UNEARTHING ART   -   Meet Leanne Rutter

by Javier Melian, Chrom-Art.org co-founder

This young British artist deserves to be the subject of your admiration. She paints incredible award winning portraits. She is an elected associate member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, has created her own charity, the “Unearthing Art Project”, and if this wasn’t enough, she is an extraordinary cake decorator

Leanne studied illustration at Loughborough University, graduating in 2009, returning immediately to what came naturally - portraits. Rutter tells her subjects' stories, creating powerful, rustic oil portraits in a realist yet painterly style that redefine beauty.

Her work has been shown at the Royal Institute of Oil Painters for six years, winning the Phyllis Roberts award in 2010, and the 3rd and 2nd place Winsor & Newton Oil Painters awards in 2010 and 2012.

Leanne won the 3rd place of the Winsor & Newton Oil Painters Award in 2010 with this sensitive portrait of a man and dog. When she left university in 2009 intending to pursue a career in portrait painting Leanne was determined not to slip into full-time work and forget her goal. She took a job as a dog-walker, which gave her the opportunity to meet a wide variety of people. Colin, her subject for this work, is a fellow dog walker, who spent one year nursing his girlfriend’s dog back to health after an injury that resulted in a broken back. Rutter was moved to paint Colin because of the adoration devotion he demonstrated to the dog through this task.

In 2013 she was elected as an Associate Member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters. In the last two years she has painted in Thailand, New Zealand, Malaysia, Czech Republic and South Africa, with more adventures on the horizon soon.

She is primarily a portrait artist, but her love for cooking made her combine her talents to create rich and delectable, unusual and beautiful, unique and highly personal, hand-made and hand-painted cakes.

Consumed by a passion for travelling, Leanne Rutter's work revolves around the friendships she has formed along the way, telling the tales of the fascinating people she meets whilst on the road. The bonds formed result in a highly personal, narrative led body of work, consisting of powerful pieces of a raw and rustic beauty.

She is currently working in London, but as part of her Unearthing Art Project she is about to embark on a year-long self-funded tour of ten African countries her partner Oliver Allen. Leanne will be actively seeking out talented artists with the intention of raising their profiles to an international audience.

Is there a message in your art?

I like to tell stories. My artwork is highly personal and strongly narrative based, centred around the people I have met and the bonds I have formed with them, resulting in powerful, intriguing pieces full of a raw and rustic beauty. I work mainly in oil paints as I enjoy the way I can move them around on the board, but more so because their depth of colour can be achieved by no other medium, allowing me to inject more and more colour into my work – even my muted tones are made up of a whole spectrum of rainbow shades. I feel as though I am still learning with every piece I do, trying to experiment with quicker ways of working, and many more mediums – as travelling have become a hugely important part of my life it is not always feasible to paint in oils on the road, but also does not have the immediacy of a medium such as inks, watercolours and simple pencils.

How did you start as an artist?

A self-taught artist, my skill is in the blood. It however developed in my brother’s shadow – he is extremely talented, but being older was always three years ahead. After completing my degree in Illustration at Loughborough University, it became very clear that this was not the correct path for me, so I returned to what felt right - portrait. Listening to other people’s tales, hearing about their lives, glimpsing how and why they perceive things the way they do utterly captivates me. People are endlessly varied and fascinating, therefore capturing just a little of that in became only natural for me. Before then I felt trying to form a career as a fine artist seemed unfeasible, and it has certainly been difficult getting to this point. For five years, whilst my school-friends were making waves in law, politics and publishing, I was a live in dog-walker (all my early commissions were dog portraits!). The phrase, “you know you could get a real job” was rather delightfully bandied about. Thankfully I was able to ignore this and managed to get my work shown at the Royal Institute of Oil Painters for five years, winning the Phyllis Roberts award , 2nd and 3rd place Windsor and Newton Oil Painters awards through the exhibition, eventually being elected as an Associate Member in 2013. Had I never entered their open exhibition I would not be where I am today or have the level of commissions I do.

