Looking around the cozy artist’s cottage where Leanne Spanza spends her creative time painting, one can see many intriguing items on the shelves: an old, retro-style toaster, Trevor Linden’s rookie card, an old alarm clock that never worked, and various other unique pieces of memorabilia.
“And there’s a story behind each one,” says Leanne, the cheerful and easy-going artist whose work adorns the walls of the studio. And the same is true even of the furniture: a refinished desk (“that belonged to my parents”), and the accompanying chair (“my grandfather’s”).
It becomes obvious very quickly that Leanne Spanza loves the stories behind both the eclectic items collected in the studio, as well her approach to painting. When asked to describe her unique style, Leanne smiles and points to the sign above the entrance to the studio — itself a plank of wood with a story (“we found it when we were digging up our garden”) — which sums up Leanne’s approach to painting in three short, evocative phrases: “Simple Lines. Bold Colour. Happy Art.”
Inspired by the work of Ted Harrison and also the story-telling artwork of First Nations artists, Leanne began painting in 2003. Her background is in interior design, and when asked what brought about her decision to start painting, Leanne’s smile appears quickly again; “Well, we had just bought our first house, and we needed some artwork for the walls.” Leanne dove into painting full-time in 2010, during her maternity leave, and has painted on many canvases since.
Leanne showed us her sketchbook, filled with pencil drawings which later became paintings, many accompanied by hand-written notes. “Those are the ideas and suggestions of clients who have commissioned me to paint for them,” Leanne explains, “When people ask me to create something for them, I listen carefully to hear their story, and to take their suggestions — like the colours they most like — when I start painting for them.”
Originally from North Vancouver, Leanne and her husband have spent time in far-flung destinations such as Alberta and Belize, before settling into Kelowna.
Leanne’s studio is flanked on one side by their large vegetable garden, and on the other by many large sunflowers. “There are a lot of bold colours around here,” laughs Leanne, “especially in the summertime.”
The homey studio was renovated by Leanne and her husband, and is as cheerful and welcoming as both the artist and the art she creates.
Leanne Spanza’s art has been featured at various “Art in the Park” venues around the Okanagan and beyond, and can be viewed online at her website LeanneSpanza.com. To get to know this talented painter better, Leanne also has a blog, Leanne Spanza’s Sketchbook, where you can see more of her art and the stories behind them.