Leigh Nogueira
based in Campinas . SP . Brazil
35 years . artist

Born and raised in the southern U.S., I have experimented in just about every creative medium I can think of: painting, photography, screen printing, fashion design, writing, making music, weaving, knitting, embroidery. I started a screen printing business right out of college in NYC and used manual machines to print designs on t-shirts for bands and artists and myself. After another stint in college in Upstate NY, I created a kids clothing line out of recycled t-shirt fabric and sold at local shops and craft fairs for about 2 years all over the Northeast. When I moved to Brazil in 2015, I needed a more portable craft (I couldn't pack my serger in a suitcase), so right now I am focusing on honing my drawing and watercoloring skills and really trying to build my portfolio as an illustrator and tattoo artist.

Jessica Leigh Nogueira por Projeto Curadoria
// Which media do you use to express yourself?

These days I am using plain old pencil, ink washes, and watercolor. Getting back to the basics feels so liberating!

// What is your biggest motivation to create?

What inspires you? I'm not really sure. It's like a whim. A strange, un-ignorable draw to express something deep within. When I express myself whether through lines on a page or whatever, I feel a supreme sense of satisfaction, I feel whole. It's an amazing feeling that you can't find anywhere else. Especially when I am depressed or going through a rough time, I find self-expression the best remedy. Moving to Brazil for me has been one of the biggest challenges I've faced in my life, I have had to learn a new language completely from 0, make friends, and find a new path. Making art helps me to process and heal. I can be alone and lose myself in the art, and it makes me feel more like myself. Also through drawing the people and plants and scenery of a place, I feel more connected to it. So in that way I can get to know any foreign place through making art.

Jessica Leigh Nogueira por Projeto Curadoria
// What is your creative process like?

I am all the time gathering images, in my head, on Pinterest, on my phone, taking from life or photos. Many times my own work inspires me to keep digging deeper into a form of line expression or expression of a character. Sometimes it's from seeing another artist's work, and saying, "I'd like to try that and see if I can achieve the same results, or I'd like to explore some aspect of that visual style that interests me." I am always trying to find that perfect expression of my stylistic vision.

Jessica Leigh Nogueira por Projeto Curadoria
Jessica Leigh Nogueira por Projeto Curadoria
// What do you do in your daily routine to help maintain creativity?

I try to let my thoughts wander, as far as they can go. I try to draw something from a photo in my own style. I try to notice absurdity. I try to let my hand do the talking and keep my mind quiet.

// What are you favorite works or projects that you have done? What was the motive?

My favorite project was working on the kids clothing line, because I got to use a lot of different skills. Also, through the process of recycling the cloth, I was able to participate in the global conversation about sustainable fashion, which I am passionate about.

The stuff I'm working on right now is exciting too: here in Brazil I found a sense of community through art, especially among creative and strong women. It's not like that doesn't exist in the US, but it feels like here women are always trying to help each other out and figure stuff out together in the process of making every work count.

Jessica Leigh Nogueira por Projeto Curadoria
Jessica Leigh Nogueira por Projeto Curadoria
// Who are your influences, inspirations, or preferred artists? How do they reflect in your own work?

As far as artists that I love to look at, it sounds so cheesy but I love my daughter's artwork. She's 8 and I think every time she makes something it's just so fantastic. She's very free in her expression and so it's always very personally stylized. She's not afraid to make mistakes, and she's not afraid to completely change her style at any given moment. All of her ideas just go directly from her mind to paper with no preconceived notions. I love this simplistic version of reality. It's like symbol making. I think from my love of comics, I am always thinking about this. How to turn reality into a stylized version of reality that is beautiful in its portrayal and tells you something about the artist's inner world.

I love comics like Tank Girl, Akira, and Ghost in the Shell among others, and colorful cartoons from my childhood in the 80s like Rainbow Brite and Strawberry Shortcake and Hayao Miyazaki movies.

I think history, culture, and visual languages from all over the world really inspire me. Here in Brazil, for instance, the history and mythicism surrounding the sertão are intriguing. The image making coming from there, it's sort of primal and child-like, I really love it. It reminds me of Louise Bourgeois who I adore.

// Do you think there still exists a bias in relation to women's free expression? Do you feel this in your work?

This is a tough question and I think it depends on the mode of expression as to whether women are experiencing bias or not. I think definitely in terms of being a famous artist, women don't make as much money as men or gain as much notoriety. Women have to work hard to have their opinions and personal vision taken seriously.

Jessica Leigh Nogueira por Projeto Curadoria
Jessica Leigh Nogueira por Projeto Curadoria
// What makes you happy?

Being in or around the ocean or just nature in general, especially with my family or close friends. I love traveling, it is so inspiring and I always end up drawing and writing a ton when I am on the road. Artistically I am really happy when I am able to keep working with an idea until something unexpected happens that truly expresses my stylistic vision. It's like an Ah-ha! moment, and it feels very fulfilling.

Jessica Leigh Nogueira por Projeto Curadoria
Jessica Leigh Nogueira por Projeto Curadoria
// What tips could you give to other women to help them bring their creations into reality?

Even if you think you suck, just keep at it. Don't worry if you mess up just keep creating more and more. The more free you are with your head and heart and hand, the more YOU will flow onto the page. Turning art into a career isn't easy and it takes a lot of trial and error and believing in yourself as an artist. Don't be afraid to try something new!

Jessica Leigh Nogueira por Projeto Curadoria
Jessica Leigh Nogueira por Projeto Curadoria
// Do you have a new project in the works?

I have a few actually. I've been doing a series of inked drawings this past year of inspiring women to help me connect with my own inner strength, including Angela Davis, Chanel, and St. Vincent. This process is also helping me to develop my style of tattooing, which is a completely new and different type of media for me, a real person as my canvas!

I am also thinking of starting a business where I create portraits of people of things in ink washes or watercolor from photos, like your old car that you have to sell or your grandparent's childhood home.

Wow, I have a bunch of projects going on, because I'm also collaborating on my first comic, it's about a world with only women. I am super excited about this because I have always loved and wanted to create comics, and this will be my first big project.