“I grew up with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. I used to love sitting alone and sketching it over and over again,” says Leonard, who has lived in Concord for 20 years.
After working as an investment banker for several years, Leonard switched gears and got a degree in early childhood education. She spent the rest of her career working with preschoolers in the Head Start program.
“My own best memories of school were the art projects,” she recalls. “So I would often place a huge canvas with paints on the classroom floor and let the kids make whatever they wanted.
“The process of working together on an art project also helped them with their social skills,” she adds. “Watching kids create was very inspiring.”
Making her own art took a back seat to the demands of her job, until she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I needed something to do during my radiation treatments that was healing and calming. So I enrolled in a class at Mt. Diablo Adult School and fell back in love with making art for myself,” she says. “I’ve been cancer-free now for 11 years, but I’m still painting.”
Leonard continues to take classes from the adult school for her weekly studio time. “I’ve made wonderful friendships in class, and I really enjoy the social dynamic of painting together,” she says. “Then when I paint at home alone, I put on some classical music and it just takes me away. Painting can be so meditative.”
Scenic vistas are among Leonard’s favorite subjects to paint with acrylics. “I love focusing on all the various details of a landscape,” she says. “I usually start a painting with a photo for inspiration. Then after a while, the scene morphs into something completely different that’s in my head.”
While Leonard says she’s proud of her work, she has trouble calling herself an artist.
“Maybe it’s because I just paint for myself as a hobby. But then I joined the Concord Art Association to start showing my work, and I’ve actually sold several pieces over the last few years,” she reveals.
Leonard, who has work in the group’s current show, appreciates the positive feedback from members and enjoys the growing arts community. “We’re doing great work to build more awareness and keep the arts alive in Concord forever.”
“Landscapes of the Mind” runs through March at the aRt Cottage, 2238 Mt. Diablo St., Concord.
Lisa Fulmer is a mixed media artist, small business marketing consultant and community arts advocate.