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  • Writer's pictureChisara Vidale



Could you introduce yourself and your practice?

Hi! My name is Catherine Leon, I make pencil drawings and oil paintings mostly of flowers and landscapes. They have a semi-surreal folk feel to them and they are influenced by my interest in what divinity is and how we relate to it.

  • Your works are so beautifully detailed, there must be a lot of time involved in making the work, can you describe your creative process?

My process has changed a lot in the past year. I used to love layering expressive gestures of paint and now there is more planning and structure. I think that my style is reflective of where I am at in my life and I am very allowing for it to change. Since becoming a mum I am more drawn to a slower and more contemplative approach to painting, probably because of life itself being a little more chaotic. I also take a lot of photos of colours, plants, landscapes, and I use colour palettes from these images, but the compositions are designed more to fit the desire I have for the painting, they are very much inspired by the symmetry and simplicity of folk art. They are very detailed and the smaller works take a number of days to complete, whereas larger pieces take weeks.

Peonies 1, Pencil on paper, 30.5 x 23cm

I have been very influenced by a piece of advice I heard from Agnes Martin; she suggested that when you paint you think about wanting the painting and wanting it to appeal to one other person but you don’t think about yourself and you don’t think about trying to compete with anyone. I have found this to be very useful—I try as best as I can to just follow the inspiration and not make it too self involved.

  • I am really drawn to your piece ‘When it Rains it Pours’ ,what was the inspiration behind it?

When It Rains It Pours, Pencil on paper, 27.5 x 35.2 cm

Thank you! I made this piece while living in Santa Barbara, California, which is where my husband grew up. It was unusually green here after receiving record breaking levels of rain, and the landscape looked tropical. My son was born earlier in the year and with him came more goodness into our lives. It’s been a season of receiving more than we had planned for and prayers being answered. This piece is reflective of all these things.

Night Fern, Oil on paper, 16 x 23 cm

  • How do you decide the size of your pieces, how important is scale to you?

I usually make large scale pieces, as I love creating something immersive. Recently I started making more smaller scale works because I wanted to see how that would change my thinking process—the brain just functions differently when making an a4 painting compared to a 2 metre painting.

The Night We Thought Venus Was a U.F.O, Pencil on paper, 30.5 x 23 cm

The novelty has instigated more creativity and It has given me more freedom to make sketches on the go, to draw from life or to experiment with new compositions. I am planning some larger scale works right now, but taking a period of time to work in a completely different way has been helpful for my creative process.

  • Lastly, Who are some of your favourite contemporary artists at the moment who inspire you?

The Ocean In Me, Oil on linen framed in Cornish Ash 33 x 27.5 cm

There are so many talented artists making work I love right now. The people I have come across recently who I have particularly liked are Patricia Iglesias Peco and Aimee Parrott, they both have a fluidity and rawness I am drawn to. I love Jen Guidi’s work and I’m hoping to make it down to her retrospective currently on show at the Orange County Museum of Art, and I have been interested in artists inspired by traditional arts, like Jethro Buck and Ben Styer.

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