What are you currently working on?

Currently I am exceedingly busy – I am working on several commissions, including my biggest to date, featuring the interwoven stories of a crowd at a party. I am juggling this with personal paintings, mostly of people I have met during my most recent trips and, most pressingly for me, a new, art-based charity venture I will be starting this year, Unearthing Art. My partner and I will be undertaking a lengthy, self-funded trip across ten African countries, to actively seek out talented and exciting artists. It is so difficult to get started in a career in art anywhere in the world, but all the more so in developing countries. We want to help them create an online presence, through portfolio websites and social media before eventually shortlisting six (with the help of a judging panel) whose work we want to exhibit in a London gallery, with the artists themselves in attendance. We will be fundraising later in the year to cover the exhibition’s and artist’s expenses, but this is not so much about just giving aid as it is about encouraging trade. The journey will be well documented through a dedicated website, featuring the journey, their artwork, my paintings from the trip, photography and a blog documenting our thoughts.

What Inspired you to create the Unearthing Art project?

The inspiration for this venture came from my most recent (and certainly most eye-opening) trip, when I travelled to Tanzania. The country is breathtakingly beautiful , full of stunning geographical variation and the people are so welcoming and friendly in a way I had not experienced before  – they will joyfully go out of their way to help you, asking nothing in return. Conversation was plentiful, friendships so easy to form. The often unrewarded creativity and talent I saw on such a short trip was surprising in the extreme. People who have so little but give so much. It was in Mambo village in the Usambara mountains that I met a Dutch couple in their sixties who have dedicated the rest of their lives to the area – they plan to live there until they die. In six short years they have not only opened a successful lodge, which will eventually be left to the people of the village, but  with help from guests who stay there, they have taught people to build bridges, fix water pumps, use computers, do their own accounts. They have helped provide solar lights for the village, eradicated children begging, found sponsorship for young people to go to university and instilled a sense of village pride. Their projects are ongoing and most importantly, sustainable – projects the locals themselves make happen. It was them who taught us ‘trade, not aid’, and inspired us to imagine the Unearthing Art project





Who are your favourite artists?

My favourite artists are ever changing but I hugely enjoy the work of Egon Schiele, Mitch Griffiths and a New Zealand based artist, Tim Wilson. Schiele’s work is very uncomfortable, even grotesque in places, despite the evident beauty of his models, yet strongly appeals to my eye. Griffith’s work is reminiscent of the Old Masters’ whilst wittily tackling modern, social issues. Wilson is a landscape artist (unusual for my taste!) whose vast canvases are gutsy in a way most landscapes are not. I was lucky enough to be introduced to him by a client, and was not only hugely impressed by his amazing work but by his ballsy personality too. He advised me to be a warrior in my work, and I attempt to follow these sentiments.

Where can we buy your art? 

You can buy or commission my artwork through me directly, contacting me through my website www.leannerutter.com, my Facebook page www.facebook.com/leannerutterartist or through my email leannerutter@outlook.com

Write a comment

Comments: 5
  • #1

    Colleen Laird (Tuesday, 24 March 2015 09:58)

    Hi Leanne,
    Have just looked at all your stunning pictures!
    Must tell you.......
    I had a Daxi, who was not well and I used to carry her around in an "Outward Hound"just like the man in your picture! And my Mum used to ice cakes, so grew up watching her decorate cakes beautifully.... Similar to yours!
    Take Care and look after yourself in Africa.

  • #2

    odurArt Uganda (Monday, 30 March 2015 21:12)

    hi Leanne i like your work more so the paintings of the children... am intrested to join your project to support you..

  • #3

    OBAT HERBAL YANG AMAN (Tuesday, 27 December 2016 10:01)

    i aprecation help me

  • #4

    Robert (Saturday, 18 February 2017 07:43)

    I can't believe it, this is real that anyone could paint like this. All the paintings are flawless. Heads of to the painter.

  • #5

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