Shawnee Mission Faces: Paula Hauser Leffel, still life painter and Mission Hills resident

Paula Hauser LeffelA still life painter by trade, Paula Hauser Leffel pushes herself to paint more and often. After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Kansas, Hauser Leffel continues her arts education by participating in a weekly life drawing group. She once took a studio class with Philomene Bennett, a founding member of the Kansas City Artists Coalition. Some of Hauser Leffel’s work is on display at the KU student union and at Matt Ross Community Center in Overland Park. She lives in Mission Hills with her husband, Rusty Leffel.

I went to a program once where a woman was talking about — I think it was at the Kansas City Artists Coalition — she talked about how to sell your work. You make all this work, you just can’t keep it all. My attic may fall in soon; I have a lot of paintings upstairs. Some of them I should probably just give away, but the one thing she said, you say, oh, I can’t sell that painting, I love it so much. She said, you’re the factory: make more.

Of course I love the paintings or drawings that I’ve done of family, so I won’t get rid of those. Hopefully they won’t either when I’m gone. But, there’s some favorites that I’ve held back because I liked them. I want to refer to them from time to time, to look at them artistically. Where was I then, how, you know, there were certain things that I like. I think you kind of go through phases where you might paint a little more structured than what my original feeling was. It’s always good too, to see where you’ve improved.

I’ve always really, really liked color, but I’m trying now to look at difference in them as far as warm, cool, pay more attention to values. I mean, there’s so many things that you can think about while you’re painting. You can’t really get caught up on just one thing. It has to be the whole picture. When you stop painting, OK what does this need? Where is it going? And I try to plan ahead a little bit more. Like, what am I trying to do this time? Where am I trying to improve?

There was a while — I guess maybe it started last year — that I just thought it wasn’t going anywhere, so I got kind of down on it. And really, I mean, it’s always going somewhere. But what I’m worried about and what I’m trying to do now — and I talked to another artist about it — is I need to get a longer pose. Our class that I take — it’s not a class, it’s a group — the longest pose is 10 minutes.

When my daughter comes to visit, I can twist her arm into posing for longer than that — especially if she’s reading, she’s fine — and compose them more and get a design to it. So I was off painting a little bit, but then, you know, you go to an exhibit somewhere or see something and you just get all jazzed up to do it again, go back at it, keep at it.

If you do what you really want to do, it makes you happier. When I’m painting, I really feel happy, even though it’s problematic at times, but this is what I want to do. And so you get more disciplined in that. Let’s figure it out. That’s one of the things that my mother always said. She always said, if we have problems, well just figure it out.

No painting ever comes out exactly like you see it in your head when you start, I don’t think. I always thought that was a strange thing when I started painting even larger paintings. You have an idea in your head and it’s never quite like that. That’s not exactly how it works out. Sometimes I think it’s good. If you tried to get it just exactly like something, then it’s like copying a photograph or something. But that’s just how you do it. Your own personal imprint.