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Artist Interview Series: Leo Recilla

Leo Recilla

Leo Recilla’s path towards becoming a professional artist has not been a straight line. There have been stops and starts along the way.

But the art has always been there. Ever since his childhood, Leo has been drawing.

“I’m most comfortable with graphite, graphite pencils. I have been switching between graphite and charcoal recently. I have done portraits in ink, using India ink,” Leo says.

His drawings are a blend of complexity of subject and simplicity of background. Leo says this is intentional; it allows him to use a minimal set of materials while really getting the viewer to focus on the subject without any distraction.

He credits his education and professional career in graphic design with giving him more tools. In particular, technology allows him to visualize potential layout and composition before he commits anything to paper.

“I do have it visualized in my head, but little surprises always come up. Something will end up changing, maybe it’s not balanced. It’s too dark on one side.”

Leo's Booth at Art Downtown 2021

Studying graphic design is also the closest Leo has ever been to a formal education in art. He is self-taught, learning through a process of trial and error.

“Probably the extent of taking an academic class that involved drawing is actually in my graphic design program,” he says. “In the first semester, we had to learn the fundamentals of drawing and all that, composition and design principles that are involved in art. So that was probably the extent of it.”

It is only recently that Leo has started working on his art again. Going to school led to him shelving art. But with a lessening of work coming in due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he found the time to return to his love of art.

“Part of me getting back into art, I wanted to see how I could set myself apart and set my art apart,” Leo says. “A lot of that comes into how I design my compositions, how I layer my subject and how I overlap different elements in my art, and combining organic subjects versus an abstract element, such as brushstrokes, something similar with something complex.”

Over the past year, he has been able to turn his art into a respectable side business, but there are always aspirations for more.

“It’s finding the right opportunity and my availability and the timing for me. Hopefully, I can make it more into [a career], put more effort into it and make a living off of it.”

By Nathan Durec


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