Who ∼ Sharon Leah
Where ∼ St. Paul, Minnesota
What ∼ artist, painter, writer, blogger
How ∼ with the support of family, friends, clients, and you; and with the help of awesome teachers
I was born and raised in northern Minnesota. My dad bought the Mobile gas station in the small town of Blackduck, when I was six, and moved our family there. I was in second or third grade when I created my first “almost” public art. It was a crayon drawing of a pig on the bedroom wall at the home of one of my friends. Her parents were not happy with me, but I didn’t let that incident set me back.
My interest in painting landscapes surfaced when I was in sixth grade and decided I wanted to paint the spruce tree I could see through my bedroom window. I used four colors: black, white, spruce green, and blue. The painting itself wasn’t memorable, but the act of painting was.
I painted in Community Ed classes and throughout the years I attended Bemidji State University. In 1980-81, I studied with Western painter Sandy Ingersoll while I lived briefly in Montana. I loved his work and when we moved from Montana, I negotiated a deal with him—he gave me one of his watercolor paintings in exchange for the yard shed I had purchased and used for storage. Then, in 1984, I was divorced. I moved to the Twin Cities with my two children, started working, and didn’t paint again until 2015.
In 2015, I was trying to “paint” tiny (4 inch x 4 inch) landscapes with a very non-traditional medium: polymer clay. While I had some success with the clay, I was using it as few other clay artists did, so examples to look at were limited. One day, I said to myself: “You could do what you want to do with paint.” Up to that point, even though I still had my paint box and brushes, it had not occurred to me to try painting again.
Some of the paint, believe it or not, was still usable after 30 years. But I couldn’t pick up where I’d left off. The skills I had developed were stored somewhere in my brain, but I didn’t remember how to skillfully move a brush around on a surface make it the paint do what i wanted it to do. My first breakthrough with the brush came after nearly eight months of after almost daily painting.
It was winter and I’d been painting for a couple of hours at a nearby nature center. My hands and feet were cold, and the paint on my palette was cold. And then it just happened. I loaded the brush with white paint and pushed it on to the linen panel that was clamped on my pochade box. In that moment, my brain and hand reconnected.
The following May, I signed up for a three-day plein air painting workshop. My goal was to learn how to get a painting “mostly finished” in under three hours. That’s about the maximum time a plein air painter can spend on a painting, because the scene is changing every minute. After two to three hours, the color and light are very different, shadows are longer or have disappeared if clouds have moved in. Sometimes, I’ll go back to a location when weather conditions are the same and finish a piece. Sometimes, I can finish a small 6 x 8 inch painting during one outing. The challenge keeps things interesting.
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refute group exhibit, Bloomington, MN
Ames Center for the Arts group exhibit, Burnsville, MN
Kelley Gallery juried show, Woodbury, MN
Hopkins Art Center group show, Hopkins, MN
Frameworks Outdoor Painters Show, St. Paul, MN