Local artist profile: Brian Leach
Steamboat Springs — Going against the grain, one local artist has developed a craft that contains a raw, visceral quality to it.
Through a process of pyrography also known as wood burning, Brian Leach creates a range of artwork around a single piece of wood, using walnut, beech, alder or aspen.
“There are things I am trying to say through art, and whether you love it or hate it, I just hope to get some kind of reaction out of people,” Leach said. “The inspiration could just be the wood itself and then just adding to that to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s a process.”
A woodworker by trade, Leach takes after his father’s profession of building houses. Over the years, he decided to forge his own woodworking craft and incorporate art.
Similar to drawing with a sharpie, Leach uses the controlled application of a heated pen, which recesses the burn into the wood. He also uses inlay, a process in which he sets wood pieces into a cavity that has been hollowed out of the surface. Both methods allow him to create intricate designs and details.
“I like the mixed media he uses in the artwork itself,” said David Arnold, owner of Paddlewheel Coffee & Tea Co., one of the businesses where Leach’s artwork is displayed. “There is an overall impression you get when you look at it but there are also a lot of hidden elements.”
Arnold went on to explain that upon first glance, Leach’s artwork is eye-catching, but in order to see those hidden elements, an individual needs to linger a moment or two longer.
“When I first met Brian and had seen his artwork, I was really blown away by it,” said Kevin Nemec, known as “Cactus,” who started Cactofab, a welding business in Steamboat. “To me, I don’t think his artwork really fits the Steamboat mold of nature images. His overall offering is really different than what you would normally see.”
Evoking emotion in its own genre, Leach’s work is also incorporated into functional furniture.
Soon after brainstorming ideas and recognizing their strengths in woodworking and welding, Nemec and Leach started Artifacts Furniture, which incorporates different types of reclaimed hard woods with steel to create tables and other furniture.
During the past three years of working together, Nemec said he and Leach have found their “artistic groove” and even have work featured at the Made Life gallery in Boulder.
“Our designs originate from how we are marrying the wood and steel together,” Nemec said. “We have very similar ideas on design aspects.”
Leach said he is thankful to be able to still “make sawdust” in his shop for artwork and have the ability to support himself through the furniture business.
“It’s therapeutic for me, and I just feel the need to make it (his art),” he said. “I think there is some purpose to be found in it.”
Locally, his work can be found at Paddlewheel Coffee & Tea Co. and Urbane. Going forward, Leach said he hopes to place his pieces in more galleries and art venues outside of Steamboat Springs. But for now his objective first and foremost is to keep creating art.
“To me, Brian is a pure artist in the best sense of the term because he isn’t motivated by fame or social status or money,” said Nemec. “He just has to get the creativity out there, and I think people need to see what he is doing because it’s definitely different than anything I have seen here.”
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The Steamboat Art Museum is bringing back the National Exhibition of Oil Painters of America.