Leigha Kelly-Knight

I aspire to create art that inspires others to create. I don’t make art to sell or to make a profit, I make art because I love the act of making something out of nothing. 

Leigha Kelly-Knight

Today’s #inspirations4aspirations interview guest is @leighakestrel_art

I have known Leigha Kelly-Knight since when we attended the same elementary and middle school here in Tallahassee. We both took art class in middle school and even then I thought she was a very talented artist. A decade later, she is now a middle school art teacher in Colorado, educating the next generation of artists.

The multimedia background of my illustrative portrait collages various different mediums Leigha has worked in such as watercolor, gouache, and even a close up of a leaf in honor of her love of plants. It’s been two years since an art teacher gave me a grade so I really hope I get an A.

Leigha Kelly-Knight: in her own words

I was born and raised in Tallahassee, Florida. I decided to stay close to home for my degrees and schooling (like 2 miles down the road haha) I went to Florida State University where I got a bachelors in studio art and a masters in art education. After getting my masters I moved to Aurora, Colorado where I am currently a middle school art teacher.

I have about 15 or so different pots but some pots have several plants in them. I love the science of propagating my plants too which has become quite a dangerous game when you have more plants than places for plants haha. My dream would be to have a green house where I can really explore my green thumb!

I have always loved art. I have an funny memory of myself crying in preschool over the fact that someone drew on my blank piece of paper I had specially picked out. To be honest I don’t think there was a time that I knew I liked art, I think I was born with a love for art. I was always in an art class, from kindergarten through high school. My first semester in college was the first time I wasn’t in an art class and it was hard. The following semester I changed my major to studio art after realizing I couldn’t live without art. 

The summer before my senior year of college I did an internship in Kolkata, India. I was working alongside the art teacher in an organization called Praysam. Through the program I created lessons, packaged supply packets and taught (with the translation of my mentor). Together we would go into several different local communities and help teach the kids art and long story short I fell in love with it! I had so much fun working with the kids and developing lessons. My favorite part of it all was the “I get it!” spark! When I came back to school the following semester I looked into the art education programs and a week later I was applying for my masters in art education!  

I like teaching surrealism because the kids love the imagination and weirdness of the art style. Together we have tried surrealism painting and collages and they really like both. We also have a lot of fun talking about wacky dreams and telling stories when we do this unit. It is a great way to let loose and let imagination carry the project.  

I do not have any particular artist that inspires me probably because I am still trying to find “my style” if you will. Instagram has been my biggest influencer in that there is an abundance of amazing artists out there. One artist will have amazing line work while another artist uses a beautiful color palette and textures.

I have fallen deeply in love with watercolor and gouache! I love the fluidity of watercolor and that it really has a mind of its own. I enjoy making experimental paintings to just let the paints do what it wants rather than trying to control it. This experimental process has been so valuable in how I use the medium. 

I aspire to create art that inspires others to create. I don’t make art to sell or to make a profit, I make art because I love the act of making something out of nothing. 

1 Why do you create?

I create because I love the reflective process. I am always trying to expand my artistic horizon by trying something new be it a new medium or a new subject matter. With each artistic endeavor I am learning about myself as an artist, adding techniques to my toolbox, and engaging my inner child.

I think when you make art you are opening up a part of your mind that allows you to welcome creativity into all aspects of your life. Whether you perceive yourself as a “good” or a “bad” artist I think the ingenuity and critical thinking skills that come from art are so valuable.  

2 When life gets you down what inspires you to get back up?

I think sometimes we are too hard on ourselves. I do my best to remind myself that life happens and this moment does not define who I am! I am more than my darkest moment or my biggest mistakes. 

3 Do you think children approach art differently than adults?

From my personal opinion I think people’s approach to art is more a matter of perspective rather than age. I think some people are fearless when it comes to the idea of play and exploration through art. These people that are born with an innate curiosity and wonder will approach art differently.

That being said, I think like anything the ability to take artistic risks is a skill that can be learned just like math or science. Some people need guidance and scaffolding to feel comfortable using art as a medium of exploration or expression. This learning can happen at any stage of life and can result from environmental factors or experiences.

So many people, youth and adults, are afraid to be perceived as bad at something. This fear creates personal limitations to the artistic process. I think the reason children can be seen as more open to art is because at that young age you don’t always know what to be afraid of. For example, a child might fearlessly climb a tall tree while an adult has built up that fear of falling from past experiences. 

4 As a frequent traveler, how does nature inspire your work?

Nature has always been my number 1 influencer! I love the colors and texture found in nature. From the intricate shape of the leaves to the rich colors of the sunset.

Since moving to Colorado, I see the landscapes as rolling paintings that change through the season. I can’t get enough of the rough rocky textures mixed with the smooth overlay of fresh snow. 


Many thanks to my inspiration and aspiration, Leigha Kelly-Knight.
I’m John Lhotka, wishing you a nice day, and all that jazz.

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