He Leeds a wild life

By on March 18, 2015
"In Coppery Splendor" by Steve Leed

“In Coppery Splendor” by Steve Leed

Steve Leed first put his brush against a fresh canvas as a Warwick High School senior in 1969. He signed up for the electives art class, with no intention of igniting a passion that would continue to burn in his heart more than 40 years later.

“I had always liked to draw and paint, but I hadn’t taken it very seriously until then,” Leed, now 62, said from his Lititz home.

Shortly after graduating, Leed thought he might like to continue oil painting. He bought the necessary tools from the Sherwin Williams store that used to be at the the Lancaster Shopping Center, and he hasn’t stopped painting since.

But art wouldn’t be Leed’s full-time focus until years later. Instead, he’d gain full-time employment at Long and Bomberger, Inc. when it operated where the Freeze and Frizz now stands on North Broad Street. He would get to dabble in art while he worked in the advertising department &tstr; often drawing cartoons of new employees as a way of introducing them to the public through an annual Christmas tabloid.

In 1974, he entered his first Lititz Outdoor Show to showcase his varied work of animals. Some of his favorite subjects to paint are birds and woodland creatures.

But balancing a job and his passion proved trying for Leed. He often had to take time off to attend art shows to sell his work. So, in 1991 at age 39, Leed left his job at Long and Bomberger to dive into his work.

“I tried my best to make sure I was financially ready to do so,” Leed said.

His house and car were paid off, and he felt the time was right to “eat and sleep art,” he said.

The transition was tough for the first couple of years. Leed wondered if he had made the right decision. A lot of people told him he wasn’t going to make it.

A break in his struggle finally came when Leed entered a neotropical songbird painting competition run by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Commission. His painting of the American Redstart, an orange and black bird, clenched him a second-place win out of hundreds of national artists.

That was when the momentum started to build.

Today, Leed’s art can be found on the covers of the Pennsylvania Game Commission Magazine. His 13th cover this month features an Eastern Blue Bird. He’s also been featured on the cover of Stromberg’s Chicks and Gamebirds Unlimited. His painting of a ring-necked pheasant called “In Coppery Splendor,” is on the cover of the 2015 catalog.

With all that he’s accomplished, Leed still has goals in mind for how to can continue to grow as an artist. He hopes to enter The Artist’s Magazine spring competition and to eventually have a piece accepted into the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum for the birds in art exhibition.

“I wanted to enter the exhibition this year, but I just didn’t feel I had the piece for it,” Leed said. “It’s a tough exhibition to get into because they want something that’s not real commercial, that you couldn’t really sell. If you’re making your living doing art, you can’t afford to do something that you don’t think is ever going to sell.”

A little more than two decades after becoming a full-time artist, Leed believes it was all worth it.

“The struggle has always been there, but I wouldn’t be the artist I am today if I hadn’t tried,” he said. “You need the time to devote yourself to your work if you really want to be good at it. I thought I was good back in my 30s, but when I look at colors and textures now, I see them in a whole new way.”

Leed will be entering one of his pieces in the 41st Annual Woodcarving & Wildlife Art Festival and Competition, to be held March 21 and 22 at Millersville University. Last year, Leed’s painting won First Place/Best of Show in the art division. Leed, who has been participating in the festival for many a year, recalled fondly when the event was held at the Lititz Rec Center during the 1970s. To learn more about the festival, visit lancarvers.com.

Rebecca Hanlon is a correspondent for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your comments and questions at mrsbeccahanlon@gmail.com.

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