((L) Tracy Leagjeld, (R) Reflection of the Future by Tracy Leagjeld)
As artist Tracy Leagjeld describes her work and artistic process, themes emerge. Family, creativity, love of color and passion for the outdoors are constant threads in the conversation.
Tracy’s interest in art began at a young age. Her natural talent for drawing was fostered and encouraged by wonderful teachers, and especially by her mother. “Art came easily to me, though school was never easy,” she shared. “Drawing and being creative always brought me peace and calm. Even now, when I’m feeling out of sorts, my husband will suggest that I need to go paint.”
Tracy’s career as an artist began when she was a young mother with small children at home. Searching for a creative outlet led her to enroll in art classes at Central Oregon Community College. While working towards her associate’s degree in fine art she began creating landscapes with a focus on painting on location. As a second generation Bendite, she was deeply familiar with the lush landscapes of Central Oregon. The mountains, rivers, meadows and wildflowers of home became her subject and inspiration. As her skill developed, she married her love of color with her love of the outdoors to create her signature lush, vibrant landscape compositions.
“Everything I paint is from someplace glorious I’ve been,” she said. “It’s very spiritual for me. I have to feel a connection with the land before I begin to create. I could never paint from someone else’s photo or paint something that doesn’t exist.”
Tracy considers hiking an essential part of her job as an artist. An ideal day would include packing up her gear, backpacking into the wilderness, and spending the day painting at the base of a mountain and then sleeping under the stars. Spending time in nature is an essential step in Tracy’s creative process. She searches for the perfect light and colors, unified by a spiritual connection that she defines as the essence of home, then captures the scene in a photograph. “Immediacy is an important part of the process,” she states. “It’s about the connection with the place, a sharing with the universe in that moment. A language we’re speaking together.”
Once she’s returned to her studio, Tracy’s process becomes exacting and tedious, a far cry from the happenstance and liberation of exploring the wilderness. Working from both a forward facing and reversed photo, Tracy creates a drawing of the reversed image on large paper that is then transferred to a gesso covered board. Next, she paints onto a piece of wax paper and transfers those colors onto the board. This final step is where the unexpected can happen. Sometimes she’ll add another layer of color and form with additional transfers.
Tracy has worked in this process for over fifteen years. She prefers the wax paper and board to the standard monotype plexiglass and paper because it allows her composition to be framed without a glass overlay, providing the viewer a more intimate experience with her work.
Over time her work has evolved, becoming simpler. “I’m still painting landscapes, but I have different idea of what is beautiful now,” she said. “I strive to be more abstract, but I don’t always have a lot of control. That’s partly because of the process and partly because of how my brain works.”
Tracy loves the challenge of creating her work en plein air at the Lavender Festival and the Pacific Northwest Plein Air Competition in the Gorge. She follows the same process, but with the additional constraints of working without the reference photographs, and racing against the changing light. It’s a rewarding, but stressful process.
As the signature artist for Ripples, the Deschutes Children’s Foundation fundraising event coming up on September 19, Tracy shares that she’s honored to be invited. “Supporting children and families in Central Oregon is important to me. Donating an original work of art is the best thing I could possibly do to help.”