Leah Kiser knew art was her calling from an early age. Even before she could draw, she’d ask others to draw pictures so she could watch the process. So, it came as little surprise that she went on to study art in college. But she didn’t initially start out in drawing. Instead, she went the sculpture and ceramics path only to realize she didn’t feel the same connection.
After finding her way back to drawing, she began exploring color and then wanted to experiment with scale. Colored pencils, however, didn’t exactly lend to large-scale compositions and that was when Leah found oil paint. That was when her distinct style started to take shape.
Leah’s paintings are reminiscent of the illustrations in children’s books: bold, curious, and imaginative. In her art, Leah captures the things she finds playful and funny and invites others to join the moment. She often shares a smile with viewers but sometimes they’ll even create a story following the lead of their imaginations.
Keep reading for more of Leah’s process and journey.
When did you know art was your calling?
Pretty much always. I remember when I was really little I wanted to watch other people draw, even before I could draw. I would ask my babysitter or my mom to draw a picture of me then I’d say, “Okay, can you draw a picture of my friends now?” I think it was the sound of the pen or the pencil on the paper. I have always been drawn to it for whatever reason, I don’t know why.
What do you love most about creating art?
It’s a really wonderful way for me to connect with people. I tend to be kind of shy and making paintings of things that I find fun or funny is a way of interacting with other people. So I put my paintings out and then people come in and they laugh and smile and we have something to talk about.
What challenges you the most about your work?
I’ve never taken an oil painting class so technically, I don’t really know how to handle paint very well. That’s something that I’m going to try to do in the future. I’d like to get a better understanding of how to work with it. The way that I handle it now is very controlled and I’d like to see what other ways there are to paint and see if there are maybe better ways to do it.
What do you hope your work inspires in others?
I hope that it brings a smile to their face. I hope it spurs people’s imaginations because my work is fantasy and fun. I feel like it’s approachable. I like that people can come in and smile and laugh about it. A lot of times they’ll have a story that they’ll make up from the painting and we can just talk and laugh about it. Sometimes we riff off of each other and it’s really fun to start something like that and to be sort of the spark of a conversation.
How has your work evolved?
I loved drawing and I wanted to draw realistically. When I got into college it was something that they pushed us away from. They didn’t want us to do things that were representational.
I focused mainly on sculpture and ceramics in college and they wanted us to come up with new imaginative designs. It was a really good exercise but when I was done, I didn’t really feel connected to my work. I wasn’t as excited about it as sitting at my table and drawing. So I went back to drawing, but I wanted to try color.
I started using colored pencils and learning how to work with them and then eventually I wanted to make something bigger. Colored pencils don’t work well on a large surface since it takes a long time to do so and that was when I started painting. At that point, I started painting things that look like children’s book illustrations but in a realistic style. That’s where I am now.
What drew you to the Celebration of Fine Art?
I had done a show similar to this and I really enjoyed being with other artists and being able to paint while there. While I was at that show, I came to the Celebration of Fine Art to check it out and to see what it was like. I was really blown away by the variety of artwork. The artists were younger and I felt like I fit in and the content of my work fit in better. I really was hoping to get into this show so I applied and luckily, I got in.