by Len Lear
Mt. Airy artist Donald Leong, 78, who graduated in 1963 from the University of the Arts, retired in 2006 after 40-plus years in the advertising and marketing industry to pursue his love of drawing and started to paint in various mediums. Ultimately, he settled on watercolors as his medium of choice.
An active member of the American Watercolor Society and other watercolor societies and art leagues, Leong has been in numerous juried and non-juried group shows in the region; more recently a two-person exhibition at the Chester County Art Association, which was a huge success. His works are in private collections both in the U.S. and Canada.
Last week we conducted the following interview with Leong:
•How long have you lived in Mt. Airy?
“All total, about 20 years.”
•What do you like and dislike (if anything) about living in Mt. Airy?
“We love the mix of people, public transportation and convenience to almost all of our needs.”
•What was it like working for advertising agencies and marketing departments as opposed to doing fine art in your own studio?
“Ad agencies and marketing departments tend to be places of high stress, tight deadlines and long hours. Many key decisions are made with little or no input into the final decision. Working in my studio is at my pace; subject matter is my choice and ultimately my decision if I like the end product or not.”
•Why did you retire in 2006?
“After 40-plus years of long hours, tight deadlines, corporate politics and turning 66, I thought of all the things still left to savor and enjoy while I still could.”
•You have been in so many juried and non-juried shows. What was your favorite one? Why?
“My favorite juried shows are the ones that international, national and award-winning local talent enter. Competing on a high level is that much more rewarding when accepted and also an incentive to hone one’s skills.”
•Why do you prefer watercolors over other mediums?
“I like the transparent and fluid quality of watercolor. While challenging to master, it offers a range of applications and styles other mediums can’t match.”
•Would you please give me the dates and locations of any upcoming exhibits?
“I’m currently in three group shows: Penn Medicine in Radnor and Valley Forge and the Berwyn Art Gallery in Berwyn. Currently scheduled is the High Point Cafe at the Mt. Airy Train Station for late summer and Doylestown Hospital in early fall. I’m also entered in several juried competitions with outcome still to be determined.”
•Who are your own favorite artists, living or dead? Why?
“I admire many artists, but Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent and Andrew Wyeth are probably at the top. Each one’s style and approach was fresh and so completely different. Wyeth’s egg tempera and watercolors are so completely different in approach. My heart skips a few beats when I look at their work.”
•How do you choose your subjects?
“I work in my studio and on site (plein air). Subject matter is what captures my eye through light, color, texture or interplay of objects and their combined appeal. I am not looking to make any political or social statement in my work. In essence I’m looking to capture a moment.”
•What is it like to try to make a living as an artist?
“In the commercial world, I would say challenging, to say the least.”
•What do you enjoy doing when you are not painting?
“I enjoy visiting galleries and museums, movies, travel and good food, although I find my art and the business part of art taking up a good portion of my time.”
•What was the best advice you ever received?
“Two quotes: ‘You can’t succeed if you fear failure’ and ‘That which doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.’”
•What was the hardest thing you have ever done?
“Clearing out my parents’ belongings after they passed. It was the emotional aspect of their passing and getting rid of things that had memories attached to them.”
•If you could meet and spend time with anyone on earth, living or dead, who would it be?
“Dr. Martin Luther King would be my choice. I’m amazed how with all the violence he faced that he was able to adhere to being non-violent. A true test of his belief and will, something to be admired.”
For more information about Leong, email email@example.com.