Leonard Beard Illustrator Interview

Leonard Beard

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Can you recall the first time you realized you were going to be an illustrator? What were your earliest impressions?
Yes, I remember it quite well. I was sixteen years old. My crazy dream at that time was to live in the country and spend all day painting and drawing. I imagined making a living at it which happened many years later.

Who or what influenced your art when you were young?
I was influenced by a blend of literature, cinema, music, sculpture, and painting. Creatives like Mark Twain, Jack London, Truffaut, Pink Floyd, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Giacometti, Miró, Bacon and Hopper have all had an impact. The list continues.

Do you remember what your first artwork looked like? Do you still have it?
It was an oil painting on canvas representing a view of the city at night. I painted it from my parents’ balcony in Barcelona. It was the first artwork I signed and I still have it. I was seventeen years old.

Why did you choose illustration as your life’s work instead of, for example, filmmaking, law, or even medicine?
Being a painter, illustration comes naturally to me. It’s like a fish knowing how to swim. Illustration chose me, to be precise.

Did you study art in school?
I’m a self-taught illustrator.

Where does your inspiration come from; your impulse to make art? Do you have a source for your ideas?
Work, work, work. Thousands of drawings. That’s my secret.

How would you describe the process of creating art?
The magical and unexplainable process of giving physical shape to an idea.

Do you have a favorite illustrator? What is it about that illustrator’s work you like?
I have many favorite illustrators and many different styles and periods I like. Recently, I discovered an extraordinary African-American painter, Horace Pippin (1888-1946).

If you could do something else, other than creating art, what would it be?
Absolutely nothing else.

Do you remember your first set of paints, pens, or markers?
Yes, for my thirteenth birthday I was given a wooden box of oil paints and brushes.

Do you have a favorite illustrator supply, a favorite method, or favorite location, where you like to create artwork?
I am not very fond of methods. I like to approach each work as a new adventure. It’s also a way to discover new skills and preserve the capability of surprising yourself in the process. If I travel and work on location, I’m able adjust to different locations and weather conditions.

If you could give a viewer clues to understanding your art, what would you say?
I don’t think there are special clues to understanding my work. I try to be as clean and direct as possible within a poetic vision. My idea is that image and concept ought to mix together in a smooth and attractive way.

Do you think illustration has the eye of the public or could public awareness of this field be improved upon?
I think illustration nowadays has become very popular and quite visible. Perhaps it would be interesting to have a larger offering of gallery exhibitions of well-known illustrators. I’d like to see an increase in the presence of illustration in museum art collections similar to what happened with photography in the last decades.

Why does art matter to you? Why might it matter to the world?
I enjoy art. Let’s make it enjoyable to the world.

If you could look back or forward a hundred years, do you think the life of an illustrator was or will be better than today?
I can only imagine how life would have been a hundred years ago. I believe living conditions were worse than they are today and not just for illustrators.
On the other hand, it might have been an exciting creative period like no other. It’s more difficult to say how it will be in a hundred years. Perhaps human beings will live in a completely robotized society, and we’ll see robotic illustrators too.