As you know, I love to feature Sidesaddle art and artist's biography's on this blog. Well, 99.9% of the artists who do sidesaddle subjects are... well - dead!
One day while I was combing through the Internet, I found this adorable painting by an artist named Leslie Sealey. It is titled 'Hippo in the Park"
When I first posted this painting, I knew nothing of the artist.. not even her name. Well.. I was just THRILLED to get an email from Leslie and she introduced me to her creative world of art. I asked her if I could interview her and she agreed. So, without adu - may I introduce you to Leslie Sealey!
"I'm 43 years old, born in Fort Collins, Colorado. My family moved to Maryland before I was a year old, and that's where I grew up (Poolesville, MD to be specific). From as early as I can remember, I loved horses. I always liked to draw and make art. Horses and animals were my main subjects." Leslie described herself.
Like many of us, she read the cartoons of Norman Thelwell until the pages were well worn. The fat little ponies and pithy commentary inspired her to create her own ponies with tightly-bandaged stick-legs. Nurturing her love of horses also nurtured her artistic talent. At the age of 11 Leslie talked her parents into buying her a paint mare named Rocket and later while in high school an off-the-track black Thoroughbred - polo pony reject. He was a difficult mount that offered some of her worst riding accidents but in contrast also her best memories of riding through the woods and fields of Maryland.
As the years past it was obvious that her horse obsession would be an intricate part of her life, as would her love of art. She graduated University of Arizona and majored in art with a photography emphasis. Her career however, was in the field of medical photography, using her free time refining her fine art talents and turned to oil painting in the late 90's. Extra money was earned from commissioned pet portraits.
Leslie moved to Texas and met her husband, Billy in the early 90's. During that time she dealt with auto-immune issues and struggled working in a field that was not art related. They decided to move to San Marcos, TX so she could work on a second BFA in Graphic Design which would afford her the opportunity to earn a living that was art-related. As soon as they moved to San Marcos, Leslie found out she had thyroid cancer. After undergoing treatment she decided to paint full-time.
"Life is too short to keep hedging my bets." Leslie said.
So, she completely immersed herself in painting once she was well. That was 5 years ago. Since then, her work has been featured in national publications such as Southwest Art and American Art Collector. Her cityscape's are sold through the Wally Workman Gallery in Austin, TX.
As for Hippos? Those started out as a joke of sorts. She was participating in an online art forum, and she was having a discussion about what elements would be needed to make the ultimate top-selling painting. Somehow they came up with
1. A landscape
2. A body of water
3. George Washington as the figure
4. A hippo, for an animal
So, she made a portrait called "George Washington Astride Hippotenuse" featuring George riding his hippo with a dramatic landscape in the background. That got such a big response that she started doing more, and eventually they took on a life of their own.
Leslie told me, "I struggle a bit trying to find a balance between my serious art (cityscape's) and my funny/quirky side. I'm not sure I want to be remembered as "The Hippo Lady." On the other hand, maybe there is more worth than I know in making people laugh. My goal for the New Year is to go with my intuition and gut feelings; to paint the things that come to me, not the things I "should" be doing."
"Ideas just come to me; the hippo paintings are often based on things I make up in my head. The cityscape art is based on "I know it when I see it." I'm always looking for strong, graphic shapes and design elements. I don't make art with political commentary or social messages. I don't make ugly art for shock value. My art is more about seeing big shapes and patterns, and sharing that vision with people."
Leslie is currently horseless, but is owned by a 17 year old cat named Boo Boo and a rescued dog named Lucy.
"Lucy was abandoned and basically came with the house we bought two years ago. It took me 4 months of coaxing before I could even lay a hand on her. Now, she is the most pampered house-dog ever and she has her own crate that's like a little dog-palace!"
Leslie's hippo art frequently references other works of art and art history.
"I try to make a painting that can be appreciated on a lot of different levels. You have the very basic "that's funny" response to seeing a hippo in a crazy situation. On another level, people who are into painting might appreciate the craftsmanship, brushwork, color and composition and yet another level, they might notice that a painting like "Hippos of the Sahara" references the work of Orientalist painters such as Jean-Leon Gerome.
Horse enthusiasts will know that it specifically references the Arabian horse, pampered and kept in tents by their Bedouin masters. I never underestimate the intelligence of my viewers!"
To see more of Leslie's amazing art, please visit her web site. she not only sells investment originals, but prints of her unique and imaginative works!
*Here is "Hippos of the Sahara" oil on panel, 24x30"