Valerie Leri’s home studio glows with beams of sunlight streaming in from several windows. The sun’s warming effect, however, is not the only brightness illuminating the residence: the artist’s many paintings adorning the walls—and her own cheerful positive attitude—rival the sun’s effects. The goal this artist sets for each painting is to capture and communicate the positive and upbeat emotions of her subjects.
“My art is almost exclusively uplifting,” Valerie says, scanning the paintings in her studio. “That’s such a strong drive in me, in my personal life, being positive. I want to see the best in people, and I want my paintings to be the same way.”
Originally from Belmont, Valerie studied fine art at UMASS Amherst, graduating in 1982. She moved to Cape Cod in 2004 to be closer to her father, Robert, and to be surrounded by the natural beauty of the peninsula. “I love the Cape,” she says. “It just suits what I do so well and there’s so much to offer. It’s very nurturing and all the beautiful places here serve to inspire me.”
Illuminated by a palette of bright reds, oranges, and yellows, Morning in Tuscany, one of Valerie’s paintings, stands out in her gallery—quite an accomplishment since nearly every square inch of space is covered by her canvases. Resting above the fireplace, the painting of Tuscany brings back special memories for the artist.
“I took a bike trip in Europe,” the artist says of the painting. “See that? That’s Tuscany. Did it look exactly like that at the time? No, but that’s kind of the way I felt about it.”
That distinct attitude sums up the painter’s art perfectly. Viewing her paintings, one doesn’t necessarily get a clear sense of the exact scene or location she experienced, but rather, the artist’s feeling, or sense of each place. Working more on emotion rather than on technique, a strong element in her work is light—both spiritual and physical. Using the light as inspiration combined with dramatic brushstrokes, she captures spontaneity and movement through a rhythmic collaboration of colors and shapes.
Valerie describes her style as ‘intuitive painting’, or a style similar to Abstract Impressionism. She says her approach is not to ‘copy’ an exact scene—whether a cluster of pink flowers or a French café—but to paint it in a way that conveys how the imagery affected the artist. “Intuitive painting for me is all about feeling the experience of whatever it was I saw,” Valerie says. “I’m very drawn to that, especially if I can capture it authentically and get it on canvas in a way that feels right.”
This artist is passionate about acrylic paints and uses them almost exclusively; she likes how the paints mix and dry quickly. She is drawn to colors as well. In her studio, a sea of blues, greens, and oranges stream from paintings in every corner of the room, jumping from the walls, enticing visitors to look. “Colors can make you really happy,” Valerie says. “They affect you, so I want to surround people with happy colors.”
The painter lives in Mashpee with her son Matthew and daughter Jessica; she also has three dogs, Layla, Bonnie, and Bentley; and two cats, Bell and Nell. She emphasizes that the pets are very much part of the family. Her oldest son, Chris, lives in Framingham. Valerie’s family is her support system and over the years has served as a source of great inspiration.
Valerie also turns to nature for inspiration, collecting tree bark and other natural items. “I love birch trees, so I collect a lot of birch bark and sometimes incorprate it into the paintings.” The artist gathers these natural treasures on her regular beach walks, or the hikes she and her beloved dogs take on the grounds of the Highfield Hall and Gardens in Falmouth.
One of the artist’s latest ventures is her creation of delicate, handcrafted ‘painting’ earrings. Inspired by her twin sister, Dianne, Valerie began creating the jewelry for local shops during the 2012 holiday season. Customers simply choose a specific painting that will become their own wearable work of art. She also sells small paintings of beach scenes. Her custom earrings and paintings are available on her website, rtartworks.com, and at M. Brann & Co. and the Black Crow Gallery in Mashpee Commons.
When she’s not painting, Valerie supplements her income doing transcription work for documentary films and marketing research companies. This allows her to work from home, while leaving time for her to express her creativity on canvas. Whether she is creating earrings, or working on birch tree or beach paintings, the heart of Valerie’s mission pulses with a commitment to create positive, uplifting artwork.
“If people tell me they feel uplifted by my art, or are moved by it, that’s extremely gratifying,” Valerie says. “But at the same time, if there was no one around, I would still be painting, painting, painting—because I feel like I have to. I paint primarily for myself. That’s one of the ways I express myself, but it’s a bonus when someone receives my work and is moved by it in some way.”