leila ligougne

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Leila Ligougne  muse Christine Wolheim wearing the Olive Jumpsuit

Multidisciplinary Artist, Food and Prop Stylist

I was introduced to Christine Wolheim by my talented photographer friend Sheri Giblin, who also shot this beautiful muse story. Christine is an amazing painter, but also a real multidisciplinary artist who works as a stylist, doing the Food or the Props respectively for commercial photoshoots. Although her styling work is commercial, it is as artistic and inspiring as her fine art. Christine does so many things that captured my interest that for the longest time I couldn't even write what I wanted to share the most... This is just an "aperçu" of her talents.

In my eyes, those of an East Coaster, specifically a New Yorker, Christine is a true West Coast persona. She grew up in Lake Tahoe and now lives in San Francisco, and to me embodies a very attractive lifestyle. Firstly, we see her in her beautiful painting studio, very serene, with huge monochromatic artworks gracing the walls and rolls of charcoal drawings and paintings all around. The second half of her atelier houses an incredibly amazing collection of props that she uses to create the sets of her clients’ dreams for photoshoots; tables, kitchens, or whole rooms! This very personal collection which she started as a teen is so meticulously organized that Christine can instantly lay her hands on the perfect fork, cloth, vase or table that will make all the difference to the set she is styling. Finally, there is Christine’s latest project: a weekend house in Lake Tahoe, which she rents out, but also uses to recharge and refuel her inspiration and get a dose of nature. Top all this off with an adorable red vintage Vespa which she uses to zip around San Francisco! That is the setting: now I introduce you to the character who brims with so much personal creativity and style.

Photographs by Sheri Giblin @surlyspice




You went to the San Francisco Art Institute where you received a BFA in painting, but I think it all started before with long hours and hard work in kitchens alongside reputable chefs, is that right? You are a such multidisciplinary artist. Can you tell me how it all started?

Well, I always knew I wanted to do something creative and was already an avid maker and did every crafty thing possible. But when, at 14, I pestered the Chef at the fanciest French restaurant in town to give me a job, and under duress he finally did, I thought I was in heaven! The world of food was so multi-sensory and I saw endless creative potential. I was very in love with this art form and worked in some of the world’s finest restaurants and cooking schools for over 25 years. I travelled and lived in many places because I had that talent, which I could use anywhere and I was hungry to learn new things about food. Food is so vast and deep but I still wanted more. Being a chef is a tough lifestyle, I wanted to change that for myself. Investors were after me to open my own place, and I was tempted, but I felt I’d be trapped in that lifestyle. I’d done it since I was 14! It was hard thing to walk away from, it was scary, but I still felt I had more to say. I wasn’t sure what that was so I went to Art school to explore.

Your large abstract paintings are simply stunning in their abstraction and we feel the grandeur of the movements or gestures it took to paint them. What is the inspiration you draw from?

With my newest works, the black and white series, I am treating the canvas like I would a sheet of drawing paper. I wanted something immediate and gestural. Some of the things I’ve used as inspiration or visual departure points are: the shapes of trees, reflections on water, negative space around buildings, and an old pier. They are landscapes of a sort, sometimes very close up, or very far away. They are more of a feeling, which is the beauty of abstraction. It lets the viewer have his or her own experience. In my representational work, I use objects as symbols. I get cravings for images of things, like a ribcage or a chair, which has resonance and meaning to me. I like these things to intersect and interact with each other, and present questions and again allow the viewer to make their own associations. My paintings are very collage-like.

Leila Ligougne  muse Christine Wolheim wearing the Olive Jumpsuit and looking at her charcoal drawingsLeila Ligougne muse Christine Wolheim studio and paint tubes still lifeStill life of Christine's Studio and Paint tubes


I know you have a wide array of artwork and creative expressions. In addition to the abstract painting series, you work with collage and realistic depictions as well. Do you express yourself with all these techniques all the time, or do you have periods or moods for specific ones?

I hop back and forth between it all. I used to think this was a defect, but now I just go with the flow of my interests in the moment. Being a (prop) stylist is the perfect day-job for me because I get to constantly learn as I am often tasked with physically creating something new with new materials. Creating the actual sets during a shoot always teaches me something as well: I think of it as composing with 3 dimensional objects, in this case it’s a photograph (or video)...Scale and perspective is really interesting, and distorted in photo and video work. In my painting right now I am working on painting the figure as a way of synthesizing realism and abstraction, narrative and feeling. I’ve wondered for a long time how to bring it all together. Maybe the figure will allow all of it to live in a single artwork.

Painting and art is your real passion, can you tell me what is your main inspiration and feeling when you create? What is your creative process?

