Home Magazine James C. Leonard: Exploring the Vibrant Colors and Unconventional Compositions of an Abstract Painter

James C. Leonard is a California-based abstract painter known for his distinctive style that involves the use of an extended palette knife instead of traditional paintbrushes. His large-scale paintings feature bold, gestural strokes of impastoed colors arranged in layered compositions that create a visual language of movement and depth.

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Raised in Nashville, James C. Leonard had exceptional skills in sports during his childhood years. After completing his military service in Vietnam, he pursued social work education in California, upon graduating started working with the developmentally disabled, often using museum visits as part of the therapy. In the early 1990s, he transitioned into a career as a full-time professional artist and discovered a profound interest in visual communication.

Leonard's artworks are entirely non-representational, and the viewer's eye is guided vertically or horizontally across the space, tracing the layers of dripped, speckled, and fragmented colors. His inventive layering process results in heavy impasto or textured surfaces with a glossy, wet shine, making them particularly beautiful when seen in person.

The primary draw of Leonard's art is his color palette, which uses unconventional combinations of beiges, purples, reds, and blues, creating a harmonious response. He pulls layers of color through each other, allowing white to pick up the hues of the colors around it while still retaining its "whiteness." This operation is on a huge scale, as seen in "Green Days", where the confidence and energy in it is apparent.

James Leonard, Green Days. Courtesy of Art Works Gallery

In his acrylic paintings, Leonard's use of color creates a blurry movement of colors, as if one were passing through a sunset at lightning speed, with colors swirling all around. The colors and horizontal bands promote a visceral response, as seen in the painting “Movement”, which looks like a horizon overlooking the ending of a day.

James Leonard, Movement. Courtesy of Art Works Gallery

Leonard's paintings embody the dissonance and harmony, and unconventional juxtapositions of contemporary classical music. They leave viewers plenty of room to construct their own narratives around shapes and colors. There is no way one can be indifferent to them.

Leonard works in an introspective, intuitive fashion, painting glorious hues of all kindsof beautiful colors in an abstract manner, creating lively, ethereal apparitions that seem to dance on his luminous fields of acrylic.

James Leonard, Dutch Garden. Courtesy of Art Works Gallery

Leonard's inspiration comes from the internal feeling that there is something that can be expressed through him that is larger than himself. He tries to remove his conscious decision-making from the creative process, allowing the painting's nature to unfold according to its own will.

In conclusion, James C. Leonard's distinctive style of abstract painting, which features bold, gestural strokes of impastoed colors arranged in layered compositions, has earned him recognition as a powerful painter. His unconventional combinations of colors, as well as his use of an extended palette knife, create a visual language of movement and depth that leaves viewers plenty of room to construct their own narratives.

Cover image: James Leonard, Rain Outdoors. Courtesy of Art Works Gallery

Written by Naz Akgun

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