An interview with illustrator Lea Wells

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Lea Wells is a self-taught illustrator. Raised on a barrier island near Kennedy Space Center, Lea grew up in an environmentally conscious ocean culture, that still influences her work. 

We caught up with Lea to talk about surfing, life and art.

Hey Lea! How’s your day going?

Hello! It’s a beautiful day in the forest! I live in a rural area of Vermont that looks like a fairytale. I just returned from Indialantic and got my ocean fix, so I am geeked out with all spectrums of nature right now.

Tell us a little bit about your path to artistry?

I grew up in Indialantic, a barrier island south of Cocoa Beach, Florida. Growing up beside the ocean, surfing, surrounded by sea life and a surf culture, was an epic experience that was fertile ground for creativity. I’m grateful to my parents for raising me there and encouraging my early beginnings in art. I went on to get degrees in advertising and graphic design so that I could keep creating stuff.

Where do you get your inspiration and how do you stay motivated?

Creating art is something I need to do, but nature, the ocean, in particular, is often the trigger for my inspiration. Ocean conservation and other environmental and social causes are very important to me; they motivate me to spread awareness through my art. And art has always been my magic carpet – I can go anywhere I want – and the ocean is often my inspiration and destination.

What’s your morning routine like?

Because I’m a night owl, my “morning” is after the sun has been up a while. I have new ideas for art when I wake up so I like to be alone and quiet in my morning, eat an avocado, and sketch the fresh thoughts before they fade from my mind. I think the avocado might be the only consistent part of my day.

Do you have any rituals that ease you into the creative zone?

I like to make a zen “nest” on the floor, near open windows, where it is clean of everything except art supplies, the cat, and pillows. A cup of tea, music, a hug from my husband…and I’m set for hours. Even writing this makes me feel creative right now. If I have a tight commission deadline though, there is panic, self-doubt and no zen. Those days are proof that art can be created in fear and chaos too.

Do you have any creative people you strongly admire?

I have been in love with Alan Lee’s art my whole life. I currently love the textile ocean conservation art of Vanessa Barragao. I especially admire friends and family who are creating beautiful lives, not only through music and art, but with pure life creativity to survive difficult times.

Do you have a mantra or words of wisdom to live by?

I am always saying to myself: “You’re not finished yet” about paintings and life. Art has taught me that an ugly painting just needs more time and work to turn it into something nice, and this also applies to ugly stuff that’s happening in our lives – you’re just not finished yet.

Thanks, Lea, how can people connect with you to find out more?