! I'm in Love With Archeology.

Yes, I love archeology and ancient history. 
Whenever I want to relax, I turn on the Science Channel to watch Unearthed, or Mysteries of the Abandoned.
I have two magazine subscriptions (Archaeological Institute of America, and Current World Archeology) and look forward to them like a kid waiting for his Captain Midnight Secret Decoder Ring to arrive in the mail.  

On my last vacation I brought books to read and some drawing materials. One book in particular grabbed me and wouldn't let go; The Sutton Hoo Story by Martin Carver. I felt moved to produce drawings inspired by what I learned and saw.  

I find myself so fascinated by archeology that, at some point, I may create an entirely new body of work. It's all very speculative, but it is very exciting for me, and I wanted to share it now.
What is Sutton Hoo? ⁠

It's a burial site in England, with many types of burials, from royal barrows to gallows graveyard, dating from the 6th to 7th centuries.⁠ They appear as mounds on a flat landscape, next to the River Deben. There is a really great movie based on a novel, both called The Dig that dramatizes the excavation of Mound 1, where some of the most impressive and beautiful artifacts ever found in Britain were discovered.
But while I like jewels and treasures, it is the dirt and bones that really intrigue me. 
My first endeavor was a pencil sketch of the remains in burial Mound 17.   ⁠
Mound 17 was an un-looted burial mound whose inhabitant was buried in a tree trunk coffin (how COOL is that?) sometime between 560-650 AD. Among other things, there were caldrons, weapons, a comb, and the remains of a bridle. In another mound close by, his horse was interred, along with a bucket of oats.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

An Artist Who Inspires- Arvie Smith

Arvie Smith (born 1938) is a nationally recognized African American painter based in my hometown of Portland, Oregon.

Arvie Smith, Ease on Down the Road, 30x22

There is a nice little bio of him here on the Hallie Ford Museum website, where he is having an exhibition from January 22- March 26th, 2022.

Smith's work is so, so, so many things. 

Arvie Smith, Dem Golden Slippers, 2007 68x68
Some words I think of when seeing his work:

Arvie Smith, Steppin' Out, 30x22













The figures in his paintings shift from being vivid individuals, to embodying biting racist tropes, and back again.  He celebrates Black culture and tradition, and in the same image crams racist symbols from the larger, white dominated culture. These images live side by side in the same painting, which is what I imagine it may be like for African Americans every day, all day long.

Arvie Smith BestMan 2016 72x60
As a "nice white lady" my impulse is to avert my eyes from the ugly racist images, and yet, Arvie Smith's paintings are just so gorgeous, so funny and alive, I cannot help but bask in them. I must look and look and look. 

Arvie Smith, Honkie Tonk, 68x78 2015

Seeing these paintings on your tiny phone or desk top will in no way indicate what it is like to see them in person. They fairly leap off the wall at you, and they seem to pulse with color and light. 

His website is here:

Arvie Smith Scare Crow 2016 60x48

Arvie Smith, Trial of Tears 68x60

Arvie Smith 68x60 diptic right


She glances out the back window at a waiting yellow taxi. Who is it that pursues her and why?

©lesliepetersonsapp Pursuit 24x48
Scenes of women in trouble is very touchy. I do not want to perpetuate stereotypes of helplessness. I always want to make it seem like she has agency. Though there may be danger, you get the feeling she has a good chance of pulling through and landing on her feet!

This is a piece that went through many changes. Originally I had multiple people in the street scene as if there where a bunch of people milling around. But as things developed I could see the figures were just a distraction from the real drama. I even considered taking out the figure near the door and just leaving the car- I still don’t know if I made the right choice. Don’t be surprised if you see another version of this one. (I often feel compelled to do certain images again and again.) 

This one was just really fun. I loved working with the street light creating a cone of a lighter color. The back window of her vehicle creates a frame within a frame, and the dark color flows into her silhouetted profile and the buildings on the street. I tried to make a contrast with the bright yellow, the cool watercolor blues, and the flat dark brown/black.

Keep your eye open for a woodcut version of this piece!

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

An Artist Who Inspires- Leland Bell

In my current work in progress, I have been toying around with a bright window behind my protagonist. This is inspired by the great Leland Bell. ⁠
*I should note that there is another artist named Leland Bell who's work is inspired from his Native American heritage, and his work looks very different than the Leland Bell I am referring to. ⁠

 Leland Bell, Morning III 1985 Acrylic on canvas, 62x43
Leland Bell (September 17, 1922 – September 18, 1991) was an American painter, who was introduced to me as an art student at Queens College in NYC. (In fact, a may have even met him at an opening for his wife, artist Louisa Matthíasdóttir… it was so darn long ago, I can’t be sure!)
Leland Bell, Frank O'Brian, 1979, Acrylic on canvas, 24x32

Leland Bell, Morning II 1985 Acrylic on canvas, 74x58
Bell has been a guide and an inspiration for me for so many years, I find it surprising to see that there is an absolute dirge of information and images about him on the internet. I was always under the impression that he was famous.

Leland Bell, Skull and Plant, 1978, Acrylic on canvas 40x42

Leland Bell, Three Figures with Butterfly 1979-82, 52x102

Leland Bell, Ulla and Frank Playing Cards, 1975-78, Oil on canvas, 52x64
One of the things I share with Leland Bell is his obsessive repetition of certain themes, creating many versions of the same basic image. He also sometimes worked on one painting for many years. ⁠
I love the way he simplifies, his use of that heavy black line, and his compositions. I refer to him often as I am working on my art.⁠

Leland Bell, Morning V 1985 Acrylic on canvas 71x56

Ulla, Temma, and Frank, 1978, Oil on canvas, 72x66

Thursday, December 9, 2021


©lesliepetersonsapp Incogito 10x8 Acrylic on panel
A voluptuous, glamorous woman leans against the doorframe, silhouetted by the bathroom light. Over her shoulder we see, hanging on the shower curtain rod, a maid’s uniform. 

In conversation about classic film noir, a common subject is that actors and actresses of color were relegated into narrow stereotyped roles, often as domestic servants of white protagonists. But of course, this didn’t just happen in the movies, it happened in real life, too. African Americans had limited opportunities and were often employed as domestics in white households. What individuality was denied or hidden?

I see a dynamic, powerful, sexy woman who has to masquerade as a demure, uniformed domestic by day- but who knows what mischief or adventures she may be involved in after hours.

And... who knows what she may know about her employers…?


Sunday, December 5, 2021

An Artist Who Inspires- Marc Chagall

Today is the last day of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. In celebration of this, I am featuring Marc Chagall.

Marc Chagall The Birthday 1915
 Marc Chagall is one of the twentieth century’s most famous artists, and probably the most famous artist that is associated with being Jewish. He is considered a Modernist, a Cubist, a Symbolist, a Fauvist, and sometimes “Naïve” painter, who is also well known for his stained glass windows.

Marc Chagall I and the Village 1911
He was born in 1887 in Belarus, and migrated to France in 1910. He escaped Nazi persecution to the US in 1941, returning to France in 1948, where he lived the rest of his very long life, dying in 1985. 

Marc Chagall The Fiddler 1913
His subject matter is wide and free-wheeling, and although he was not a practicing Jew, he wove images of the memories of his Hasidic upbringing in Belarus when he was young.

Marc Chagall Solitude 1933
 I am inspired by Chagall’s work and sometimes wish I could break up space with such aplomb. 


I love the air of mystery, sadness, joy, romance and spiritualism that his work combines. Maybe someday I will get there, too!

Aleko and-His Wife Zemphira from an Old Russian Tale

Marc Chagall Blue Village 1975

Marc Chagall The Circus 1964