Artist Inspiration: Emily Leonard

It occurs to me from time to time that one of the best reasons to live is to experience the look of the sun coming through a window.

It is such a joy and an honor to share the work of my friend Emily Leonard with you all today. Emily is a superbly talented painter whose paintings are included in numerous private and public collections around the world.

I’ve been trying to remember how and when Emily and I first met; it’s a challenge since we probably crossed paths dozen of times before actually getting to know each other. I do remember watching her do a group live paint with my friend Scott up in Seattle. I also remember working with her on an album for our friend Peter Bradley Adams. She had created a whimsical drawing of an owl for the cover while I was designing the album packaging. The final result was Peter’s Leavetaking record, which is honestly one of my favorites.

I have been a fan of Emily’s paintings since I first saw them. Organic, haunting, romantic and complex, her works showcase a love affair with nature. Trees remain her most consistent muse, yet each painting takes on a clear personality of their own as if each is almost a portrait. Her paintings take time, patience and a keen eye for the beauty beyond the literal.

My process and practice mimic these movements: I break down an image and build it back slowly with hundreds of washy layers, glazes and gestures that are more searching than literal. My pieces both take time and contain time. I want them to come upon the viewer as such – slowly and intimately, as if the viewer feels like he found this image instead of me. I want to get at the experience of being in your body in a place. Rather than painting the tree out the kitchen window, I want to paint what it feels like to stand at the kitchen window, looking at the tree while your kettle boils. The moments of mindlessly casting a gaze upon something are to me filled with the real plain life, the simple breath of it all.

Emily is currently spending her summer in France at an artist residence but was kind enough to answer a couple of my questions.

Trees are obviously your inspiration for most of your paintings. When did you become so interested in painting trees? What is it that inspires you about these tree landscapes?
I wasn’t particularly interested in painting trees when I started painting them, I was just interested in painting.  I like to paint things I know well.  I spent a lot of time in the woods in my teenage years, as my parents had just moved onto 60 acres in Franklin, so I knew trees well.  As artists, I think our subject matter is not really the thing we’re saying, it’s merely the language we’re saying it in.  Landscape always felt like my native tongue.

How have you kept yourself growing as an artist?
Mostly, I just keep working.  I’m afraid to take a break or quit, for fear that I might find that I quite enjoy not painting!  It’s important to me to get out and look about from time to time (like I’m doing here in Brittany), but it’s really the steady hours in the studio that lay the path for mature, careful work to find you.

Do you have any plans or goals for the next year?
I’d actually like to take a break from studio practice for a bit.  I have another residency coming up in the fall (in Wyoming).  It’s all by design – I wanted this year to be about getting out of the studio and trying some new things.  I’m working on a new body of work, but it’s way to early to attach any goals to it right now.  I also think I’d like to teach or lecture sometime in the near future.

Finish this statement: I wish 10 years ago I had know…..
Honestly, I don’t really have any regrets.  All of the things I’ve learned in the past 10 years needed to come to me in the time that they did.  BUT, strictly from a business point of view I would say to artists: set very specific goals, put them within a time frame and work backwards telling yourself the things you have to do every month, week, day, etc to achieve them.  Anything is achievable if you can break it down that way.  Also: eat more and dance more.

Thanks, Emily! You artwork is just beautiful. This is great advice for all creatives.

If you’d like to see more of Emily’s work or buy prints of her work, visit her website

Don’t forget, it’s not too late to get your name in the drawing for one of my screen printed Shared Joy posters! Read about it here.