Imagine the courage needed to abandon a 25-year career to follow your heart and become a painter.
Welcome to the world of Leisl Mott who made the break from corporate life 15 months ago and has since built an impressive CV, including as feature artist of the 2016 Downlands Art Exhibition being staged from September 9 to 11.
It was an en plein air oil workshop by contemporary landscape painter Luke Sciberras at Hill End that crystallised the change. “I loved the way Luke created not only his art but also a gorgeous way of life — there was beauty everywhere — from his studio in an 1800s stone church to the kitchen where he cooked all the meals for the group,” Leisl says. “That lifestyle isn’t about money — there was nothing stopping me from creating beauty except me. So I found a place to paint and just started.”
On the way to the New South Wales workshop, Leisl’s serendipitous stop at Michael Reid gallery in Murrurundi (his other galleries are in Sydney and Berlin) resulted in a request to stock her work.
During the early days of studio sharing, she was advised by other artists to enter competitions to create a profile, a strategy that has proven successful for this Fairholme girl. Her work has been shortlisted for a number of prizes including the Pro Hart Outback Art Prize and the Lethbridge 10,000 Small Scale Art Award, as well as the Toowoomba Biennial Emerging Artist Award. Leisl won this year’s Champion Picture at the Toowoomba Show. This is a really personal prize given she took out the same award 27 years ago. Now that she has reignited her painting flame, Leisl says, “I have decades to make up, so I’m in a rush!”
Self taught, Leisl paints 12 hours a day, often seven days a week, frequently having to set an alarm to remember to actually go home. She is experimenting with the oil medium and its applications. For technical problems, she heads to Google to follow the advice of others.
Photographs of visited landscapes offer stimulus, with her board quickly covered in chunks of colours, detail built up in layers, then often scratched back.
Leisl’s recent first solo exhibition at Percolator Gallery in Brisbane’s Paddington entitled Landscapes I Love was inspired by the Hawkesbury and Darling Downs regions where she was raised. She is excited to have her paintings out in the world to get feedback from the viewers in lieu of a mentor. Her studio in inner city Brisbane, found on Gumtree, is tucked away in what was an old garage workshop, a stone’s throw from the Brisbane River.
The two areas reflect the different aspects of her art-making and are shared with a sometimes resident possum. The office has a computer for digital design and the studio overflows with colour, props and drying paintings. It opens onto a handkerchief of green — a private courtyard, a mini oasis in the CBD fringe.
The digital side of Leisl’s work is an area she is keen to explore in the future. It involves selecting a detail from her painted works, manipulating it and repeating it to make a digital pattern destined for pocket squares, scarves and home furnishings.
Words by Janet Kieseker | Images by Peter Spann & Janet Kieseker