Emerging Artists | Lesley Rich

Lesley Rich, Tea and Chopsticks, oil, 19 x 15.

Lesley Rich, Tea and Chopsticks, oil, 19 x 15.

This story was featured in the January 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art January 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

When Lesley Rich started painting en plein air at age 40, she viewed it mostly as a pleasant “holiday” away from her computer-consulting job. Today, even when she isn’t painting, she’s thinking about it, says Rich. Based in Palo Alto, CA, the now full-time fine artist still paints on location, particularly when traveling and teaching workshops, but she spends much more time in her studio, where she explores enticing design concepts that often spring from her imagination. “The painting process has become more of a puzzle for me, and I’m quite concerned with working out these concepts,” she says.

Nearly all of Rich’s oil paintings—including her landscapes—feature people, but they evade specific narratives. The self-described impressionist is most interested in the colors, patterns, and built-up textures on her canvas, and thus, she gives her paintings general titles to engage viewers in the compositions themselves, not a particular story. “Design is the ultimate goal for me,” says Rich. “I want to achieve the strength and clarity of a poster design. It’s possible to say a lot of things in a simple way and say them with so much more power.”

Rich’s style is influenced, in part, by the works of French artist and foot soldier Mathurin Méheut (1882-1958), whose watercolor and gouache studies documented daily life in the trenches during World War I. Similar to Méheut, Rich alters the perspectives of her subject matter to portray honest but “unexpected” views of everyday scenes in people’s lives, from a dinner gathering to a funeral procession. “You can’t be constrained by the conventional side of your brain,” she says. “You have to release yourself from that, and I find that I’m doing that every time I paint.” See Rich’s work at Gardner Colby Galleries, Naples, FL, and Nancy Dodds Gallery, Carmel, CA.

This story was featured in the January 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art January 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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