An owl, bear and wolf are the featured creatures in Spirit Animals, a portrait series that was showcased at the Surrey Art Gallery’s Thursday Artist Talk on Sept. 8.
Freelance graphic designer and artist, Leo Recilla, shared his talk titled “Simplicity Meets Complexity.” His work is inspired by the wildlife in British Columbia and depicts the intricate relationship between humans and wild animals. Recilla uses charcoal, graphite, inks and acrylic paint to illustrate them.
The Surrey Art Gallery Association is a non-profit that collaborates with the Surrey Art Gallery to host a Thursday Artist Talk event, which gives local and regional artists a chance to expose their work and ideas to the public.
Recilla won a Langley Arts Council portrait competition and then was invited by Surrey Art Gallery Association to speak at a Thursday Artist Talk.
“I remember seeing a video clip of somebody on the highway feeding a bear, knowing what the repercussions are, and they’re not supposed to do that,” Recilla says.
“So I wanted to highlight that, and really the message is the story about people interacting with wildlife in a good way, whether it’s to help them, or in a bad way.”
In the Spirit Animals series, the portrait “Stand Your Ground” is of a bear, which is drawn in graphite and charcoal. Recilla’s signature ink splatter runs across the portrait. Likewise, an Ensō-inspired border outlines the page. Depending on how an audience interprets the portrait, the bear is either breaking out of entrapment or being caged.
All these techniques are through years of practicing drawing. In 2008, Recilla began drawing cartoon characters from Dragon Ball Z. He then started doing graphite portraits of Wolverine and DC Comics characters, then transitioned to doing celebrity portraits using premium ink. Recilla has gone as far as to use acrylic paint to create Ensō artwork in his creative journey.
“It’s very interesting how he’s been able to kind of incorporate the graphic arts geometric designs with the natural work, and I think charcoal is mostly what you, especially those pieces there, so I’m amazed at the detail that he can get with charcoal,” said Barbie Warwick, manager at Surrey Art Gallery during the event.
Recilla recently started a side business in honour of the Spirit Animals series. He created wood carvings of animals similar to that of origami. Within the figurines are preserved moss. The art can be placed in the home as decor. Recilla has already sold a couple of these art pieces at vendor markets.
Recilla’s next project will be a continuation of the Spirit Animals series.
“So I do have deer, eagle [and] I have another owl actually. But something new that I’m trying now is working on canvas,” Recilla says. “I’m exploring, I guess again, a new medium for me working on canvas.”
He hopes the attendees at the “Simplicity Meets Complexity” Thursday Artist Talk are inspired to make their own art or tell their stories in their own way. Whether they are an artist or not.
The next Thursday Artist Talk will be held on Oct. 6. The guest speaker will be Gloria Han, whose art is Korean pottery making.