Corvallis has such a wide variety of art and culture that it’s hard to imagine squeezing any more talent into the mix, but one of Corvallis’ newest artists has plenty of new inspiration to add. Hilary Leslie moved to Corvallis in December, and brought her henna-inspired artwork with her. Leslie is an Oregonian at heart, born and raised in Newport. At the young age of 23, she has traveled all over the world, enjoying art and culture of many different countries. Her trips have taken her from the glittering steps of Versailles and the canals of Venice all the way to the streets of Seoul, South Korea and the mating grounds of blue-footed boobies in the Galapagos. Throughout her travels she has been inspired to create many interesting and unique designs that all capture her vivid personality.
Leslie returns to Oregon from a yearlong study abroad program in Seville, Spain. While in Spain she had the opportunity to visit many places that helped shape some of her newer art. On a weekend trip to Morocco, she was able to see artwork much like her own, as well as new types of geometric artwork that led her to begin using more triangular shapes in some of her work.
“The artwork in Morocco was stunning,” she said. “There simply aren’t enough superlatives to describe the beauty and effort that goes into all the tiny details and symmetry of their geometric patterns. We visited an art school during my trip and it only furthered my interest in two-dimensional design.”
Leslie also was touched by the Islamic art that has survived throughout history in southern Spain. “Both the Alcazar palace in Seville and the Alhambra palace in Granada were incredibly inspiring, any art-lover’s paradise. Islamic art can be found all over Spain due to their long history. Spain has been ruled and conquered by many different groups, but much of the Islamic art remains perfectly intact; that should inspire anyone,” she said.
Leslie has been producing artwork for as long as she can remember. Originally, she began sketching and doing drawings for her family’s Christmas cards each year. In the first few years of high school she took an art class where she produced all different kinds of artwork, but this class was canceled after her sophomore year due to lack of funding for the arts. That didn’t stop her, however, and after seeing henna at a birthday party, she taught herself to draw the different elements of the patterns by looking at pictures and combining those elements in unique and different designs. The most surprising thing about her artwork is that she uses no tools to help keep her drawings symmetrical. She never uses rulers, compasses, or stencils, only a Sharpie pen and paper. The more she drew these fun and impressive pieces, the more people asked her for her work, and she eventually began making packages of cards by hand to sell for a few dollars to pay for the materials.
Although most people find her artwork compelling, Leslie maintains that “it is just doodling and drawing circles,” and so she sells her work for incredibly affordable prices. She now works with online companies to produce all sorts of items using her artwork, including fabric, wrapping paper, laptop sleeves, coffee mugs, pillows, and framed posters. Most of her work is similar in that it maintains elements of traditional henna, but some of her newest pieces include inspirations from the geometry of the artwork in Morocco.
Hilary Leslie hopes to join the Corvallis artistic community and grow to call this place home, at least until her wanderlust takes her back out into the world. Her web address is http://hennabyhilary.wix.com/henna-by-hilary. You can also find her on Facebook by searching for “Henna by Hilary.”
By Kyra Young