Lesley Harrison’s Sacramento, California girlhood was shaped by animals and art. “I was born loving animals,” she says. “It seems to be in my blood.” She remembers an ongoing menagerie from cats to chickens. She started drawing animals in second grade. “I was taken down to the principle’s office more than once, because I was drawing horses instead of paying attention to the teacher,” she laughs.
“In l975, I picked up a stick of pastel and it was instant love. I had tried other mediums, but nothing had ever clicked.” By 1983 she was selling enough paintings to quit her day job. Talking about getting her work into galleries, Lesley relates, “Whenever I’d approach a gallery about showing my work, the first thing they’d ask was what was my medium? I’d say pastels and they would say they weren’t interested. So I finally told a gallery that I worked in oil and pastel (which was true!). They told me to bring the oils, not the pastels. I took both and left them for review. They loved the pastels!”
Although pastels are notoriously difficult to master, Lesley has received a number of professional honors and awards for her technical excellence. Recently, for the third consecutive year, the Pastel Society of the West Coast recognized her for her contribution to pastel as an artistic medium. She is also a member of the exclusive Pastel Society of America and The Society of Animal Artists.
Lesley has now been painting professionally for 32 years. She has combined her love of animals with painting to produce in her career a continuing series of remarkable animal portraits. An affinity for the animals that she paints and a strong command of her medium allows her to capture the spirit of each animal and to convey to each viewer its individuality, grace and strength.
She sum’s up her experience: “I’m blessed, blessed that people want to buy what I love to paint. Sometimes people stand in front of my paintings and cry. What better gift could any artist receive? I’m convinced that paintings that come from the heart can touch the heart of others. It’s almost as though I become a source through which animals can be portrayed as an individual, each with a distinct personality. It doesn’t matter if the animal is a cat, a wolf or a horse; I paint the ones that evoke an emotional response in me in the hope that I can pass that on to the viewer.”