One of the perks of my job is I get to play with really cool people: painters, photographers, wood workers, actors, singers, musicians, sculptors, chefs and writers. I love it. As I talk with them, I try to understand their world, their motivation, their goals, their struggles, the reason they painted a room lime green, what they eat for breakfast and what they read in bed at night. I scribble it all down in my notebook as the photographers work their magic around me and my notes.
Sometimes, when an assignment is really awesome, I get jealous that I’m stuck writing when I see so much potential for photos. There have been a few times when Jen has been with me on assignment that I’ve said screw it, and just pulled out my camera too. You can’t do that will all photographers, but Jen gets it.
But that braveness and level of comfort doesn’t come often, so I sometimes don’t mind when I have to take the photos to accompany my stories.
Earlier this week, I met local artist Leland Choy at his home. Not only was I supposed to get my interview, I was supposed to get the photos. Leland is a pretty big-time artist represented by a local gallery. I had interviewed him before, but in a cold winery, where he didn’t have much to say. At his home one morning, though, was a different story. His wife, who is also an artist, led me through their colorful, artful old home and to the stairway that goes to his second story art studio. I told her I liked the lime green walls as I entered the stairway tunnel. She laughed and said, “well, I can tell you’re an artist.”
Leland was painting when I walked in, and he didn’t stop for me. I asked my questions as he worked, though he walked around the room to show me portraits of family members he’d painted over the years. A former journalism student, he showed me a cabinet filled with thousands of pages of short stories and unfinished novels he’d written. Then he went back to the painting.
I went back to taking pictures. I only needed one or two for my story, but decided to have fun in his lime green studio.
Leland is low-key. He paints for three hours in the morning. He always has something in his right hand: a paint brush or coffee mug. Other artist call him humble (one told me that even though he makes $10,000 a painting, he still likes to hang his work in small, local collections). He paints to stay busy (he’s been retired longer than he worked). In the late morning, he takes care of his 18-year-old disabled grandson. And he’s best known for his paintings of women who appear alone and isolated (he doesn’t know why he paints that way, but it may have something to do with being in isolated in a hospital for a year when he was 3 because he had tuberculosis).