Artist Studio | Leonard Wren

Leonard Wren at his studio on Lopez Island, WA

By Bonnie Gangelhoff; Photos by Peter Kuhnlein

Your studio is on an island. How does the location influence your work? The reason I moved here is because it is rural and quiet. The distractions of being in the middle of the city that are not conducive for the level of thinking you have to have to complete a painting. A painting is a record of an extraordinary period of awareness. I have a gate at the entrance to my studio and whenever I don’t want to be interrupted, I push a button and the gates closes so I am totally isolated.

What inspires your paintings? Usually something I see—a combination of colors, textures, and light. Being an impressionist, I think that light has such a feeling of energy and drama. It’s hard to overlook that. We all have these mysterious things that we are attracted to, and often we don’t know why.

What is your favorite subject matter? Landscapes. I continually go back to landscapes with architecture in them because of the contrast and harmonies. I am primarily interested in outdoor painting.

How do you stay fresh? By continually moving about, and by traveling a lot. Every day you see something that makes you say “wow” on the inside. I swear I have a gypsy gene in me, and my wife worries about that.

Leonard Wren at his studio on Lopez Island, WA

What is your favorite place to paint? France. The harmony and the mystique in France attract me. I like looking at buildings that are 1,000 years old. I usually get to France about once a year. I am longing to go back right now. Burgundy is my favorite region. It is rural, and I love the villages scattered throughout the countryside with their rolling hills and vineyards. Presently, I’m working on a series on North America because there is a lot of beauty here, too.

What impresses you about other artists’ works? When you are speaking, you have to make a point. Those artists who have learned how to edit their work in order to make a more powerful statement, whether it’s color or composition, impress me.

What artists influence your work? Monet and Sisley are a big influence, and contemporary painter Richard Schmid. I don’t know any painter who hasn’t been influenced by Schmid. He has an elegance in his presentation, and he makes a consistently beautiful, interesting aesthetic composition.

What are your other passions? Music. I would have become a musician if I could do it over again. Maybe a guitarist.

What music do you play in the studio? I play a lot of different things, from classical to ’50s and ’60s nostalgia, which I love because it’s so happy even though sometimes it’s corny.

When you are not painting, where can people find you? Well, I have a car hobby, hot rods in particular. My first painting experience was pin-striping cars back in the ’50s. I have a ’37 Ford, and I’m going to be rebuilding another car.

What do you like to do in your spare time? Work on old cars. And I go to art functions, mainly museum shows. I had an instructor early on who said to look only at the best work in order to increase your level of taste.

What is the one place people would never find you? You will seldom see me at formal social events. I’m not one who spends his lifetime self-promoting. I’m not a politician.

When people visit, where do you like to take them? I usually like to take them on the ferry, a boat ride on my boat, or a drive around the island. It’s tremendously beautiful.

Featured in July 2008