Barry Leek

How did you get into art / have you always been painting?

I started after I retired. It was really to have an interest in the wintertime. I had a horse and also a Connemara brood mare. They took a lot of time in the summer; I rode every day. But now I don’t ride any longer, got too stiff. But, art is still mainly in the winter.

What medium/media do you use?

Pencil or pastel. I started with water colour and switched to pastel. Then I didn’t have to wait for the drying. For an impatient person it’s the perfect medium. I do portraits largely with pencil, sometimes with pastel, occasionally with water colour. During the pandemic I did the women in pastel and the men in pencil. I can get the features of a man in pencil, and I think that the women benefitted from a certain amount of colour.  So, a conscious decision.

What are your favourite subjects?

3 things. Portraits, not sure why I got into portraits. Flowers, roses in particular. And landscapes. I like landscapes, but I’m not particularly good. I’ve not done plein-air. I ought to, but don’t seem to get round to it.

Portraits are the interesting thing for me. I always do them on A4. Always the same size and each face varies slightly. I’m interested to see where the difference is. You can draw a standard face let’s say. But to someone you know or you know of, you’ve got to identify the unique features. I thought I’d draw Bryan Dobson for today, the special features are to some extent the eyes, to a lesser extent the mouth. He has a fairly standard face otherwise.  He has just retired, so it’s topical.
Women are more recognisable.  more hairstyles etc. You’ve still got to get the eyes right, otherwise you might as well start again. Sometimes you get everything right, then you make a little change and it’s completely different, you don’t recognise it any longer.

Where do you get your inspiration?

On the G.A.G. WhatsApp group, during the pandemic lock-down, I did portraits as a kind of game for us all. I did local and world-wide personalities that we either knew or most of us knew, using material from the internet. So, all my portraits fit into that picture, apart from my self-portrait. My wife is very drawable, but she’d kill me if I tried.

Then in terms of flowers, I grow roses. If I have a new rose, I tend to draw it. Or I find something in the garden centre that I haven’t seen before or that is particularly attractive and then I draw it.

I make Christmas cards with a rose on it every year. One year I did a photograph instead and I received some disappointment comments.

I did some painting at school, but only until middle school and then nothing until retirement. I then had an inkling to do something in art. So, I started with watercolour landscapes. Not the best kind of start, not the easiest, watercolour is hard to master.  Now I also do landscapes in pastel, not just watercolour. I decide by beauty, but it’s usually a landscape that I’m familiar with.

Is there anything in particular you like to communicate through your art?

I paint for my own pleasure, I’m under no pressure. Drawing and painting is totally absorbing. The world has to get on without you.

When did you join the Greystones Art Group?

I joined long after retirement. There was an annual art exhibition in Charlesland about 5 years ago, that gave me the chance to look at membership. For all the years I was in Greystones, I always went to the annual exhibition. So I was familiar with the organisation for years, but had not joined. I joined the weekly sessions and was a very ardent Monday morning painter, up until the pandemic started. Charlesland was a lovely location with plenty of room and plenty of good light.

Do you take commissions?

Not normally, but if someone wants me to do something, I’ll probably say OK.

Are you working on any special projects?

Yes, I’m working on the Rock of Cashel with a ewe and 2 lambs in the foreground, in pastel.