The Artist's Road  World Map

Voices of Experience - An Interview with Christopher Leeper

Voices of Experience

An Interview with Christopher Leeper

A New Day, 36 x 48", Oil, © Christopher Leeper
A New Day               36 x 48"               Oil

"The wonder and blessing of it is,

that after 40 years or so,

I am still excited, inspired and curious.

That is a gift."

   Christopher Leeper has the extraordinary talent of being able to work in multiple mediums, each with great command. He has received acclaim, winning awards in all—his watercolor, acrylic and oil painting work. Whatever medium it takes, his goal is to share the moment of excitement and inspiration he has experienced with others. Leeper participates in national plein air events and maintains a full teaching schedule. He adds to his list of achievements the illustration of four children's books. Leeper wrote to us from his studio in Canfield, Ohio.

Shadow Side, 15 x 22", Watercolor, © Christopher Leeper
Shadow Side               15 x 22"               Watercolor

    I always knew that art would be my calling. I was obsessively drawing since I was five or six. I had lots of encouragement. My mom was a classically trained pianist and an amateur artist. She was my first instructor. My father worked as a heavy machinery mechanic and operator in the strip mines in Western Pennsylvania. They both were always very supportive.

   You have a B.F.A. in Graphic Design. Did you work in that field after your graduation from Youngstown State?

   Yes. My first job after college was as a layout artist for an ad agency. I loved this job. I was given a mega-set of markers and I rendered photos for placement in layouts. I worked there for about a year, then was hired by a health care system as a designer. I worked there for nine years before quitting and painting full-time. It was also a great job. I worked at a research hospital and besides graphic design, my duties included medical illustration, medical photography, and video production.

   What pushed you to make the decision to focus on painting full-time?

   I was painting and doing illustration every second that I wasn’t at the hospital. I had several lucrative illustration accounts in the wallpaper industry. I illustrated what they called “men’s wear.” These were masculine-themed wallpaper borders. Subjects included hunting, fishing, sports and wildlife. I was making more money from it than my regular job. I had been talking about leaving the hospital for a couple of years when my father suddenly died of a heart attack. It shook my world and made me feel like I needed to get on with things. My wife also encouraged the move. (She is a graphic designer at Youngstown State University.) In 2000, we moved into a larger house that had a huge RV garage. I converted the garage into my studio.

Afternoon Delight ,18 x 24", Oil, © Christopher Leeper
Afternoon Delight               18 x 24"               Oil

Night Wharf, 12 x 16", Acrylic, © Christopher Leeper
Night Wharf               12 x 16"               Acrylic

   Was it difficult to make the transition from a traditional job to your new freelance life?

   A nine-to-five job and meeting deadlines made my transition to working for myself very easy. I have always treated my time and art seriously. I established a rigid schedule for working in the studio. I think I was so scared of failing and having to go back to my old life that I was working sixty hours a week. I worked like that for about five years. Thankfully, I have relaxed a bit since then, but I think it really got me going in the right direction.

   Have you studied with or taken workshops from other artists? Is there someone who was a mentor to you in your painting?

   Not really. I kind of regret not having a mentor. It just never happened for me. I count the 19th century masters as my influences, artists like John Singer Sargent, Anders Zorn, and Winslow Homer. I have studied and been inspired by the great illustrators like Dean Cornwell and N. C. Wyeth. I am also inspired by the many great contemporary artists that are working today.

Autumn Tapestry, 20 x 24", Acrylic, © Christopher Leeper
Autumn Tapestry               20 x 24"               Acrylic

Autumn Passage, 30 x 40", Oil, © Christopher Leeper
Autumn Passage               30 x 40"               Oil

   Do you work more in one medium over another—watercolor, oil, acrylic?

   I use all three. I began painting in watercolor—probably an influence from my mother. I joke that it is my native tongue. Acrylics and oils came much later. Some subjects seem to speak to me in a certain medium. I teach classes in my studio in all three mediums, so I am using them all on a weekly basis. I sometimes go thru phases of working with one more than others.

   Do you work primarily from the studio or on location? Would you tell us a little about your processes?

   Primarily the studio. I compete in four or five plein air competitions throughout the year and occasionally paint plein air from home, maybe four or five times a month when the weather cooperates.

River of Light, 20 x 24", Oil, © Christopher Leeper
River of Light               20 x 24"               Oil

   I generally use photos as reference. Sometimes the photo is followed closely and sometimes it is just a starting point. I will create some small painted studies experimenting with different ideas. It depends on the subject and painting idea.

   When I am out photographing for subject matter, I look for dynamic shapes and values. I spend a lot of time squinting. However, the beauty of digital photography is that you can take as many pictures as your storage allows. Thus, I shoot lots of images.

   I am mostly a direct painter and alla prima techniques dominate my use with all the mediums. However, I occasionally like to immerse myself in a painting that involves much more layering and process. Due to current events (pandemic requirements), I am not teaching and my kids are home with no need to be taxied about. I have huge amounts of time. Time like I haven’t had in fifteen years. This has allowed me to really invest into these types of paintings. There is something meditative and comforting about it.

   Do you like to participate in plein air painting events?

   I like going to new areas and working like crazy for a week. I have made some great friends from doing the events. In the last two years, I have only applied to the bigger events. These draw the best artists and have the best sales and awards. Being around these great artists is very inspiring and pushes me to make better paintings. For me they are exhausting but certainly something I look forward to. I’m not sure I could do more than five or six a year.

