Set on the path of becoming an engineer, Leah Rei made a somewhat surprising turn when it came time to apply for college. Something deep inside urged her to instead apply for the arts program. She listened to that voice and it’s led her on a rewarding and fulfilling journey.
Leah has developed an eager and explorative voice through her art. In her mixed media pieces, she tests the limits with acrylics––manipulating them to work more like oil or like watercolor. She also integrates other materials like gold leaf, creating pieces that are refreshing, peaceful and serene.
Though she was classically trained in oils and figurative work, Leah finds inspiration and energy in experimentation and allowing each piece “to become what it wants to become.” Following the inspiration of expression, she has recently also added metal to her repertoire. Working with a fellow artist friend to cut sheet metal using a plasma cutter into cacti, Leah then applies various finishes to create these beautiful wall-mounted artworks.
Read on or watch the video below for more of Leah’s story.
When did you know art was your calling?
I decided to be a professional artist when I went to college, but it’s always just been a part of my life. I grew up in a very artistic household so it’s a big part of who I am. In high school, I thought I was going to be an engineer but upon applying to college, I just decided I’m going to be an artist. I applied for painting and I got in and I’ve never looked back.
How has your work evolved?
It’s evolved a lot over the years. I started mostly as a photorealistic painter, classically trained in oils and charcoal and some figurative work. I decided I needed more freedom in my expression and wanted to use more mixed media. Acrylic became a more versatile medium to work in. I like it because I can paint like oil paint or like watercolor. I can use gold leaf. I can apply a shiny finish or use satin varnish. The sky is the limit. Day-to-day, I get to decide what I want to make. It’s from my heart. There are no rules.
What challenges you the most about your work?
The thing that I find most challenging about my work is the deciding moments. I have a lot of ideas and a lot of directions I want to go and a limited amount of time. I’m always trying to focus on one piece and follow it through its individual journey versus getting distracted by the possibilities. It’s a challenge to give each piece its own moment to just become what it wants to become.
What do you love most about creating art?
The act of creating is fulfilling and I find it energizing to make these pieces. When I’m most tired and most in need of restoring myself, it’s painting that does that for me. Being able to create something from nothing is truly joyful.
What do you hope your work inspires in others?
I hope my work evokes happiness. I really want to create joyful places, respites, and safe places for people to travel to and escape to and to find some reason to have joy in their life.
What drew you to the Celebration of Fine Art?
The Celebration of Fine Art is life-changing. I didn’t know that I could reach my full potential in my 30s. That I could do this full time and be accepted for who I am and have my ideas without having to fight for them. It’s a family and it’s acceptance. Every idea is valid.