Leonard Shane’s artwork is on display at the Waldman Library until March 31. (photo by Olga Livshin)
When Leonard Shane was a child, his mother enrolled him in music lessons. “It lasted only a few months,” he told the Independent with a chuckle. “I didn’t like it. Then I began taking art classes, and it worked. I liked it. But I never painted as an adult until I retired.”
Shane worked all his professional life as an elementary school teacher. “I chose a profession because I wanted to make a living and I loved teaching. It demands lots of creativity. We worked on many creative projects with my classes – creative writing and art – and then I’d hang the children’s works all over the school.”
Fully engaged by teaching, he didn’t think about painting, didn’t have time for it either. “Teaching is an immense responsibility,” he said. “So many kids have personal issues. Some kids are damaged, and you try to help.”
Then, 14 years ago, he retired. “I thought, what to do with my days? So, I took up photography and painting. I could make art on my own terms.”
He also joined Toastmasters for a few years. “I felt alive when I spoke in front of an audience,” he recalled. “This is an important aspect of any art form for me: to express myself. That’s what my paintings are about. With each painting, I try to express what I feel at the moment. Some pieces are soft, the images demand watercolors. Others are strong, full of energy, and I make them in acrylics. With every picture, something wells up from the inside, it flows; it can’t be forced.”
He paints under the influence of inspiration, so there is no set schedule, no deadlines. “I paint when I’m in the mood. Sometimes, I don’t paint for weeks; other times, I have to do it every day, for three months in a row. But I always have some way out for my creativity. When we recently went on a trip to Mexico, I’d go alone to the beach and sketch. I love capturing the essence of a place, love painting outdoors. For me, it’s the preferable experience, enhanced by nature.”
Shane paints mostly landscapes and waterscapes. Sometimes, they are of places he visits often, walks past every day: boats in Richmond harbor or a shoreline in Delta, a local park or a neighborhood street. He might paint these images on location, from photographs, from memory or with the aid of the internet. He invariably puts his own unique style and interpretation into the paintings, making them his personal impressions.
“I take photos with my camera, transfer them to my computer and then put my easel in front of the computer screen,” he explained. “I’d zoom on the photo, sometimes only a part of it, and paint. Other times, a painting might be inspired by others’ artistic works, by visiting galleries. I never copy a photo, always let my imagination fly, let the image evolve. A painting is like a meditation. It allows me to look inside myself.”
Shane has a series of Jerusalem landscapes although he has never been to Israel. Those pictures are a reflection of his inner self, he said. “I learn a lot about myself through my paintings,” he explained.
Some of his pictures are playful, like cats or dogs. Others are lyrical, reverberating with his affection for British Columbia and its diverse scenery. Still others are philosophical. “The end result is not as important as the process,” he said with conviction. “Painting is like a journey. You never know where it will take you.”
Initially, he didn’t think about selling his artwork; it was just a hobby. But that has changed somewhat. “First time I put my paintings out, some kind of outdoor art sale, I was upset that everyone walked past, nobody bought [one],” he said. “Now, I just enjoy the process. I know that we all have different tastes, but the joy of creating art stays with you forever. And I know that, at some point, someone will come along who would love one of my paintings and buy it. One of my wife’s friends bought my painting recently. She often tells me that seeing it on her wall every day invigorates her. It’s very rewarding.”
Shane also makes greeting cards from his paintings and photographs and sells them through several local gift and coffee shops. “You build a relationship with the owners this way,” he said. “After awhile, I approached some of them and offered to hang my art in their shops, and many agreed.”
That’s how Karen Corrin of the Isaac Waldman Jewish Public Library saw his work – in a Starbucks.
“I have known Karen for a long time,” Shane said. “She is a good friend. Suddenly, she called me. She said: ‘I didn’t know you painted. Let’s have your show at the library.’”
Shane’s exhibit of watercolors and acrylic paintings is at the Waldman Library until March 31. To learn more, visit lenshaneart.com.
Olga Livshin is a Vancouver freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].