A Winter's Reward, 30 x 22", Watercolor, © Christopher Leeper
A Winter's Reward     30 x 22"     Watercolor

A Winter's Walk, 20 x 30", Oil, © Christopher Leeper
A Winter's Walk               20 x 30"               Oil

   We’d like to hear about your choices of materials in all three mediums.

   I use many different brands of oil paint, including Vasari, Michael Harding. Gamblin and Williamsburg. I prefer Claussens oil-primed portrait linen. Large paintings are stretched, and smaller ones are mounted on aluminum or ultraboard. Often, I will paint on a piece of linen taped to a board. If the painting is a keeper, I will then mount it. If not, I don’t waste a board.

   I use Liquitex Heavy Body acrylics. I prefer painting acrylics on gessoed Masonite and Centurion acrylic-primed linen.

   I use mostly Daniel Smith watercolors. I prefer Arches 300 lb. cold-pressed, Strathmore Gemini 300 lb. cold-pressed and Waterford 200 lb. cold-pressed paper.

   My basic color range is very similar in all mediums with a few exceptions in each. My basic palette is made up of warm and cool versions of all the primary colors with a couple of earth tones and a green. My basic oil palette is Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cadmium Red, Ruby Red (Vasari), Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Pthalo Blue, Asphaltum, Transparent Red Earth and Pthalo Green. I love experimenting with color so I often add new colors to my oil and acrylic palettes. My watercolor palette is fixed. Colors are added rarely.

   Under normal circumstances, what is your teaching schedule?

   I teach classes in my studio five days a week. I schedule a morning session and an afternoon session. I teach small groups as well as private and semi-private (two students). I taught as a member of the adjunct faculty (one or two classes per semester) at Youngstown State University for twenty-two years. That ended a couple of years ago. I teach about twenty workshops a year.

  Do you have a strong arts community where you live now?

   Canfield, Ohio, where I reside now, is south of Youngstown and about halfway between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. It has a good number of small arts organizations and Youngstown is home to Youngstown State University (my alma mater) and The Butler Institute of American Art. These are influences on the local arts scene.


   What most important piece of advice to you give your own students?

   Draw! There is no better teacher than a habit of drawing.

Ranch View, 18 x 24", Watercolor, © Christopher Leeper
Ranch View               18 x 24"               Watercolor

Photo of Christopher Leeper







To see more of Christopher Leeper's work,
go to:  https://www.christopherleeper.com

All artwork copyright Christopher Leeper




Copyright Hulsey Trusty Designs, L.L.C. (except where noted). All rights reserved.
Become an Artist's Road Member Today!

The Artist's Road LogoClick here to become a Member and enjoy access to all the in-depth painting and travel articles, videos and tutorials. Guaranteed!

Search the Site
Pay-Per-View Articles

New! If you're not a Member of The Artist's Road, some of our articles are available as Pay-Per-View.

Click here to find out more!

Perspectives

Not ready to become a Member yet? Subscribe to our free email postcards, "Perspectives". Enter your email address here.

New Member Content

(detail) America Window, Stained Glass, Art Institute of Chicago, Marc ChagallPainting with Glass

 

 

Waiting for Crumbs at Glenorchy Cafe, Oil, © John CrumpVoices of Experience:
John Crump

In th
Carrieres de Lumieres II, photograph © J. Hulseye Footsteps of Van Gogh-Part II


Voic
A New Day, 36 x 48", Oil, © Christopher Leeperes of Experience:
Christopher Leeper

 The Irises, 1889, Vincent van GoghIn the Footsteps of Van Gogh


  John Hulsey Paints in the Studio BoatThe Studio Boat

 

Clearing Off, Charlotte ComanThe Women of the Hudson River School

 Wood Ducks II, Oil, © John HulseyWood Ducks II Step-by-Step Oil Demo

 Water Lilies (Nenuphar), 1895, Isaac LevitanThe Allure of Painting Water Lilies

Art oCommon American Swan, John James Audubonf the Bird

 

 
 Custom Colors for AbiquiuCreating Custom Tube Colors

 

       Reflections at Grez sur Loing, 1884, Willard Leroy MetcalfOn Reflection

 

 Landscape with Sunrise by Claude MonetThe Perspectives Archive

and MUCH MORE!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

The Artist's Road Store
A Primer on Night Painting - Nocturnes

Nocturnes - A Primer on Night Painting

Filled with inspirational examples by the masters of nightime painting, this little book is sure to fire up your creative energies. Never tried painting at night? We show you how it's done with a step-by-step-oil demo and a tale of night painting in the wilds of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Primer on Night Painting - Nocturnes is a 7 x 7" PDF download with 40 pages of text and images. It includes a gallery of paintings by masters of the nocturne, information to inspire and encourage you in your plein air nocturne painting, an illustrated step-by-step demo and tips for working in pastel and oil. Also available in a softcover edition. Check out the tools and other products that we use in our own art and travels in The Artist's Road Store. We only offer things for sale that we enthusiastically believe in.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

About Us

Photograph of John Hulsey and Ann Trusty in Glacier National Park
We are artists, authors and teachers with over 40 years of experience in painting the world's beautiful places. We created The Artist's Road in order to share our knowledge and experiences with you, and create a community of like-minded individuals.  You can learn more about us and see our original paintings by clicking on the links below.
About Ann
     About John
 Hulsey Trusty Studios

We are also regular contributors to the Plein Air blog at Artist Daily.

TAR logo