We are excited to have Brian Leahy as one of our two August Art walk featured artists! Brian and Katie's joint show, Northwest Kaleidoscope, will be featured at our Capitol Hill Art Walk on Thursday, August 9th. Stop by to check out their incredible work and enjoy free beer and music from Guy Keltner!
First, tell us a bit about yourself as an artist?
My love for the mountains, wild places, flora and fauna goes as far back as I can remember. I took an art class most years in school, but it wasn't until I was living in Colorado after college that I had this 'epiphany' where I was like, waiitttt a second...I can draw whatever I want, not just what's assigned in class! (Still lives of fruit in a bowl, I'm lookin' at you! jk ;). I started experimenting with markers and soon after, acrylic paint.
The natural world was instinctively my first subject, and it remains my most common subject to this day. I find our relationship as humans with nature and the planet to be a mix of fascination, inspiration, and at times, concern. We've accomplished so much as a species. We've also altered our environment a lot to get here, and we are starting to learn the impact of our actions. Some of my works are inspired by what we've lost, like wild open space, or more than 10 minutes of uninterrupted silence before a plane passes by overhead. Some works are me dreaming up potential futures, like the painting "Crowded Haunts", where nothing remains but cityscapes, and the ghosts of trees loom overhead. Others are inspired by the idea that maybe the planet will recover after we've gone (example: the trees growing over buildings in "Victory Day").
It can sound kinda 'doom and gloom' when I explain it like that, haha. But I think that change happens in degrees. Someone 300 years in the future from now will not really truly know what the planet used to be like, in the same way that I really have no idea what the place felt like 300 years ago. (I like to imagine it was pretty great, but then again I don't have to worry about dying from a tooth ache, or something seemingly small like that). So maybe they won't be very depressed about the missing rainforests, or miss the silence, because they never experienced it. In that sense, I like to think of my art as more of a record of a place and time. A time that was a crossroads for humanity and nature. We're living in the beginning of the Anthropocene - the period in Earth's history where human activity was the dominant influence on the environment and climate.
In the last year I've started messing around with digital illustration in Photoshop. Recently I've been feeling a little guilty about the fact that I'm making art about the environment, but using trees for the paper, markers that aren't really recyclable, resources to ship prints, etc. Markers remain my favorite medium, other than that. I like not having to remix colors, plus they're portable and they still provide a level of blendability and vibrancy like paint does.
Where are you from? How did you end up in Seattle?
I grew up on the coast of Massachusetts and went to college in New Hampshire. My friend was finishing up college in Colorado when I graduated and he invited me to visit. I didn't leave. I lived in Boulder, Colorado for about 5 1/2 years before deciding to make the move to Seattle. I had visited the city and the coast a few times and instantly fell for the Olympic Peninsula. The music scene here was also a big factor for me. It's great in Colorado, too, but a little more my style here. Plus, the big city offers lots of chances for networking, tons of great venues for shows, etc.
What types of pieces will you be showing at Art Walk?
I will be showing a mix of originals and prints. The majority were created with marker on paper, and some are acrylic paint on wood.
Your pieces are so vibrant and striking! Where do you get the inspiration for this style?
Thanks! I definitely love messing around with many colors in one work, or picking a set of colors at the beginning and using just those together. The vibrancy might be mostly a side effect of the mediums. Markers especially – I feel like the colors tend to 'pop' off the page due to the bright white paper showing through.
What do you hope to convey to viewers through your art?
If my art makes someone feel something – anything – I'm happy. I've discovered that what one piece means to me personally might not be what someone else got out of it.
I like to think that some of the more overtly environmental pieces like "Crowded Haunts" might prompt the viewer to think about humanity's impact and what we're leaving for our ancestors. But if you just like the colors and the vibe of it, that's great too! I will be the first to admit that some of my works I drew mostly just because I hoped the colors and shapes might look cool, haha.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
Andrew Hem, Cryptk, Faith XLVII, Sainer, Brendan Monroe AKA Brendan the Blob and Onur are some of my favorite muralists. Pascal Campion is one of my favorite illustrators working in digital. Sarah Joncas – love her painting style. The thought-provoking cartoonist/scientist behind XKCD. Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin & Hobbes.
You are an overall very creative individual! Have you always been this way?
As far back as I can remember, makin' stuff has always been fun for me, and an escape from stressful situations or boredom. Legos were my jam back in the day! I still love them.
If you could describe your art in three words, what would they be?
Colorful. Detailed. Semi-realistic.
If you were an animal, what would you be?
Any bird that soars around mountain peaks, riding the thermals. A raven maybe, or an eagle or hawk.
Do you have any exciting upcoming art projects or shows?
I recently started experimenting with making videos for my music, and I've been (slowly) learning how to animate drawings. I'm currently working on recording an EP with my art as the cover, and a few videos to accompany it!
To buy pieces and prints, check out Brian's online store!