“The art industry must remember, you are selling your art, not your body. Sometimes people in the industry have the idea that you are successful because you are a woman and you are cute, which is not true“Leona Rose
“I was born and raised in the South of France, in the Alps, the mountains. Then I went to Marseilles in the South of France to study. I went to business school there, nothing to do with art [she laughs] just commercial. I come from the South of France so I love the sun, the sea, nature and the heat. I love to travel in places where there is sun, not in the North. Tropical places, maybe Morocco.”
This is how artist, Leona Rose, 34, introduces herself during our zoom call which featured her pet cat and a backdrop of memorabilia from her travels hanging on the wall which she uses as inspiration for her work. Leona Rose’s youthful appearance is reflected in her surprisingly intricate but fun art.
How would you describe your art?
My art is happy, colourful, full of joy, a little bit psychedelic. That is the new vibe I had at the end of last year and this year. It’s becoming fewer colours and more psychedelic, connected to my energies, the nature and the vibe that I have.
My style changes over time, at the beginning it was more green, then I started adding more colours. Now, I am dealing with fewer but stronger shades. The new vibe is definitely more psychedelic.
When did you first realise you wanted to pursue a career as an artist?
Now, I am a full time artist, but at the beginning I was in real estate and doing art alongside as it was just a passion and I have been drawing since I am a child. After a year and a half doing the two at the same time, I quit my job to pursue art full time.
The first year and a half it was a little bit difficult because I started from scratch and I had to create my portfolio as I hadn’t been to art school. I had nothing; I had to create my portfolio, find references and clients. I was working on it for a year and a half. Little by little, I started to get clients and they recommended me to other clients.
Do you have a favourite piece, and if so why is it your favourite?
My favourite piece is the Jungle piece I did for Le Riad Yasmine. Its story is really nice too, I came across her place by chance, just to visit on the weekend. I started to talk with the girl there, Alice. The day after she called me back, sent me a message on Instagram; “I have something for you, can you please come back tomorrow”. Alice proposed that I paint the wall behind the pool. I said, “yes of course I am going to do it”. It was one of my first walls.
After that, it was a great boost for me, she is well known and has a lot of customers, a lot of articles published in magazines. It gave me a strong boost for my career and she became one of my true friends.
What is your process when painting?
I prefer to work at night. Before starting a fresh canvas I have to treat myself well. I like to go out for some shopping, travel, buy some inspirational books or go for a massage as this lifts my spirit. Then, I am ready to start.
Also, I work with mood boards, I love to screenshot images, colours and combinations that I like. I pin a lot of images on Instagram. I like to open my books with all their images around me. Then, I start to sketch with the image that I like and translate it into my own style.
What are your tools of choice?
I use mixed techniques. I like to use pencils, they are super nice and create a relief on the paper. I also use, acrylic paints and spray paints because they are super fun. Their colours are super bright, but are also hard to use, I am still working on my technique.
I like mixing techniques, going from one to another. I am changing all the time. It is super different when I am spraying; I need to go outside, wear a mask and find big walls. For acrylic, it is on canvas, it feels different. I can do three different techniques in the same day, go from one project to another.
Tell us about the colours on your palette and anything new you have been experimenting with.
Now I am experimenting with monochrome, I love to work with only one colour in my drawing. Only lines and monochrome. I like to truly feel and go deeply into every colour because I think every colour bings you different emotions and identity. When you work with one colour it is super strong and brings you a different feeling.
When you create art, what sort of physical, spiritual, mental or geographical place do you have to be in?
I have to sleep well, it takes a lot of energy for me to paint because I must be super concentrated. I do a lot of yoga to stay connected to my inner self and child spirit. I also have to work on my spontaneity and creativity.
If I am stressed, I am not emotionally strong enough to go deep and find the things I want to find to create. So, I have to relax through yoga, travelling, eating well, having a massage- everything related to relaxation and makes me feel good.
What are the hardest things for you to get ‘right’?
Its always difficult for me to start something new, I have a lot of excuses to not start. It is frustrating because you have a white sheet and are starting from scratch. Every time I think; am I able to do something new?
Its stressful because I don’t know where I am going. Even when I have an idea, its hard because at the end it looks super different. Until I do 50% of the work I still don’t know where it is going and I am stressed. I am super anxious at the beginning of work.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
I am just happy when someone comes to me and says; “your art is full of good vibes and made me smile today”. I quit my job to be an artist, so if I am able to inspire and encourage others, it makes me smile and feel happy.
Professionally, what do you aspire to ultimately achieve?
I would love to have my own space, my own showroom. I think this year I will work on finding my own space, where I can create a big canvas and spread my art all over the world. Currently, I work from my apartment and I can’t really express myself.
What makes a great artist?
Just creating art, that is all there is to it. There are no rules. If you do it with your heart its fine.
What advice would you give to emerging artists entering the art world?
Surround yourself with people who encourage and love you. It is super important to choose the people who surround you. Focus on positivity all the time and positive people who see things in a good way because we all have difficulties in life but thats life, you have to focus on the positive things and go on.
Find people who think like you and encourage you because sometimes you are super alone in this creative process so it is important to be supported because if not you can just get crazy or stop creating.
Follow your dream, travel, connect yourself to good people and experiences. People I meet inspire me a lot, particularly women who are super independent, Girl bosses. If I see these women, I think wow, I can do it too.
How has lockdown impacted your life?
I focused on myself and my work. I think it is a good thing because I developed two new series which are really personal. I haven’t spoken about them yet because I am not ready but I will share them later this year when they are more complete.
I think it was a good time for introspection and maybe to develop myself and work on new things. The only bad thing for me is that I was unable to travel which I love and gives me a lot of inspiration. For all the rest, I adapt myself.
What advice would you give to emerging female artists entering the art world?
The art industry must remember, you are selling your art, not your body. Sometimes people in the industry have the idea that you are successful because you are a woman and you are cute, which is not true. You have to really insist that you are creative and this is what you want to show; I am not showing myself, I am showing my art.
Also, when you are painting big walls its about strength, a lot of men spray paint but not so many women. Its good to be a female and be spray painting too. I may be doing smaller walls but its fine! Its different, it is more feminine. I am more about decoration and my designs matching the architecture. The difference is, there is more sensitivity and colours. I don’t have big arms to paint huge walls. Men can do big walls on their own, I think the approach is totally different for us women.
Leona is one of the contemporary artists that startup Millecent has taken under their wing. Millecent is an art consultancy that connects businesses with the best new artists worldwide to create meaningful, powerful and innovative collaborations through wall art, paintings, illustrations, installation, digital art and more.