By Carol McCracken (Post # 676)
Leann Wiley’s favorite studio is her car. She tapes canvasses to the steering wheel and paints scenes all over Munjoy Hill. For a landscape painter, this mobility is ideal as is the changing outside light – unlike painting indoors in a studio. The public will have an opportunity to meet the delightful Wiley on Friday, January 7th at the show’s opening reception at the Hilltop Coffee Shop between 5 – 7 pm. The show opened on December 26th and runs until January 31st.
“A lot of people have seen me sitting in my car painting and sometimes they wonder if I’m homeless,” she said laughing this afternoon at the Hilltop. Wiley loves to paint outside because the colors around here are so beautiful. A Hill resident, Wiley said she learned from a now deceased painting teacher, Nathan Oliveira, about the importance of light in painting which is secondary to the subject. She studied with him while attending Stanford University. Her appreciation for him is such that she has dedicated the show at the Hilltop to him – “in loving memory.” Painting outside is so necessary to Wiley, that she plans on revving up her car’s heater and continuing the practice throughout the winter.
Her passion for color and light is evident throughout the show which is composed of mostly oil paintings, two pastels and one charcoal drawing. Wiley says it’s challenging for her to go out and paint on gray days, but makes herself do that because she is able to find beauty and color in that environment. “I can’t wait for sunny days in New England to paint, because if I did, I wouldn’t get much done,” Wiley said, chuckling.
A turning point for her in her life was the two years she spent teaching English in Indonesia; an English college major she had planned on a career of teaching overseas. But during that experience, Wiley learned that she really wanted to be a painter. The beauty of the country and the colorful native dress of the women were instrumental in this career change decision.
Back here at home, she has been commissioned to do several murals on the sea coast in New Hampshire. One, a 300 ft. mural was commissioned by the New Market Business Association – located near Portsmouth. It was so popular that the community paid for a large part of her fee. Wiley says that one of her favorite painters remains Edward Hopper.
“I love living on the Hill,” she says. “It’s peaceful. There isn’t as much traffic as downtown.” The Hilltop Coffee Shop is located at 99 Congress Street and is open seven days a week.
Wiley also teaches an advanced studio class for gifted teenagers between the ages of 13 – 18. She teaches at the Coolidge Center for the Arts. Next month she’ll be teaching at the State Theater Building, Portland. Please visit www.childrensartnh.com for more information.