Published on March 4, 2019

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Design by Leanne Ford. photography by Tessa Neustadt

Interior designers might not be gallerists or museum curators, but when it comes to selecting art for their clients’ homes, they rank up there with the best of them. Often in constant search for inspiration (and fresh solutions to boring walls), these designers constantly fill up their latest projects with need-to-know artists. At least, that’s how we found Jackie Leishman

Backed by a slew of established designers, the LA photographer-turned–collage artist first captured our attention when we spotted two of her works hanging in Leanne Ford’s former Echo Park cottage.

“When I went to her house, I brought all these drawings, and we just started hanging them all over her walls,” recalls Leishman. After some trial and error, they landed on two of Leishman’s Yosemite drawings.

“Good art can live in most situations,” she continues. “If you love it, then buy it. Let it live on your wall. Original art has its own energy that a print doesn’t necessarily have.”

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Design by Ginny Macdonald for Emily Henderson. photography by Tessan Neustadt

Often composed from traditional and nontraditional raw materials—including fragments from old projects—her mixed-media pieces and other works on paper range from small diptychs fit for a gallery wall to all-consuming canvases that span from the floor to the ceiling. Her pieces have become a go-to source for other west coast designers as well, including Emily Henderson, Melanie Burstin, and Stefani Stein.

Here are six things to know about the artist you’re starting to see everywhere

She makes rad art and has the numbers to back it up

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photography by jackie leishman

Leishman unknowingly began piecing her career together as a child. “When I was a kid, my mom set up an art studio in the basement and I glued a lot of stuff—feathers, sequins, all the things that are cool to a little kid,” she recalls. It would be a while before she felt that freedom again. “I grew up in the south, in Georgia. I was one of the smart kids [in school], and smart kids aren’t usually geared toward the arts.”

Leishman went off to college to pursue a degree in international finance but fell in love with the darkroom after deciding to take a chance on a photography class. Before she went on to receive her masters in photography at the Academy of Arts in San Francisco, Leishman knew she had to finish what she started. “I was raised by a single mom. She told me, ‘You need something to fall back on. Finish your business degree and then go make art,’” she recalls. 

After years of working primarily in photography, Leishman found her way back to the same table in her basement—piecing together unlikely scraps and found materials. “I’m working in a studio gluing things again, just like when I was a kid,” says Leishman. “It came full circle.”

Her workflow is anything but straightforward

Leishman’s process is material-oriented. Many of the pieces in her Yosemite series, for instance, began by creating reverse drawings using a printmaking ink to lay the structure of the image. She works back to front; bottom to top.

“I can’t really see what I’m doing. It’s upside down and it’s backward. But it relates in my head,” explains Leishman, noting that the unpredictable sensation is familiar to working with film negatives. Once the lines are down, she begins to build the layers.

“What I think they might start out as is very different from where they end up,” she continues. “Most of the original marks are covered up at some point, but there are traces of them, and I like that. I like seeing this evolution over time on one surface.”

She prefers controlled chaos

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photography by jackie leishman

While most of us need a clean desk to keep a clear mind, Leishman thrives on chaos. Long-forgotten fragments and “warm-up” pieces—sometimes it’s a small corner of a painting from five years ago or a drawing by one of her kids—live in large bins under her worktable. When she’s really in the zone, you’ll find her studio swimming in scraps.

“It’s often messy because I have to see everything,” laughs Leishman. “It’s this ebb and flow of chaos, and then I clean it all up and it comes back out again.”

Her commitment to never throw anything away makes for a never-ending (and decidedly sustainable) art-making journey.

She knows a good frame when she sees one

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photography by jackie leishman

Leishman’s one word of advice for caring for original art? “Ask artists where they get their work framed,” she shares. “Find a framer who uses archival materials. Works on paper and delicate things like that will degrade. You can stop that process by using UV glass or UV plexiglass.”

She buys at least one new piece each year

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Design by Leanne Ford. photography by tessa neustadt

While we wouldn’t mind filling every lonely wall or empty nook with one of her pieces, even Leishman’s home isn’t exclusively filled with her own pieces. Like any true art lover and dedicated collector, Leishman loves discovering new voices in the industry. “My personal philosophy is to buy at least one piece of art from an artist once a year. And I only buy original art,” she suggests.

Beyond that, Leishman lets her gut lead the way, buying whatever speaks to her, regardless of whether or not it will match the living room sofa.

“I know there are certain things that are trendy, but if it speaks to you, it will all go together in some way,” she says. “When I buy a new piece, people will come over and go, ‘Oh, your house feels different.’ And I’m like, ‘I think it’s because of the art that’s on the wall.’ It makes our house really happy. They all bring their own personalities.”

She has two very different projects in the works

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photography by jackie leishman

Want to experience Leishman’s work IRL? The artist has an exciting solo show set to debut later this year at the Granary Art Center in Ephraim, Utah. The show will focus on her Yosemite series—a project that explores that beauty found in tension and the vastness of the unyielding stone landscape.

Once her solo exhibit is done, Leishman will hopefully be returning to a brand-new office. “I’ve been working in my garage—a converted studio—so I’m excited to run a big campaign this year to help me build a studio space where I can show art and work larger,” she says. The artist has been collaborating with LA architecture firm DIG:A on plans for her new workspace

All of Leishman’s pieces can be found on her website with availability and pricing information.

See more stories like this: 

This Brooklyn-Based Creative Is Redefining the Art of Rug-Making

Meet the Danish Designer Creating Candy-Like Home Goods Out of Glass

This Creative Director Is One of Instagram’s Best Curators

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