Artist surprises every time

North Toronto painter Lea creates different look every year


Art_Perspectives_columnHow can an artist create a completely different look in their artwork year after year?

One year there were paintings of primary-coloured penguins frolicking in the Antarctic, created in watercolours and ink.  Another year it was a collection of rosy cheeked kids playing on toboggans, rendered in acrylics. This was followed by a series of water lilies simmering in gorgeous pastel watercolours.

But my favourite artwork was canvases in beautiful and brightly coloured psychedelic patterns.

“These works were inspired by cropped circle geometric patterns that naturally appear in maturing grain fields overnight,” says the artist, Barbara Lea. Who knew that these existed? The artist sure did!

Lea is the talent behind the diverse subject matter, styles, mediums and the wide range of colours!

She is my exhibiting “neighbour” at the North Toronto Group of Artists’ fall show and I love seeing what new and fabulous works she comes up with every year!

Barbara, along with her husband Ted, travel to all parts of the world. She draws as she goes and paints from these drawings when she returns home, unless she is working in watercolours and ink which can be done “on the spot.”

Her subjects are as diverse as her colours, mediums and styles. You can always see drawing in her work.

“I love to paint faces and hands. I go through phases of liking different colours” says Barbara.

Barbara and her husband survived the earthquake in Nepal last April. Not only did she write a fascinating article about the ordeal but she plans to paint what she saw after the earthquake and has begun now that she is home safe and sound.

“I next plan to do a crowd scene in Nepal showcasing the various clothing styles worn by the people there,” Barbara said. “The youth wear western clothing and the women, once they marry, dress in traditional Nepalese costume. The men wear hats which identify their community on formal occasions.”

Before art consumed her full time, Barbara was a mortgage broker in social housing. She retired early so she could take courses in portraiture, acrylics, inks and pastels. making art her full time passion for the last 16 years.

“I’ve been drawing since I could hold a crayon”, she said.

Her parents were both graduates of fine arts, her father becoming one of the curators at the AGO and exposing Barbara and her sister to art at an early age. Her father had a clear plan.  He would bring them to the AGO and pick a few special paintings, to show her and her sister, telling them the stories about the paintings. Their personal tour would last no more than an hour to encourage the girls to return to the paintings on their own.

Her favourite was a Rembrandt. She still remembers how it was “illuminated around the face and hands only…everything else was black. My father told me that this was the way the artists showed what is important to them.”

It is clear what is important to Barbara, creating something new and exciting every year, by trying out a new colour palette, working with acrylic or oil paint, pastels or watercolours and bringing us to a part of the world we have never seen except through her own eyes. You can check out her work at I’m excited to see what she will come up with next!

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Posted: Mar 21 2016 5:53 pm
Filed in: NEWS