Leah Bartholomew‘s favourite thing to do during her high school years was paint. ‘It’s all I wanted to do,’ she says. She studied Fine Arts at Queensland College of the Arts, but towards the end of her degree became interested in print making, and ended up moving to Melbourne for further study.
Once she landed in Melbourne, Leah nabbed a dream job, working alongside Beci Orpin as her right-hand lady for five years. An interest in graphic design soon followed. Eventually, though, Leah felt compelled to return to her native Queensland, and relocated to Coolangatta, where she launched her own homewares label, Beneath the Sun in 2011.
It wasn’t until this year, after a fortuitous editorial commission, that Leah came full circle and returned to painting. The commission, for Inside Out magazine, led to more and more opportunities, including representation, and gave Leah the confidence to finally pursue her painting practice. ‘I don’t regret how long it has taken to return to painting full-time, the last 15 years has helped define my style and my skill set,’ Leah says.
Leah’s artworks are abstract representations of her surroundings, taking inspiration from the warm climate and tropical plant life in sunny Coolangatta. Part of Leah’s daily routine involves going for long walks and documenting what she sees. Returning to the studio, she makes paper collages that act as conceptual starting points for each of her works on canvas. ‘Most of the time, I’ll scan my collages and sketches of plants, and play with composition and colours for days before I am happy to start painting,’ she says of her method. ‘I guess after being a graphic designer for years, it feels natural to combine my skills!’
Leah has just released her first body of original artwork, alongside some limited edition prints, and is looking forward to ‘painting all day everyday’ after her extended paintbrush hiatus.