Laura Fesser wears two creative hats: artist and teacher. Her lively artwork brightens our community at the local hospital, library, and gallery, as well as numerous homes.
Laura teaches elementary art at Heritage Christian School where I started the secondary art program years earlier. Later, she taught my four children, so I got to know her first as a teacher. (More on that next time.) But first and foremost, she is an artist in her own right.
She works in several different media, usually at the same time, often mixing them. Drawing and painting are her first loves. Polymer clay is the second. Her painting and polymer pieces are currently displayed at Almont Gallery in Waukesha. She does portraits of celebrities, family, and pets on commission and for her own enjoyment.
Laura’s public works include:
- “A Wizard of Earth Sea”, in colored pencil, completed for Waukesha’s Big Read 2016, on display at Waukesha Public Library
- “Tree of Hope”, done in polymer clay, at Waukesha Memorial Hospital
- A playable guitar done for Waukesha’s Gibson Guitar Town, in polymer clay veneer, at Almont Gallery
What do you love to create?
Laura: Anything. Well, except for textile or fiber. That’s not my forte at all! I find myself going through cycles. If I work on something for too long, like painting, I feel the need to get out the polymer again and go 3D.
If it looks like it will be something new and an interesting process,
I’m usually up for trying it! I’m a little like a kid that way.
I jokingly say I have creative ADD.
Where do you get your ideas?
Laura: My ideas come from everywhere, including dreams. My students will sometimes spark an idea that I need to mull over at home in a sketchbook. There will be times when I have to do a voice memo in the car on my phone because something just struck as I was driving. I am a very visual person, so the majority of the time something I see is the spark. Conversations with other creative people can serve as a springboard for me, and there’s always Pinterest. If I am interested in a process, I’ll learn about it, then make it fit me and how I like to work.
How do you create?
Laura: I have a tendency to reverse engineer. I will get a mental image of where I want to end up and go through the steps to get there in my head, or for very complex projects, in a sketch book.
There are usually changes between what I imagined and what I made,
but that’s a big part of the fun!
I love “happy accidents” and have learned a lot that way!
How do you bring creativity into your daily life?
Laura: When my kids were little, creativity was in play and what we played with. No surprise, we made boxes into everything from a whale costume with a tail that wagged to a fort that you could pop up out of like a prairie dog. We would use the traditional art materials, and other times the not so traditional—for example, different colors of dirt for mud paint. Now I am playing with my grandson and will do the same with my granddaughter when she is old enough.
Problem solving is a huge way to bring creativity into our lives.
If we let the barriers come down between our areas of knowledge,
we have a lot of answers at our fingertips.
The Waukesha GuitarTown Project commemorates Waukesha native and renowned guitarist, Les Paul (1915-2009).
In 2013, ten 10-foot freestanding fiberglass sculptures of Les Paul Gibson guitars and 17 playable ones arrived in town. Local artists turned them into unique works of art. The guitars were placed around downtown for a permanent display.
Laura: When I was working on the guitar for Gibson GuitarTown, I knew I wanted to do veneers on it based on aged copper. My problem was how to attach it to the guitar. I remembered watching a home improvement show on how to install laminate on a countertop, and my problem was solved. I have used cake decorating techniques with polymer clay on occasion too.
What kinds of works have you been commissioned to do?
Laura: I have done MANY famous people and some not famous ones, too! For my niece’s wedding gift I painted her favorite engagement photo and put the words to her recessional in the background. I have painted Vince Lombardi, Frank Sinatra, Slash, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Janis Joplin, Keith Richards, and a few more at Almont Gallery (Waukesha, WI). I have done Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Etta James, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Hendricks, Dean Martin, Jo Stoddard, Mick Jagger, and several others that are in homes now.
BIO: A Wisconsin resident, Laura lives, works, and teaches in the Waukesha area. She received a degree in Art Education at Northern Illinois University, and has taught at Heritage Christian’s elementary school for several years. She has been married to her husband since 1980, with 2 sons, and 2 grandchildren.
Contact her on Facebook or on Pinterest as Laura Lipke-Fesser.
Who would you want a portrait painted of, and why?
P.S. Coming next: Laura will share more about her creative role as an art teacher, and how she “draws” the best from her elementary art students.