This week’s Q & A feature is artist Leoma Lovegrove. Known for her immense talent with a paint brush and for her fantastical and outrageous sense of style, Leoma recently relocated her international gallery headquarters to Sanibel from Matlacha. Read on to find out more about Leoma’s early adventures with “bed art” and why to some people, she’s known as the “real White House ornament!”
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in northern Indiana in a small farming community called Merrillville. I lived directly across the street from a dairy farm and have painted the barnyard ever since. Mom was an artist too and encouraged me to paint my environment. On a family vacation to Southwest Florida, we visited Ringling School of Art in Sarasota. I knew that was the school for me and it is where I got my commercial art degree.
What's your family like?
Having no children of my own, I am enjoying my nieces and nephews. They remind that there is more to life than the day at hand.
What's one of your earliest artistic memories?
My first memory has got to be learning how to make a bed. Mom showed me how to fold in the corners and tuck the sheets under the mattress. She said, "there is an art to making a bed.” Taking her comment literally, I spent the rest of the day making all the beds in our home and decorating them with foliage and flowers from my yard. Each bed corner was complete with a bouquet, a bow made of scraps from mom's sewing box and one of my dolls tied into the flowers as a centerpiece. My "bed art" was probably ant-infested, but you don't think of those kind of things when you are five years old. Mom never complained and always allowed my creative ways to be a part of our lives.
In your spare time, what do you like to do for fun?
I like to travel with my husband, Mike, and seek new global adventures. I am also a member of the Hot Flashz dance team, and practice with them a few times a week.
Though you still have your original gallery on Matlacha, how do you like your new international headquarters on Sanibel?
I am thrilled to have such a fabulous space to display some of my larger paintings and to reach a new audience. Having this opportunity to relocate on Sanibel goes far beyond the business factor. Mike and I have missed living in a community where there are churches, schools, sidewalks, bike paths and beaches. We like a place where the community is not so transient. Matlacha is a great place to have a business, but our home is on the main drag. We are surrounded by rentals and restaurants. There are no churches or schools in Matlacha. However, you can't beat the walk in traffic for the gallery. During peak season we can see as many as 500 tourists a day and since we have spent over ten years marketing historic Matlacha, we cannot afford to ignore it. But, Sanibel is a dream come true and our global audience will find us there as well. The new energy I have gained in Sanibel is what I really needed to reboot my creative soul. The Sanibel community has embraced us so graciously. We love it!
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
I would love to have dinner with Jesus. It would be like no other dinner imaginable. I would ask all the hard questions and get the answers directly. The mystery of life is hard to comprehend for any of us.
What's something people might be surprised to learn about you?
I have been happily married to a Bible scholar for 32 years. (But I do wear on his patience). I also collect the old oil "Paint-by-Numbers.”
You are known for making a splash — artistically, socially and fashionably. What's the secret to your style?
I have never been one to do anything by halves. "Over the top" and "Your life should be a work of art" are my mottos. It’s funny, Mike always says I am handy, because whenever I have to go to an event, I paint something up to wear. I have spent more time painting my shoes than I do painting a large painting. When we went to the White House a few years ago for a reception there were over 150 artists there. I painted up a special outfit just for the occasion. All the other artists wore black — go figure. The artists were constantly asking me to have my picture taken with the them. By the time we left they were calling me the real White House ornament.
You must tell us — where did you get those signature glasses?
I got them at Disney World, loved them and have been wearing them ever since. And yes, they are prescription glasses.
You'll be performing one of your well-know "Painting Out Loud" sessions during the Captiva Holiday Marketplace on Dec. 11 in Chadwick’s Square. Will you tell us a little bit more about your painting out loud process and where this creative concept came from?
I started "Painting Out Loud" during church services. I was inspired by the music and the setting to create paintings of Jesus. The concept continues to evolve. I have performed all over the world and painted everything from fish to palm trees dancing in the wind. I installed a stage in the new Sanibel gallery to have my own Painting Out Louds.
What can audience members expect to see during your Dec. 11 session of painting out loud?
Come see me Saturday in Captiva — I'll be painting a hippopotamus for Christmas.
What does the future hold for Leoma Lovegrove?
I am currently working with a few museums for future exhibitions.