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Art & Life with Lesli Bonanni

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lesli Bonanni.

Lesli, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I believe life manifests signs to you when the time is right.  Such is the case when I walked into my first art class at a Community College in Las Vegas, Nevada. That was 18 years ago. The instructor began, “I am not here to teach you how to paint, but how to see the world differently.”  I was not prepared for what happened next. Tears welled in my eyes, and my body had a visceral and physical reaction that literally sent shivers up my spine. I was shocked, embarrassed the instructor might see my eyes watering, and utterly… exhilarated. This was where I needed to be.

Before that fateful day, my creative passion was interior design.  I was taking the class to solve an issue. There was a huge wall in our new home, and it needed original art. Not having the budget for a painting of the scale I envisioned, I decided to take a painting class and try to create something myself. For two years  I took every art class offered.  I was smitten. A bedroom turned into my art studio, and I developed the discipline to paint every day to “find my style.” Instead, it found me. That painting I had visualized became a reality.  I built a 5.5′ wide x 8.5′ high canvas, and placed it on sawhorses in our large foyer.   For four days, I painted the canvas with acrylic paints and house paint rollers. It was titled “The Beginning.” My cousin Laura, a prominent designer from Atlanta, came to a party we had and noticed the painting. She offered me opportunities to paint for her clients, and I was off and running.

I worked for many years painting for Laura, myself, family and friends, giving away paintings, honing and developing my skills, finding my way, and experimenting with whatever idea came into my head. I still did not consider myself a “professional artist,” rather a student seeking to improve. Then, the 2008 financial crisis hit us hard.  In 2009, my husband and I found ourselves moving back to Huntington Beach, where we grew up. I had limited space to create now, but managed to cobble together a studio in 1/2 of our garage. I needed to get serious and market myself more. My best friend, an artist as well, suggested I try painting with pastels. Always curious and experimental, I started painting 6″ x 6″ pastel paintings to learn the medium. I entered 2 juried contests, and my work was accepted. One painting sold immediately online before the show opened, and the other was accepted into IAPS, the International Association of Pastel Societies. Four years ago, I received an email from a licensing company that viewed my website and expressed interest in my work. I provided them with several paintings for reproduction. One day, kind of on a whim, I entered these pastel paintings into the highly esteemed Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach, and they were accepted! I am honored to have been an exhibitor there in 2017 and 2018. Today, my pastel paintings are licensed and sold around the world to the retail, interior design, hospitality, and healthcare industry. Several paintings have been rented to tv and movie studios.  Today, I work from my home studio in San Clemente.

And yes… I am still exhilarated. Every. Single. Day.

Can you give our readers some background on your art
I paint evocative, atmospheric landscapes with soft pastel on textured paper. My work is of a minimalist nature.  I am mainly interested in the distillation of the landscape, to reveal its essence. Entering the studio, I am filled with anticipation, excited to experience what I don’t know, yearning to see what will happen. Embracing the not knowing is essential. For me, the act of painting is a spiritual one. The world is shut out, and in my quiet solitude, I am connected to the Universe. The extreme focus centers my restless self. The process is impulsive, intuitive, introspective, and emotional. I am fearless.

To start, I move quickly, wanting to get something on the paper so I can start interacting with it. The painting begins to develop, and the conversation between art and artist begins. Thin layers of pigment build up, colors merge and soften, questions get answered, changes occur, and I am lost in the moment. The painting has a history, born from each decision and movement. Like a photograph developing, the painting emerges, and I slow down to listen to where I should go next. I search for the hint of a horizon, and work to explore, exploit, and refine it.  That is, until enough has been said. It is then that I will sit with it, waiting for inspiration for a name.

Mostly, I use pan pastels with sponges in different shapes.  These sponges allow me to move my arm, wrist and fingers in ways that mimic paintbrushes, allowing me to develop a personal language of mark-making. Soft stick pastels,  pastel pencils, erasers, a razor blade, and vine charcoal may also be employed.

How do you think about success, as an artist, and what quality do you feel is most helpful
Inside the studio, I define success as discovering the self awareness that authentic self-expression brings.  Outside the studio, I define success as sharing one’s artistic voice to actually make a difference in another’s life.

I believe it is essential to have perseverance, grit and honesty as an artist to be successful.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
Visit my website – or my Instagram page – @leslibonanniart

Visit my Current Exhibition:

Wells Fargo Building – 2nd Floor
260 Ocean Avenue, Laguna Beach

Gallery Hours: M-F 9-6 Sat 9-4/ Show closes January 31, 2020

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
David Bonanni, Jeff Rovner

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  1. Barbara Horn

    October 24, 2019 at 16:13


  2. Donna Bond

    October 26, 2019 at 21:08

    Lesli you are a beautiful and gifted woman inside and out and this exceptional expression graces every canvas you gift to the world. Thank you for sharing yourself so honestly and vulnerability. You are so beautiful, just like your art.

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