Jane Austen Illustrators: Heather Sleightholm

“It is very pretty,” said Mr. Woodhouse.”So prettily done! Just as your drawings always are, my dear. I do not know any body who draws so well as you do. The only thing I do not thoroughly like is, that she seems to be sitting out of doors, with only a little shawl over her shoulders – and it makes one think she must catch cold.” Mr. Woodhouse, Emma, Chapter 6

Folk artist Heather Sleightholm of Audrey Eclectic (Folk Art) in Oklahoma knew from a very young age that she was destined to be an artist when she sold painted rocks in her mom’s garage sales. Later, she would branch out and scavenge nearby home construction sites and take home the bits of wood to paint in the garage with her mom. Twenty years later after the birth of her daughter she left her full time job as an assistant editor and writer for a daily newspaper and turned her passion for art into a thriving cottage business in 2007 inspired by whimsical folk art and Jane Austen.

I started my little art business, Audrey Eclectic, in October 2007 and began selling mixed media folk art online and in local shops shortly thereafter. My style is basically a mix of new collage techniques with traditional American-style folk art. This business has turned out to be such a blessing and a great way to feel inspired and motivated to explore art. My daughter is also a huge inspiration to me, and I don’t think my art would be what it is now without her. She is, of course, the best thing I’ve ever made!

Wedding portraits of the Brandon’s and the Darcy’s

Recently she was commissioned to paint two wedding portraits of Jane Austen characters, the Brandon’s from Sense and Sensibility and the Darcy’s from Pride and Prejudice. I think she has truly captured the essence of both of Jane Austen’s characters in style and mood. I love the simple design and rustic technique that she used that is very indicative of early American folk art. Her inclusion of mixed media gives the works very antique yet modern result. It is amazing to know that her craft is mostly self taught.

I’ve had bits and pieces of art instruction from school. I attended art camps when I was in grade school (lots of painted popsickle sticks and puff painted t-shirts), and in high school I was admitted into the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute. Through high school and college I took the run-of-the-mill drawing classes and some illustration courses, but I found that most of these classes didn’t really teach you how to draw, but gave you a series of assignments to complete. I’d have to say that most of what I can do as an artist just stems from repetition and trying new techniques. I love to draw people, especially faces, so I naturally gravitate toward portraits. I don’t think I’m very good at drawing animals or very linear and precise things like buildings. So I naturally gravitate toward loose and flowy and folksy art like the type I create because I think it showcases my strong points.

Collage of women, folk art panels

Heather is an Austen fan and understands her characters through reading the novels and seeing the movie adaptations. She would admit that Austen’s characters lend themselves extremely well to folk art because of her many interpretations of realistic characters that you and I would meet in every day life. Everyone knows a sharp and witty Elizabeth Bennet, or a romantic and emotional Marianne Dashwood. We can only hope to know a Mr. Darcy!

Because I love doing folk art style portraits, and all of Austen’s books are set in the historically correct time period when folk art portraits were all the rage, I thought the connection was obvious. I love the idea of placing myself before these characters to paint their wedding portrait or a family portrait. And although there have been countless movies of all of Austen’s books, I like to take it upon myself to recreate the characters to how I envision them look. I think Austen characters are also great art subjects because people have such an affinity for them. Even after nearly 200 years, people relate so well to Austen’s ladies and gentlemen, a strong sign of her extraordinary writing ability. That is another reason why I love to paint these characters, because people already feel like they have a relationship with the people in the painting, they know them and love them, what more could an artist ask for?

Portraits of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet

In October, Heather will be participating in the artsy collective show Indie Emporium in Tulsa, Oklahoma where she will be selling many original works of art. The show takes place October 10-11 and will also feature her paintings displayed in the show gallery. You can visit her Audrey Eclectic web site to view additional examples of her art and purchase online at the Audrey Eclectic Etsy store. Drop Heather a line at audreyecletic at gmail dot com and tell her how much you enjoyed her beautiful work, or place an order for a commission of your favorite Austen characters.

Collage Hollowed Hills Celestine

2 thoughts on “Jane Austen Illustrators: Heather Sleightholm

  1. I love Heather’s work and her adaptations of the Austen characters are charming, romantic and beautiful. Thank you for doing this interview and featuring such a talented artist!

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