Artist Jenny Leonard has created sculptures for several Wild in Art events from bears to Snowdogs and elephants to gorillas. We talk to Jenny about her career and her experiences of creating the sculptures.
Name: Jenny Leonard
Occupation: Freelance Artist
Currently residing in: London
Your artistic medium(s): Acrylics and Inks
Can you give us a rundown of your career so far?
I have always loved painting, and always sold paintings and created murals for people since I was about 16. I’ve lived all over the place and have painted murals in restaurants, hostels, bedrooms and even a ski resort in New Zealand!
I graduated from Norwich University of Art in 2011 with a First in Fine Art. I got into Wild in Art events in 2012 with the GoGoGorillas! trail in Norwich and since then I have been addicted!
I am a community driven commission artist, always pursuing collaborative art projects that bring people together. I currently deliver creative art workshops for schools and businesses in London and across the UK. I also work with companies to produce live art and annotation sketching at meetings, events and festivals.
I specialise in murals, scenic painting and site-specific public art for the community. I feel very proud that my sculptures with Wild in Art currently all tally to have been sold for over £100,000 at auction, helping the partnering charities immensely. In 2016 my elephant sculpture sold for £15,000 at Herd of Sheffield’s auction, which is my record so far.
Please describe the style of art you produce…
Accessible community art with lots of colours! I work a lot with clients to produce work that is tailored to suit them, but usually I work with bold colours and thick black inky outlines to make everything stand out.
…and then describe it in just three words!
Fun, friendly, vibrant!
What does a typical day look like?
All sorts really, from meetings with new clients, chasing emails, invoicing, phone calls, promotions on social media, to packing bags and suitcases with paint for the next project, slapping paint on walls, and delivering workshops with kids. There is no typical day when you’re a freelancer, and that’s what makes it so exciting.
What or who is the biggest influence on your work?
My folks have been the biggest cheerleaders, encouraging me to go full time as a freelance artist – they have had a huge influence. They have always supported me and encouraged me, ever since I was about five years old, to do more drawings and make things!
What artwork is the one you wished you had created?
I like work and artists who have a sense of humour, so something by David Shrigley probably. I like art that makes people smile or laugh. I like art that doesn’t take itself too seriously!
What’s hot and what’s not in the art world?
Hmmm, everything creative gets me excited! Mainly working with other people who don’t think they are ‘good’ at art, and then seeing what they produce when given some support and confidence.
I am not really into the whole ‘art world’ thing or what’s hot or not – I haven’t a clue! I know what I like, and I know the portion of the art world that suits me. It’s not necessarily in a gallery – it’s in public spaces and out there, and in places that are accessible and open for everyone.
I like projects like The Sketchbook Project. My sketchbook is out there touring with 50,000 other sketchbooks in a library in the US. It’s a great way to get everyone looking at personal handmade things. The scheme was open to everybody, not just artists – I really like that and I think it’s an important feature of the project.
What’s the one piece of advice you would give your younger self when considering a career in the arts?
Make lots of mistakes and get even messier in the studio when you have a good space.
What’s your top tip?
A friend once said to me “ABN man!” and I said, “What do you mean?” and she said, “The acronym – A.B.N – it means Always Be Networking haha!” I’ve always thought that was a funny, but actually it works!
I try to always chat with people to see if there’s any space for collaborations, or a space someone might have, or a person someone might know, or a project someone might have in mind. I try to bring my creativeness wherever I go – it travels pretty well!
What are the highlights of your career so far?
I met Fatboy Slim at the Brighton Snowdogs (Snowdogs by the Sea) launch and had a picture with him on the red carpet with my Snowdog! That was surreal and fun! I was also commissioned to do a big mural for the display of my Snowdog in London Victoria Station, which was a great space and location!
What have you got coming up?
I’m off to New Zealand in November to paint an owl for The Big Hoot Auckland, so I’m excited for a big trip back out there! I’m currently also working with Create Arts to deliver a series of arts workshops to Young Carers Centres across London. I’m also working with Peabody Housing Association in Camberwell London on a large commission of canvases for the reception of their new building.
Where can people find out more about your work?
What’s the best thing about being involved in an event such as this?
I love submitting designs to Wild in Art events and then getting to paint a giant creature, as it’s a great canvas! And I love to see the public interacting and taking photos with the work out on the trails. The most exciting thing is attending the auction and seeing the sculptures raise money for charity.
And finally, tell us one thing that other people may be surprised to learn about you?
Erm…. I have a secret desire to be the next Neil Buchanan (creator of TV programme Art Attack) with my own art show on television one day haha.
Thanks, Jenny! We think you’d be fantastic on TV!
Photos by Natalie Bell.