No, I cannot. It is just something I must do. It is a thinking and a non-thinking state at the same time! I used to be more cerebral and interested in wordplay and layers of meaning in my artwork, (the representational work), but in the last 3 years I am more interested in form and feeling. Perhaps I will make more conceptual work again, which reflects my everyday observances and thought processes, but right now, it is the sensuality of paint and the feeling state.

Some of your personal styling projects are so artistic! Would you say your paintings influence your styling or vice versa?

I’ve always known that my art influenced my styling, as people would hire me specifically because my approach was different. But I have realized that my paintings have become more “compositional” and simpler in palette. I think this is both an aesthetic choice from seeing so many trends come and go and even more so a response to our constant overstimulation in the larger world right now.

Leila Ligougne  muse Christine Wolheim  with her props collection wearing the LolaLeila Ligougne  muse Christine Wolheim collection of ustensils


I know you worked in restaurants. Was that the starting point to becoming a food stylist? Or did you always know you had an interest in this creative profession?

No, I was actually a “purist” as a chef, and had travelled far and wide to discover and immerse myself in the authentic. (Remember I was a professional before the internet: if you wanted to learn something, you had to go after it). I had heard those stories about all the fake stuff and tricks Food Stylists use and thought that wasn’t for me! Of course I had no idea what it really involved and that it is an interesting art form all its own. And that I would enjoy it!

What is the best part of what you do?

In Styling: Collaborating, creative problem solving, and delivering something interesting or beautiful that serves the client, but hopefully makes the viewer look twice. In Art making: Expression, the pursuit of beauty, the element of surprise, the joy of creation, then the interesting bonus: seeing my inner world reflected back to me, Like a barometer reading or having my fortune told.

Leila Ligougne  muse Christine Wolheim plates collection

You are so talented! I also read somewhere that you also like to cook with friends, and is it true that you make custom fragrances?

Yes, it is true. I have long been interested in fragrance, as I have a keen olfactory palate, maybe from being a chef? Smells affect me a lot, so I am drawn to playing with them. I just make them for myself and friends thus far!

Leila Ligougne  muse Christine Wolheim wearing the Lola Blouse

How do you spend your week-ends? How often do you go to Lake Tahoe?

I go when I can, it is not a set thing. In my profession, weekends are often prep days.


Can you recommend a few places you love in SF and Lake Tahoe?

Coffee shop: Living in Rome ruined me! Besides, all those to-go cups, I just can’t take it….I make it myself at home.

Restaurant SF: San Francisco has too many to mention! Solid classics: Nopa, Zuni, Chapeau, A Mano….As well as some great ethnic food on every corner. Restaurant Lake Tahoe: Unfortunately Lake Tahoe doesn’t have the calibre of restaurants it did when I growing up there. There were 5 or 6 really elegant Fine dining places. You see, there was this crazy Frenchman, Jean DuFour….ah, but that’s another story…

Hotel: Albergo Del Sole al Pantheon, Rome. I was so poor when I lived there, I could never have afforded this, so now when I go, I love waking up and seeing my favourite building and walking the whole city from there.

Museum: The De Young’s Oceania Collection

Shop: Captain OKO in Inverness-I’m proud to feature my paintings there until Sept 2019, she has fabulous stuff! Lawson-Fenning in LA. Great furniture designs!….March in SF.

Leila Ligougne  muse Christine Wolheim wearing the Lola blouse in front of an airstreamLeila Ligougne  muse Christine Wolheim wearing the Lola blouse in front of an airstreamLeila Ligougne  muse Christine Wolheim wearing the Lola blouse in front of an airstream

Favorite book? Whatever Fiction I am currently reading/The New Yorker

Are you listening to music when you work? Yes, I like moody trancelike music Like Trip Hop or Dubstep. Or I listen to NPR

Favorite Leila Ligougne piece? The Sasha

One piece or bikini? Bikini

Your happy place? The Mountains, and Rome

Secret getaway? Mt Tamalpais

Prized possession? My wits

Dream vacation? Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan and Greece and Croatia

One adjective to describe yourself? Resourceful

Beauty secret? French Clay and yogurt facial mask weekly

Favorite charity? Meals on Wheels/Planned Parenthood/Mali Kalanso

Secret about yourself? I like Milk Chocolate better than Dark.

Instagram: @wolheimstyle

For Christine's art: www.wolheim.com

To see her commercial work: www.wolheimstyle.com

To see/rent her Log Cabin in Lake Tahoe: click here  

Leila Ligougne  muse Christine Wolheim wearing the Lola blouse

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