Leanne Spanza: Bold, Contemporary Landscape Artist

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.

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Living Nativity: Willow Park Church, Hwy 33

Every Christmas for 20 years Willow Park Church has produced an extraordinary  Christmas spectacle as a gift to the community.  It has grown to the point of serving 7000+ guests in recent years.

This was my first time.

Finding parking was pretty smooth.  And people were fairly jolly in the lineups.  We went into the church’s giant belly for some Christmas joy.

The first people that I talked with were the ushers.

They are pretty easy to find since they are all wearing red scarves.

Next I checked out the musician’s circle on the right of the stage on floor level.  You might see some familiar faces if you are fans of – let’s see….Cowboy Bob!

The big church was packed when the show started.  Curtis “Cowboy Bob” and his team of musicians scrolled through a legacy of sacred Christmas songs.  Most of the audience was humming along, recognizing pretty much every song.

Then the stage production began.  A pleasant narrator, some dancing angels (thank God not 4 yr olds, while cute as bug’s ears are also as boring as bug’s ears unless you know the bugs in question), the regular cast of Christmas persons : Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, John the Baptist (growing up strangely quickly and chronologically improbably), Joseph and everyone’s favorite virgin, Mary, some shepards and some wise men rounded out the traditional Christmas cast.  Then the pastor, also wearing a lovely red scarf, like the ushers (I always associate this kind of scarf with Ebeneezer Scrooge after his makeover), wished us all cups overflowing with eggnog and lights that light up properly which is a far cry more pleasant that a scolding over materialism and gluttony.  Thank you, “Philip”, as your mum would say….

Now, I have been to more than a few Christmas services in my day.  Generally, this is the point in the program where we all get into our cars and go home. Surprise!  In the lobby are living mannequins.  And they are all Victorian-y.  “Ooooooh, this is new”, I say to myself.

It goes like this:  Lobby, Victorian parlour (at least that’s what it seemed to me…at any rate, it is super pretty), then into the hub-bub of 2000 yrs ago Bethlehem – complete with an occupying army of interactive Romans and a few live chickens.  Finally, you find yourself back in the Victorian era (my how time flies) and you are eating cookies.

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Terrific night!  Great show.  Excellent opportunity for time travel. Warm Christmasy feeling – I can see why 7000 people pile in here every year.  Go for goodness sake!  It’s on for 2 more days.

Mayor Sharon Shepard (and others) Meet and Greet in Rutland

At the Wok Inn Restaurant at 183 Hwy 33, just past the corner of Rutland Road and Hwy 33, for light hearted hour filled with appies and chatter, Mayoral incumbent, Sharon Shepard and her family met and greeted Rutland constituents and business people.  Also in attendance were a few city council hopefuls whom you might recognize in the photos.

http://bobbykennedy.ca/bobby.html

http://www.magraham.ca/home.html

http://www.sharonshepherd.ca/

Of course, the scene stealer was Mrs. Shepard’s grandson in a mini “Re-elect Sharon Shepard” bright yellow t-shirt.  He is planning to vote for the Chinese dragons hanging from the ceiling.

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Picasso’s Coffee Break

Love this place!  It is on an easy to find corner with plenty of parking outfront.  In my opinion, it competes with the downtown coffee shops without the “attitude”.

I’m going to visit with the owner as soon as I can to find out what cool things are going on here.  Maybe she’ll let me photograph some menu items.

And yes!  They have a fb page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/My-Neighbourhood-Restaurant/219744311385082?sk=wall

Personally, I like the soup.