A! Magazine for the Arts

Austin Leonard

Austin Leonard

Austin Leonard is influenced by Dali and Disney

March 27, 2022

Austin Leonard began exploring his artistic side by working in traditional media — watercolor and gouache.

“But I began dabbling in digital painting and photography in high school after I had seriously begun thinking about doing art as a career. I found myself really enjoying photography after learning and practicing it my senior year of high school and wanted to continue learning about it and graphic design which was my other career interest at the time. I first began drawing and painting digitally after getting a simple drawing tablet. I found it to be really fun and also easy to get whatever colors you wanted.

“My favorite thing about design is how unique and interesting what each person can create is. Art and design exist in almost every facet of life as we know it. In a way I think the unique differences found in art from one person to the next is super interesting. Also, I am interested in the use of art and design to express one’s thoughts and feelings, to create work that moves people by how much emotion and soul the artist has put into their work,” Austin says.

His work is filled with symbolism. He focuses on exploring emotions, therapeutic applications of art and the use of color. He has also been returning to his roots in watercolor and gouache.

“I take a lot of influence from Salvador Dali and his surrealist style. I love to create strange worlds that aren’t quite realistic, that make you think and ask questions. Stylistically I take some inspiration from Disney. My style rides the line between cartoon/anime and semi-realism. I would define my approach to art as intuitive. I have a difficult time planning my creations, instead I like to observe and think until an idea strikes, or sometimes I just start putting colors on a page and see where it leads. It is almost a stream of consciousness approach to art,” Austin says.

He has had several of his pieces exhibited regionally: some in the King University Spring Showcase (juried exhibit at his school) and in the Johnson City Public Art in Founder’s Park as part of the Banner Exhibition.

“Digital media and art mean a lot to me. I like to think of it as a willing and active listener, always ready to take on your emotions and willing to listen to what you tell it. I think that’s what makes it so special. Art isn’t always just paint on a canvas or a picture on a screen. There is (almost) always real human thought behind them. Art is something to pour your heart and soul into, it’s a pathway to the artist’s mind and a true look into the world they live in. Digital media and art in general allow people to experience new perspectives some haven’t seen yet, and I think that is extremely valuable,” Austin says.

His favorite medium is painting. “I love to witness the changes to something from random strokes on a canvas, to a blob of colors, all the way through the ‘ugly phase’ and onto the finished product,” he says.

He is a reporter for the Kayseean, (the college newspaper) as well as the social media manager and comic artist. He writes articles about various events and happenings on campus, as well as a series about local hauntings and legends within the Appalachian area. He also created a comic called “Behind the Seasons” based around groups of beings that help “run” the seasons. It’s a different take on the seasons and how they function by personifying them.

Austin is 20 and is from Bluff City, Tennessee. He is the son of Ron and Melinda Leonard. He is a senior at King University pursuing a Bachelor of Art in digital media art and design with a minor in psychology.

“Currently my plan is to take a year off after I graduate, find a job and do some personal artwork. But after that I’d like to apply to graduate school and pursue a master’s in clinical mental health counseling. Then look to get licensed as a professional counselor with a mental health service provider distinction and then eventually as a registered art therapist.

“My interest in art therapy stems from discovering it in a high school health science class. I did a research project regarding it and found it be incredibly interesting. I had always loved psychology and, of course, art. Finding a career that mixes them together was super interesting and seemed meant to be. I was specifically interested in the research based around the differences in art and color usage people with different mental disorders displayed. As well as the symbolism and psychology behind the colors and the objects or animals people draw,” Austin says.

Outside of class, he helps with livestreaming at his church as well as occasional commissions and photography shoots. He reads fantasy novels and imagines the worlds in which they take place. He also enjoys cooking, gardening and exploring the medicinal effects of plants. He recently started making homemade soap with his family made from the milk from the goats that they raise on their farm.