Painter Leanne Stothert is locally known for creating canvases with adorable animals or whimsical scenes of children playing outside, but this wasn’t always her medium of choice. For years, Stothert created computer animation. It wasn’t until she moved to Fernie in 2000 that she switched from a computer screen to a canvas.
“I started because I moved here and I was no longer able to do computer animation, which I had been doing when I lived in Vancouver,” she said in an interview with The Free Press. “I was trying to get computer animation going here from a distance to continue working in Vancouver but it wasn’t possible because at that time the software was very expensive.”
Almost by default, Stothert started painting canvases, using her young daughters for reference and inspiration.
“They weren’t necessarily meant to be them but after awhile, I was painting the paintings for them. But after a while I was painting the figure and using them as reference,” she said.
After some time, Stothert decided to shift gears and started to use animals as the inspiration and focus of her paintings.
Earlier this year, she expanded her subject taste again, and started painting trees and landscapes. While her portfolio has expanded over the years, to Stothert, the varying mediums and inspirations complement one another.
“Computer animation was all about creating characters, which aren’t all that different from figures on a canvas except that they have inner skeletons and they move. For me, painting is a kind of extension of building and animating those characters on the computer.” she said. “When my daughters were little and I began painting them. It was a return to those figure drawing classes which I actually loved more than animating. Then, when I began painting animals, it was, in a way, a return to the characters I created and animated on the computer. While I paint the animals I am imagining what characters they would be if they were humans which is why my first group of bear paintings all had names such as Billy, Charles, Reggie.”
Stothert now paints full time and is looking to open a studio and gallery space in Fernie’s downtown core in 2016.
“We are not exactly sure when it will all be finished but my husband is going to have an office, and maybe get something that he and I can share. So I’m going to have a studio space and paintings in town, to the right of Crumbs Bakery. I’m not sure when that will be finished, but sometime next year,” she said.
Stothert was also one of six artists to be featured at the Hearth 5 artisan sale, hosted on Dec. 4 and Dec. 5.
She specifically makes smaller canvases featuring animals for the Hearth sales.
“The first few years, I brought larger works and I just realized that it wasn’t really the venue for larger works because people are going there for Christmas presents or little things for themselves or other people,” she said.
“It took me three years to figure out that I needed to do smaller work, so I did some small little bears.”