Art-A-Fair Artists Bring Passion to their Art – Meet Bonnie Leigh and Miguel Borbolla


July 19, 2011 – Laguna Beach, CA – Art-A-Fair’s 125 international, national and local artists hail from a variety of origins and they work in wide range of art mediums. These individual differences contribute strongly to this season’s remarkable collection of art. In sharp contrast to these differences, however, is a commonality shared by all. That is their passion for their art, which is reflected in the exceptional creativity, execution and presentation of their work.

Step onto Art-A-Fair’s grounds, and the artistic ambiance can’t be denied. As you walk among the artists and watch them work or have a conversation about what inspires them, a visitor quickly realizes the authenticity of their passion. From the first glimpse of an artist’s booth to viewing the exhibited art, visitors often make their own discovery of a piece of art that ignites their passion, similar to the artist’s own journey.

Susan Driscoll, Art-A-Fair oil artist, whose creativity also extends to writing, recently explored this topic with two Art-A-Fair artists, Bonnie Leigh, a gourds/sculpture/mixed media artist and Laguna Beach resident, and Miguel Borbolla, a relief artist, who lives in Orange. What she found about her fellow artists is a lifetime love of art as well as their unusual techniques that create one of a kind art. Read on for an inside look at how these two artists bring their artistic passion to life.

Bonnie Leigh Curious, the girl with the cerulean-blue eyes leaned over to peer into the depths of the murky lagoon. Suddenly, she lost her balance and fell in! Bonnie Leigh’s interest in nature often ended up alarming her family – when she wasn’t being dragged out of a lagoon with her Sunday dress dripping green slime, she was bringing home pet snakes and frogs, to the dismay of her mother.

To keep her occupied, Bonnie’s grandmother gave her gourds to play with, and her Ukrainian nanny gave her the task of making stepping-stones out of a special clay formula. This Ukrainian clay – made mainly out of beach sand and glue – is still used today by this artist in her work.

Bonnie has been part of the Art-A-Fair family for 21 years. She makes “forged gourds,” which means she bonds together pieces from two or more gourds to make a unique shape. She uses a palette knife to apply her special clay mixture to the surface, and will dab at the clay, or swirl it with a toothpick to make delicate organic designs. After the gourd is painted and glazed, it appears to be a lovely iridescent object that just happened to grow that way naturally.

Her “best tip” is to use Earthquake Putty. Since pencil drawing on a gourd is extremely difficult to erase, she rolls out the putty into long strings, and uses that to play with different designs on the gourd’s surface. When she finds a design that she’s pleased with, she traces around the putty with pencil, pulls it off, and replaces it with her permanent clay mixture. A small blowtorch is used to dry the clay.

Never traditional, Bonnie was the only girl in her woodshop class, where she surprised the teacher by making bongos instead of the usual magazine rack. Today, Bonnie uses a Dremel tool and scalpel to do deep-relief carving, another of her gourd techniques. Her favorite subject matter to depict is wildlife, and she lets the gourd’s natural mottling tell her “what it wants to be,” which could be a cougar, a bear, or even a skunk! Few gourd artists use this technique, and her work was featured in “The Complete Book of Gourd Carving,” chosen from submissions from across the world.

Miguel Borbolla Growing up in the town of Paso del Macho, in the Mexican state of Veracruz, Miguel Borbolla first learned the art of “repujado” from his sister. This art was done mostly by women who had the leisure to make decorative work for the home, and it was often copied from a pattern, rather like doing needlepoint. Miguel decided he wanted to make “real art,” so he reinvented it by coming up with his own original ideas, and then matting and framing the finished work.

At his work table, the artist draws his design on a thin piece of tin, which comes from Spain. He places the tin on a cushioning pad, and then uses special imported blunt-tipped tools to trace his drawing, which makes a raised design on the opposite side, which is now the “front.” Cream is rubbed on the metal so it won’t crack during this process. Nearly 80% of his work is done from the reverse side, then he turns the piece over to press in more delicate details. Oftentimes his work is presented under glass, because people can’t seem to resist the urge to touch the raised metal – which can squash it!

How many artists can say their art has been worshipped? Miguel’s depiction of the Virgen de la Soledad was taken to Mexico by a customer as a gift for her mother. The artwork ended up traveling from house to house on special occasions and was even taken on a procession down to Oaxaca, near Guatemala, with people bowing down to it along the way! The piece became a religious icon and a spiritual experience, not simply a nice piece of art.

The deer – elegant and intelligent – is Miguel’s sentimental favorite when it comes to subject matter. Because of his Latino heritage, he couldn’t resist creating the Aztec calendar a few times in tin, even though it involved three months of meticulous labor. People’s faces are his favorite challenge, though he has to be careful. One time he had to title a piece “St. Anthony with Mumps,” after pressing slightly too hard with his tools!

After 14 years of exhibiting, what keeps bringing him back? “You never forget your first love. Art-A-Fair is number one for me,” Miguel says. And when a person owns a piece of his art, he says they basically have a part of him.

Art-A-Fair exhibits fine art in all mediums by 125 international, national and local artists. It is open daily Sunday through Thursday from 10am-9pm and Friday and Saturday from 10am-10pm. Complimentary admission will be offered on Sunday, August 7, in celebration of Art-A-Fair’s 45th anniversary as well as August 27 and 28, the show’s final weekend, in appreciation of Art-A-Fair patrons. The show will close at 6pm Sunday, August 28. Daily art workshops are taught by Art-A-Fair’s juried artists, with a different medium offered each day.

A season admission ticket is just $7 for adults and $4 for seniors (60+), military and students with an ID. Children 12 and under are admitted free with an adult. Laguna Beach residents are admitted free daily with valid ID. Parking is available at Act V, just a short distance north on Laguna Canyon Road, with free shuttle service to Art-A-Fair, located at 777 Laguna Canyon Road. For additional information, visit HYPERLINK “”, follow on Facebook and Twitter or call 949.494.4514.

Teri Powers
Public Relations & Marketing

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