Written by April Spadina
Tucked away amongst the quiet leafy suburbs of Hervey Bay, is a secret place called Painty Land, where Fraser Coast artist Leigh “Leelee” West makes her imagination come to life in the form of beautiful, emotive artworks.
Often depicting a representation of herself in the form of auburn-haired ladies, Leelee uses her art almost as a diary of her life and gives us a peek into the workings of her soul.
Wide, shady trees with redhaired woman entwined in the tangled roots preparing for growth, tiny boats adrift in a turbulent storm in a teacup, large eyed owls, clocks and angels, and flowers – lots of flowers, these are all symbolic of Leelee’s observation of life.
She has a style of her own. It’s a very loose, narrative style of storytelling by smudges and drips, overlapping lines and texture. Leelee uses an array of mediums from acrylic paints, coloured pastels, charcoal, and you won’t often see her without her sketchpad and Sharpie pen. Her creations are also very recognisable and appear around the Fraser Coast in the form of graphic design, her other art gig.
Many of her graphic artworks appear in public places including the Story Bank in Maryborough, and recently she presented the graphic imagery for the Fraser Coast City Council’s Arts & Cultural Strategy.
Leelee is one of those constant artists who always has something on the go. She will scribble artwork on café napkins and paper coffee cups, once even creating a wonderful monochromatic Sharpie piece on the back of an airline sick bag on a flight to Melbourne, which she then surreptitiously tucked back into the back of the seat when she left, unused of course.
She doodles as she talks and the result is often lots of swirls and repetitive linework, single line drawings are a favourite way of letting go of the mind and just being an artist.
Art is a therapy for Leelee, it’s cathartic and mediational. It helps to release what she can’t keep inside, and because she knows how valuable this tool is to herself, she is very mindful of sharing the experience with others to encourage mental health and wellbeing, her kindness, generosity and ability to connect with others is a beautiful gift.
She shares it in the hope she can bring happiness to others.
An extension of her artwork, Leelee is herself a living, breathing picture of positivity and happiness. Complete with bright colours and paint smudges, she is one of the Fraser Coast’s creative treasures.