Mothers Day with Leanne and Bella Thomas for Leannethomas.com and shebethesound.com

River Bennett (Photographer River Bennett)

The Professional Artist and the Fashion Blogger, the mother and the daughter.

The beautiful meshing of minds with generational richness. One absorbed in nature’s beauty with a simple, honest depth because motherhood warranted it, because motherhood inspired it. The other, creating because she had been invested into from a young age. Her thoughts, her words on her blog rotating in a spell of wisdom. Not many eighteen years olds produce work like this, and I was left to wonder and to discover how this stunning combo lived, what they thought about life and the arts, and how they will be spending their time this Mother's Day. 

What has influenced your path to becoming an Artist?

L: I've always drawn and played around with colour and design from a young age. I was the kid drawing in the backyard while my sibling and friends ran around me playing games. I think I actually wanted to be a painter after leaving school but needed a job where I could earn a living, and sadly painting wouldn't have given me that. I decided on Graphic Design and studied it at University for 3 years. I loved it, and eventually became an Art Director in the fashion, and then the cosmetics, industries before I left and had children. 

It was at this time that a whole new season opened up to me. I became quite frustrated that I wasn't doing anything creative (although having two kids to entertain requires immense creativity!! It just wasn't the same as putting a pencil on a piece of paper). I started to draw...all sorts of things, flowers, trees, fruit. Really huge pieces using coloured pencils (it was the least messy creative activity I could think of). Clean freak! I loved it and felt completely re-energized. 

So what made you pursue oil painting?

L: I had drawn and drawn and drawn, loving every minute and going in exhibitions to present the work whenever I could. I did get to a stage though where I needed to ramp things up a bit and experiment a bit more. It was actually my husband who suggested I try my hand at oil painting. So that's what I did. I enrolled in some evening college classes in my area and started to play around with paint. I had no idea what I was doing and was creating the biggest grey messes anyone could possibly create! It was demoralizing. How hard could it be? Really hard!! Really frustrating!! This was when I made the decision to enroll in a studio school, one that could teach me good sound principles. I was accepted into The Charlie Sheard Studio School in Redfern. Basically he takes on 20 professional level (so that you have some colour theory etc) students and teaches you techniques and principles of the masters over a period of 3 years. It was a dream! But who knows that dreams come about with a whole lot of hard work. It was a really big 3 years. Running a house and making sure my family was cared for, as well as completing masses of homework was no small feat! By the end of the time though, I felt like I had the confidence and freedom to paint anything I could imagine. It was the best feeling. Still is. 

Oil painting is a slow long process - there is no immediate outcome. How long would it take you to complete a commission piece? 

L: The techniques I learnt are age old. Artists such as Da Vinci, Rembrandt and Titian painted in layers and everything you paint has an under painting - the whole picture is painted in umber and white before layers of transparent and opaque colour are applied to reach the desired effect. I paint very thinly so my work can end up taking months to complete. 

What has this process taught you along the way? 

L: The process is a slow contemplative one. I love it and it suits who I am as a person. A lot of life can seem like it's speeding along at a rapid pace but when I get into my studio and shut the door to the main part of the house - time slows down. There's got to be time to dream and imagine and play - it's all part of the process. Making mistakes is also part of the process and I don't get disappointed by them anymore, although they can be expensive! You need to take a few risks and with that will come some mishaps. It's all ok.

 

What was life like with little children at your feet while you found time to paint.

L: My life as a painter started out with me finding a little dusty corner in our over- stuffed garage. There were spiders and very little light, but I was determined to put these age old principles into practice. I worked for years like this. Somehow it didn't seem to matter because I was doing what I loved to do. Little by little though I took more and more space (see husband rolling his eyes :) and eventually we did a full renovation of the house, and with that came some studio walls and drawers and easels. What a dream!!

Bella is 18years old now and just launched her stunning fashion blog shebethesound. What are some of the important things you want Bella to know as she takes on the fashion blogging world? 

L: Bella finished school at the end of last year and she's certainly hit the ground running. She's attending The Fashion Institute this year and has launched a blog or online journal. I love seeing her step into the things she really enjoys. The blog at face value is about fashion, but at another level it's a positive space for young girls - a journal to speak about inner beauty and becoming who your designed to be. I love where it's beginning and can see it evolving into something really amazing. My prayer would be that she would stay tethered to what is true and good, wise and lovely.  The world needs more of what is truly Beautiful. 

When did you start to see the creative edge in Bella? 

L: I think Bella has always been very visual. I remember her noticing the smallest details from the greatest distances from a very young age. She loved children's books, the ones with amazing pictures and so we spent a lot of time reading these and she's also always wanted to dress herself, I remember really having to step back as what I liked and what she liked were very different! Oh the frustration haha. 

What are some of the things you did to encourage her in her work?

