The superlative Gabe Leonard is often described as ‘The Cinematic Artist’; with a director’s eye for astonishing detail, light and composition, his creations are powerful, atmospheric and full of intrigue and narrative.
Leonard originates from Wyoming where he spent his formative years creating sketches of the local wildlife and selling them to his friends for the princely sum of one dollar! Later he was to graduate with a BA in Fine Art from CCAD (Columbus College of Art & Design the premiere art school of central Ohio) and upon completing his studies he moved to Los Angeles with the intention of securing a job as a background painter with a major studio. However that was not to be and instead he found his time was divided between ‘folding shirts’ at the department store Macey’s and selling his art on the boardwalk of Venice Beach, before gains in popularity and profit allowed him to quit the day job and carve out a living from the sales of his paintings as a full time artist, ever grateful that fate intervened and that job as a background painter did not materialize.
Leonard’s captivating work captures evocative freeze frames; that aforementioned cinematic quality. His style can be seen to be rooted in the European tradition and influences can be found among some of those that he cites as his artistic heroes and inspirations including; Egon Schiele, Rembrandt and Gustav Klimt. There is a real dynamism and freedom to his figurative paintings, the use of expressive loose brushwork (alongside his trademark runs and drips within his images) combined with technical brilliance and an astonishing eye for the dramatic allow him to create worlds full of story and potential, enticing the viewer into a world of old school glamour and romance with a rugged edge that can teeter towards violence.
This pseudo violent edge is particularly interesting in his portrayal of his gun toting heroines, femme fatale characters with bags of attitude that he suggests have a huge appeal to female fans of his work;
It is essential to Gabe that there is a fully formed back story behind the production of the characters that he so meticulously conjures into life, almost as though his carefully crafted creation of a character’s past then allows his audience to more easily decide upon their future, he says that he; “tend[s] to put them in a transitional moment. I don’t always make it obvious if something has already happened or about to happen.”
This allows the viewer to insert their own narrative upon the image making each one very malleable and very personal, Leonard goes on to explain;
Maybe the hint of tension and tait of danger that prevails throughout the majority of Leonard’s images, can be best explained by the harshness of the environment which he grew up in; a childhood lived slightly on the edge, where courage and fortitude needed to be fostered in order to survive;
Gabe’s stylistic, instantly recognizable work combines his use of expressive free brushwork and layers of thinned out oils to create the trademark runs and drips in his images, allowing him to generate a uniquely textured background for his careful imagined figures. Certain original images also benefit from the application of hand applied gold leaf adding a further layer of contrast and interest. His working process is deliberate, intricate, laborious and deeply time consuming, but the payoff is astonishing, deeply arresting images that capture the hearts, minds and imaginations of admiring audiences everywhere.
Not surprisingly Leonard’s distinctive works have become highly desirable and he is able to count Quentin Tarantino, Ruben Fleischer and Charlie Sheen among some of the high profile and well known collectors of his pieces. Following a string of amazing sell out shows Gabe has garnered attention and admiration from almost all corners of the globe putting him squarely in the position of one of the most sought out artists in the world.