We had the good fortune of connecting with Susan Leonhard and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Susan, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking.
My nature is to be a bit of a risk taker. I have never been one to analyze a decision for any length of time. Sometimes it has paid off and other times, it has been a disaster. I believe taking risks is a trait most artists share because we are dreamers! Stepping out of my comfort zone is something I did back in 2014 when I came up with my series of paintings “Underwater & Beyond.” Having painted landscapes for almost 40 years, I was yearning for something new and creative. While snorkeling off the coast of Kauai, I visualized a series of underwater paintings, where the focal point was not the marine life but the water itself. After returning from my trip, I immediately started painting my vision. The technique and subject matter were definitely not within my comfort zone. I had many doubts as to whether this series of paintings would be appreciated by viewers or whether I would be harshly criticized but after completing two or three paintings, I had a good sense about them. I asked my good friend and talented artist, Giorgio Dimichina, what he thought of my paintings and vision. Giorgio has always been very gracious with his compliments so even though he approved, I was still very apprehensive to start showing this series in public. I was afraid of the critics! But after all, what did I have to loose? Right? I went forward and put the whole series in the gallery and let the comments, critiques fly. The majority of the comments were good. There are always those who will criticize art for various reasons and sometimes it has nothing to do with the art itself. It was a risk to present this series but it paid off. The series has become my greatest success and escalated my career and income as an artist immensely. Commissions came in. Galleries contacted me. Sales grew. Artists are sensitive beings and insecure about their creations, especially when we go outside of our comfort zone. But, I have to say, taking that risk paid off in ways I could only imagine. Now, especially during this pandemic, I am in a phase where I am embracing the exploration of new ideas, techniques and risks with my art. I thrive on the unknown and whether success or failure is around the corner. But taking this risk with my underwater series has taught me to trust my intuition and just go for it! Taking risks and exploring our imaginations, in my opinion, is what makes a good artist. After all, it is the risk we take as artists, musicians, actors and creators that connects people to their deepest emotions and their souls.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am most known for my series of underwater paintings, “Underwater & Beyond.” Underwater paintings have been done by many accomplished artists but I wanted to use my style and technique to approach this series with the intention on making the water itself the focal point and not to focus on marine life. I wanted this series to be vibrant and yet very serene and to have patterns of movement and light. I wanted the viewer to get lost in the painting and feel as though they are floating in the water. It was a process for me to learn a technique that would combine just enough impressionism and realism to accomplish what I had envisioned. I learned that patience was key. I am accustomed to painting fast but with this series, I had to slow way down and paint several layers to achieve the transparency, light and movement in the water. I am still learning and experimenting with my color palette, layering paint and brush work. It is an ongoing education and experiment but I love it! I have always been drawn to cool colors and blues especially. Working with this color palette is something I get very excited about. There is a point in my process, where it all comes together and I feel that tranquility that I feel being under the water. Humans are just drawn to water so the fact that I can paint and also feel that peace, is a dream.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
For sure Laguna Beach. Laguna has some of the most beautiful bluffs, coves and water. I get a lot of inspiration from the water. I would take them to walk around the park at the Montage where the view is spectacular. I would probably take them for cocktails at the rooftop bar at Casa De Camino where sunsets are unbeatable. Then I would take them to dinner at Dizz’s Restuarant. That is my favorite restaurant in Laguna. Very funky, good food and iconic.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My friends, family and most of all my good friend, Giorgio Dimichina deserve credit in supporting my visions.
Linkedin: Susan Leonhard
Twitter: Susan Leonhard@LeonhardSusan
Facebook: Susan Leonhard and Susan Leonhard Fine Art