We recently chatted with Alexandra Lalande from A.L.Creatives. Her unique paintings on leaves caught our eye last fall and we've been excited to see her work develop over the past year.
Tell us a bit about what you do...
I always enjoyed art as an outlet. I liked all the various mediums you explore going through school (graphite, pastels, charcoal, painting, pottery..) and although painting was my favourite, I never made enough time to do more than a few little paintings a year. I always imagined creating paintings that focused on environmental issues and I really wanted to be able to do something that captured peoples attention to reduce waste but because of my lack of practice, I never imagined having the confidence to create these pieces. Eventually, just before ending college, I began slowly experimenting with sign painting (mostly typography with a flower here or a bird there) on reclaimed wood to do something that promoted upcycling and waste reduction. It wasn't until I saw a photo of a leaf that had been painted entirely black and then painted with a cityscape that my idea developed. I was intrigued by the use of leaves because of how I wanted to connect to waste reduction and since most, (if not all) art supplies undergo extensive manufacturing processes, leaves worked as a great solution. They are regenerated every year and collection in the fall means an extremely low impact on trees and the environment. What initiated my first leaf was the fact that the leaf I saw had been coated in black and all of it's natural beauty was hidden. I immediately felt compelled to paint a winter scene on a red maple leaf and be as Canadian as possible about it. It definitely was not a master piece, and neither were the handful of leaves I painted in the following months. However, after some encouragement and perseverance I was able to develop my painting skills enough to be encouraged to make a substantial collection of leaves that Autumn (2016) and it has taken me to where I am now!
I often work alone with music playing. I find too much commotion (people, television, movement..) is too distracting and won't give me my desired outcome or progress will be extremely slow.
Aside from the actual painting of the pieces I find meaningful, a great part of creating what I do is the collection of leaves in the fall. I have been able to go to different areas in Ontario and see new hiking trails to collect the leaves, and create pieces of those areas. It has been exciting to find all the different shapes and sizes of leaves and to learn about the trees the leaves have come from. Over time, as more people have become aware of the type of work I do, I have been presented with some very unique leaves and it's created opportunities to meet new people and to learn about other areas and trees/plants in Ontario.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
Sometimes I find myself struggling to make time to paint. I have a full-time job that can at times take a toll on concentration and with other things like family, friendships, cooking, exercise, other hobbies, etc. it can be difficult and sometimes stressful to continue my painting as an outlet and not just another task on the to-do list. I find immersing myself in nature to be my biggest reset tool. I pull inspiration from the environment I grew up in and the environment that I find to be peaceful and wholesome. This allows me to remember what I value most and how important environmental issues are to me, which is my largest motivator. Creating pieces that bring up often overlooked or forgotten facts on wildlife, our environment or our community are the pieces I get most excited to create. I want to always continue to learn new things and be able to share them in a creative and interesting way that will allow people to be more interested in the subject or issue. This is what keeps me interested and maintains the excitement to always create more.
What is the best advice that you have ever been given?
Never give up. Practice makes perfect. Don't forget to stop and smell the wildflowers. I can't think specifically of a moment when I received incredible advice but the standard ones you hear often enough always apply. I do remind myself of them constantly to stay focused but also to remember to take breaks, not take life too seriously and to enjoy the little things that I find meaning in.
What is your favourite thing you have created?
My favourite piece so far is my largest leaf I have painted. It is a large Mountain Maple Leaf that I used to create a piece for the International Day of Forests 2017 that was shared to my social media. I have a strong interest in trees and forest communities as a whole and I was excited to create something I could share that I felt so passionately about and that went so well with a quote from my favourite book that describes trees so majestically.
Have other people supported or inspired you?
I have family and friends that have supported me immensely. There were many times starting out (painting on leaves and sharing them on social media) that I allowed my self doubt, frustration, lack of feedback etc.. to affect what I believed my paintings meant to me. I was encouraged to continue during the times I was determined to give up and never pick up a paint brush again and I am very thankful to have had that push to continue as it gave me the confidence to actually display my work in public and be able to share something I am passionate about.
I am constantly inspired by organizations like WWF, Pacific Wild, Ontario Nature, Forests Ontario, Friends of Temagami, Humane Society, Ontario Parks, David Suzuki Foundation, Nature Conservancy of Canada... that are dedicated to highlighting areas of need in our environment. I am also greatly inspired by Lauren Singer (@trashisfortossers on instagram) who advocates for "zero waste" lifestyles that everyone can adapt to. The local artists of the North also greatly inspire me. I am so grateful to be a part of such an immensely supportive, kind and welcoming community! I most likely would never have had the courage to participate in a market or even try to display my work - if it hadn't been for Markers North, so I am thankful to them for their support of local, handmade goods.