VIRGINIA LEONNIG ARTIST STATEMENT
I love a good thunderstorm! The house where I grew up in Maryland was surrounded by huge oak and beech trees. My brother and I used to go out on the screened porch on the third floor to watch the trees bend over, feel the rain pelt on our faces, see the lightening knife across the sky and feel the thunder in our chests. Many of my landscapes still reflect these feelings. They are full of excitement, movement, strength and often mystery. They are meant to be emotional and to look beyond and below the surface of things. To show the power, motion and constant state of change that to me defines Mother Nature. In fact, I try to infuse all my works with these same qualities in one way or another.
As with many creative people, both of my parents and grandparents were very artistic. They realized I had some talent and supplied me with paints, pastels and paper at an early age. My first real drawing was at age 2 ½ years. It was a duck and my mother, as all good mothers’ do, saved it. Oddly enough my first real job as an artist was painting duck decoys, which was big business in Maryland. I saw mallards in my sleep for months.
If it is true that it takes a village to raise a child, I was raised well. We had the good fortune of having a high school art teacher who worked part time as a delivery man for our local liquor store. Since Dad went through a case of beer every few weeks and Mom a bottle of gin, I got to have my art work “graded and corrected.” He would drop off the bottles and I would give him my recent creations. The next time he came by he would return them to me with suggestions for improvements. Then there was my grandmother who lived down the hill from us. She provided me with my first studio/work place when I was about 12 years old.
By age 13 years I was enrolled in Schuler School of Fine Arts in Baltimore, Maryland where we spent a great deal of time copying the works of the “Great Masters.” I found my stride when I took summer classes that involved plein air (outdoors painting) landscapes in watercolor. Later I attended a high school that offered an intense program for artistically gifted kids which opened my eyes to all sorts of possibilities.
I married soon after graduating from high school and quickly had 3 children to raise. I eventually moved to Oregon where I met my second husband who introduced me to sailing.
We bought a sail boat, and in 1994 quit our jobs and took off for a two and a half year sailing adventure which took us to Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Belize and many places in between. With my paints on board, I became totally smitten with the vibrant color found in the tropics. Even the shadows were rich with color. I also became fascinated with the movement, color and shape of the water as caused by the wind. I often put this theme in my current work.
Of all the influences on my work, the sailing adventure has been the greatest. I was allowed uninterrupted time to focus on my work and to observe all that was around me. Since there was a new landscape around each corner, I learned to look at the world with “fresh eyes” and a childlike sense of wonder. That has helped me to view the familiar places at home with the same eyes. On return from our trip, I decided if I could get up the courage to sail half way around the world I could most certainly give being a full time painter/artist a try.
Over the years I have had opportunities to study with many wonderful artists and have taught some classes myself. I consider myself largely self-taught but, then I think most successful artists are largely self-taught even if they have a degree.
I am currently living on Oregon’s central coast in Waldport. Our sail boat is moored in Newport, not too far away. I have a wonderful studio with a view of the ocean that so fascinates me AND I still love a whopping good storm.