Artist draws on her past for inspiration

January 7, 2013

research_snellenLeanne Snellen is an artist who loves people. That love, along with 20 years of nursing experience, might explain why she’s drawn to the human form as inspiration for her artwork.

From art classes in grade school to art camp as a teenager, art has always been a part of Leanne’s life. So it wasn’t surprising that despite her health-related career path—one she was encouraged to take after high school—she continued to pursue art informally. However, as time went on, she began to feel she needed more. “I could never shut the artist off – it was bursting inside me,” she says. Finally, after two decades of nursing, Leanne decided to pursue art full-time and enrolled in the university’s Fine Art program in 2011.

Nursing career gives appreciation for the human body

Leanne credits her background in critical care, emergency and palliative nursing for making her comfortable sketching the human form, something that can be awkward for students at first. She also possesses a reverence for the human body, acquired from “seeing it all” in her nursing career. Leanne hopes to channel these qualities into her artwork. She characterizes a successful figurative artist as someone who is “sensitive”—toward both the details and the body—and appreciative of its sometimes unconventional beauty.

Education of an artist

Pragmatic in her approach to art, Leanne recognizes that styles and skills evolve over time. Her interest in art history, particularly with the work of Lucien Freud, has taught her that an artist’s style is dynamic and ever-improving. “There’s a learning process…it takes a lifetime,” she explains. However this realization has not always been easy to swallow. “I tend to overwork things,” she says. “My biggest challenge is learning when to stop.” She credits her instructor and mentor, Leslie Sharpe, with imparting the value of simplicity and how to recognize when a painting is effectively done.

A self-described blank slate on entering the Fine Art program, Leanne has appreciated the diverse curriculum and “boot camp” pace, although she acknowledges that it’s not for everyone: “It’s a wonderful program, but the pace is non-stop.” Despite the grueling schedule, she insists that the course load and its top-notch instruction make for “mind-blowing learning.”

Bringing art and health together

Ultimately, Leanne’s goal is to operate a full-time studio on her farm. As a mother of three and grandmother to one, she relishes the idea of one day taking her work home. “Working off the farm [feels] like a disconnect to me. I’d like to stay connected with my kids and with the land.” She is similarly determined to return to nursing in some capacity, albeit with art at the forefront. While she can’t predict how these two will mesh, she is resolute: “I know that art heals people, and I can’t imagine life without it.”

Leanne’s paintings will showcase the value of quick studies, and how they can ultimately enhance and inform a larger study. A selection of her figurative paintings will be exhibited during the 2012/13 Student Research, Scholarly Activity and Creative Achievement Showcase Week at City Centre Campus January 28 to February 1.

Contributed by Lorelie Betke, Professional Writing student.


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