An appreciation for art was instilled in Leslie Duke at a very young age. Some of her earliest memories involve studying beautiful artwork in children’s books with her mother and poring over fine art prints her father had collected from some of his favorite artists. 

Over the years, Leslie’s creative interest continued to grow, and it wasn’t long before she was taking her own art lessons, in which she explored a number of mediums. Leslie was quick to fall in love with oil painting, but decided to pursue illustration and graphic design in college. While in school, she experimented to hone what her eventual style might be.

“My education was great because it was very focused on the foundations of learning to draw, learning about color theory, and different mediums,” Leslie says. “I loved oil, but as an illustrator, it just didn’t make sense to focus on that.”

After graduation and a few years in the field, she realized she spent more time working in other people’s illustration styles than her own and was left feeling unfulfilled. It was then she reignited her passion for oil painting, practicing almost every day after work.

“I would set up still lifes in my little studio space and try to figure out how I wanted my paint to look,” she says. “Before then, I wasn’t drawn to still life painting. But the more I did it, the more interested I became in making something that felt like me and felt contemporary.”

Today, Leslie’s oil paintings on wood panels are immediately recognizable. Her signature subjects include flowers, fruits and, on occasion, birds, all painted in lush hues with dreamlike backgrounds. 

“Still life items are usually everyday things that are easily passed by,” she says. “It’s nice to practice being present with these fleeting objects and focus on the beauty of these moments in time.” 

One of the reasons Leslie’s paintings are so beloved is her skill for capturing emotions. While some of her works do center on darker themes and moods, the majority of her paintings are peaceful, calming and leave the viewer with a sense of lightness.

“I try not to think too hard about emotions when I’m painting because I don’t want to have too much control over my viewer’s experience,” she says. “I like to keep it an open ended experience.”

The Celebration of Fine Art enables Leslie to interact with viewers in person and hear what they think firsthand as they explore her studio and see what is in progress on her easel. But the show also gives her the chance to gain insights from fellow artists who specialize in a variety of mediums, from jewelry to sculpture and everything in between.

“I’ve made some beautiful friendships that I will treasure forever,” Leslie says. “It’s interesting to see how the range of mediums and styles here have influenced my artwork. I feel like my work gets better and better every year that I’m here because I am pushed to get better by the artists that I’m with.”

See more of Leslie’s story below:

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