Photo: Kirsty OLeary Leeson in Plumstead, East

Kirsty OLeary Leeson

Artist, Teacher, Community worker
Early career

'Landscape is a portrait of the soul' I explore the spaces we exist in, both physical and psychological. I use the real landscape which surrounds me as a metaphor for my inner life of imagination and emotion; these are not drawings from life, but drawings of life; drawing the relation between the visible and the invisible; the material and immaterial are not separate but are reliant on each other to create meaning in this lived reality. Drawing dominates my practice at present as the media most complements and mirrors my subject matter, which is expressing facets of our existence. In drawing there is a relation with the provisional and unfinished, it exists in a state of suspense so connecting it with the lived life experience. To live is to forever be in a state of change and so the medium of drawing is particularly relevant to the subject matter as 'instead of fixing the flow of imagination it keeps it in flux' (Gombrich). It records the unfolding of an event, not the fixed reality of an object. Drawing is a dialogue between our thoughts and our experience of the real; it has always been aligned with thinking and ideas, as much as with representing the appearance of objects, it has as much to do with reflection as with observation. The fragmentary nature of the images reflects that although we live a linear existence, what we currently experience is altered by memories and expectations, our present being created by these absent moments. The obvious time and effort spent on these beautifully precise drawings, is integral to the reading of the work, reflecting on the connections between a repetitive act and creative energy in all aspects of our lives. Bio Originally I trained as an illustrator and worked in publishing, however in 2009 after having spent some time raising more children than is really sensible I decided to escape from the Playground Mafia and I returned to Art college to study Fine Art. I graduated with a First Class degree in 2011 from Norwich University of the Arts. Since then I have exhibited widely in my home county of Norfolk as well as in Cambridge, Twickenham, Derby and London. I have been a finalist in the International Saatchi Drawing Showdown, featured in series 2 of the BBC 2 Programme 'Show Me the Monet' and was Visual Art Trader’s Artist of the Month, they wrote of my work:  "The senses of emotional uncertainty, of time evaporating and of forgotten memories in Kirsty's drawings are made all the more powerful by the beautiful and precise execution of the images."  Drawing On Gesso People often look at my work not sure what media it is, is it some kind of photo or a print? They comment that they have never seen anything like it before. My artworks are all hand drawn with a pencil, however I do not work on paper; this is because the textured surface of paper always becomes an integral part of a drawing, however my work is purely about the image, I want it to exist free from it’s substrate.  Firstly I take a wooden board which is sprayed with gesso and lightly sanded down to give a very smooth surface onto which I draw directly. I use a very hard 4h pencil, because the surface is hard anything softer creates too much loose graphite. Gesso is an unforgiving medium to work on, unless the mark is very light you cannot rub it out, so I have to work carefully and meticulously. Finally I have the boards sprayed with a protective acrylic lacquer which effectively makes the work wipe clean. The art critic David Lee said of my work “It’s not often you find work that wants to draw you in”. I think part of this is because of the purity of the image achieved through my chosen media. read full statement

Location Plumstead, East
Activities Primary education, Secondary education, Further education, Workshops, Community arts, Private commissions
Artforms / type of project Drawing, Illustration
Tags drawing, Kirsty O'Leary-Leeson, landscapes, seascapes, realism, drawing on gesso, ocean, drawing of the sea, photo-realism, sky and clouds

News & Events

  • Solstice Sale

    20% of artwork on my website

  • '@ Paint Britain Exhibition'

    15/11/2014 – 08/03/2015
    Ipswich Art School Gallery

    Group exhibition

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  • Contemporary British Painting The Priseman-Seabrook Collection

    02/11/2014 – 14/03/2015
    Huddersfield Art Gallery, Princess Alexandra Walk, Huddersfield HD1 2SU

    Exhibition at Huddersfield Art Gallery, Princess Alexandra Walk, Huddersfield HD1 2SU 1 November 2014 – 14 March 2015

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  • 'Turner - Watercolours from the West - and Modern British Landscapes'

    15/10/2014 – 13/12/2014
    Swindon Museum and Art Gallery

    I will be part of Swindon Museum & Art Gallery's October exhibition which will look at treatments of light and landscape in British Art.

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  • Place and Landscape

    01/10/2014 – 13/11/2014
    The Waterfront Gallery, Ipswich

    Group exhibition featuring artworks from artists living and working in East Anglia

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  • NCAS 2014

    03/03/2014 – 15/03/2014
    The Forum

    Norfolk Contemporary Arts Society Exhibition

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  • Work added to collections

    The Light On The Dark Side of Me has been added to Swindon Gallery's 21st Century British Artists Collection Gathering Storm has been collected by UCA's East Contemporary Art Collection

  • Royal Society of Marine Artists Annual Exhibition

    15/10/2013 – 27/10/2013
    The Mall Galleries, London

    P V Tuesday 15 October 2013, 2pm to 8pm Official opening at 3.30pm by Dan Snow 16 to 27 October 10am to 5pm daily

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