L: I think I've just always encouraged her that she is loved and that she could dream and become whatever she wanted to become. Sometimes she'd look at my work as a young 10 year old and wonder why hers didn't look the same or as 'finished' as mine looked, so I remember just encouraging her to play and make mistakes and make mess and that it didn't matter. She needed to find her own creative path. It was a process though. These days she's pretty much off and discovering her own creative voice - figuring out how she fits in the world and what her voice can add to the bigger picture. 

What was your relationship with your mum like?

L: My mum and I are really close. She's one of the loveliest and kindest people I know. She lives in the country and so I miss her but she's pretty computer- savvy (even in her 80’s) and we email most days. I send her photos of all of my paintings and I love to hear her critique. It's always incredibly positive and ends with Go Girl. I've heard those words a lot growing up. Small and seemingly insignificant but with big impact. I'm passing them on....

 

 

What's one of the fondest memories you have of your mother creating? 

B: There’s so many- that’s all she does! But, if I had to think of one, it would probably be when I was much younger and she would draw cartoon characters and I would colour them in. And then actually teach me how to draw them.

Did this make you want to create alongside her? 

B: Yes, my favourite subject was indeed art- so she had a big influence on that.

How important is travel to you? 

B: Very important, I think it’s completely worth what it might cost. We get to live on this earth!! Why not travel as far and as much as you can, to maybe just see and feel it all. There are so many different places, so many different people and cultures; I never want to be caught up in my little Bella-Sydney-Australia bubble. One day, I really, really want to just pack my bags for any season, any climate and get on the next international flight. 

You have travelled to quite a few places with your Mum. What have been some of your favourite trips?

B: Yes, we have been around most of Europe, although she enjoyed this a lot more than me. We went to all those beautiful churches and old buildings and all those places you see on Google images - this became an insane reality for her. For me, because of my immature young age yes, all I wanted to do was go get a Mango Magic from Boost juice at the local shopping centre. Why not take me now mum???? I’d appreciate it all that much more. I would have looked out that window on the train ride from Paris to London rather than have my head down at my Nintendo!

My favourite and first trip without the family was my trip to Nepal. It was absolutely incredible. Walking through the Himalayas was at every second, breathtaking. I didn’t even want to take photos - way too much beauty there. Oh, and the people were so beautiful. We were lucky enough to help out girls in some schools over there, and I was completely impacted by their lives and how strong they were. Literally holding their families together at the ages of 8-15yrs.

What does your Mum mean to you? 

B: My mum means the world to me. She has invested so much into making me the person I am today.

Tell us about shebethesound.com 

B: Ahhhh well, basically I’ve wanted to do something like it for a long while now, but I was just never too sure. Basically, too scared to go public. And even with my own style, I’d put together all these incredible outfits, but would never actually wear them out because it wouldn’t quite be with what’s on trend, or just too weird, or “not like everyone else”. So I guess this website/ fashion journal/ blog/ diary/ whatever you may call it (still working that out) was a way for me to unleash that. I am in love with putting things together, and have been ever since I was little. I also love making others feel great with who they are, and I think through the way you dress can be a big part of that - whilst also still staying yourself whether that’s following a trend or not, completely up to you. I just want girls of all ages to know that they are themselves, an individual, a “she”, not made to be someone else, but in their own skin for a reason, for a distinct purpose. And nowadays it is so hard to know, with everything thrown at us, and all the pressure, what true beauty is.

“A song is about a hundred different things, that’s the beauty of it.” - Ben Howard

 “That's the beauty of your song to, beautiful girl. You are made of hundreds of wonderful qualities. & it's not until you start 'singing' that you start to realize them." -excerpt from ‘Casual Lovers’- SBTS

 What makes your heart happy? 

B: When I see another person happy with who they are and living loudly with what they have in their hands.

What's one thing your mother always said to you that you will pass on to your children? 

B: I think it would be the words of encouragement she speaks over my life and always allowing the conversation to ‘go there’ if it needs to.

 

Northern hemisphere or South? 

L: Northern, for holidays.

B: The Northern Hemisphere - the one that has Iceland and Japan is in it. But Australia will always have my heart. Sooo I’m guessing both?

Neutrals or pops of colour? 

L: Neutrals, always!

B: This is way too hard to answer. Clothing wise, I own a lot of neutrals BUT I love wearing colour- not so boring.

The ocean or the country? 

L: Ocean.

B: I have worked out the answer to this one, and it is simple - the South Coast. One of my best friends lives there, and literally there’s the beach on one side and beautiful hillsides and valleys on the other. Plus the whitest sand on earth!

How are you both going to spend this Mother Day? 

B: I think we are heading out for lunch with the family, as well as some friends who are living away from home at the moment. They call my Mum their second mum, so I guess it makes sense for them to join us!

 

For more on Leanne Thomas head to:

Leannethomas.com

or Insta: 

@leannethomasartist  @leannemthomas 

For more on Bella Thomas head to:

Shebethesound.com

or Insta:

@bellathomas