Meet our artist-in-residence Leanne Cadden

NET is harnessing the power of art

Meet our artist-in-residence Leanne Cadden

NET is harnessing the power of art

Meet our artist-in-residence Leanne Cadden

While art and science are traditionally separate fields, they have slowly come back together through the #SciArt and #SciComm movements. Art has the ability to convey science in compelling ways as it can tap into both the heart and the mind. And because of this, we are excited to announce that Canadian artist, Leanne Cadden, is now the National Environmental Treasure’s new ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE. As we explore what is causing biodiversity loss and tangible solutions for its conservation, our blog and social media content will be illustrated by her stunning works.

Watercolour paint set with pencils
Diamond Varley's original watercolour set. Image by Leanne Cadden

Leanne loved nature from a young age. In fact, she never really tried to become an artist. She was actually driven by an overwhelming passion for nature and a desire to share it with the world.

Her sole reason for picking up a brush or pencil was to raise awareness of nature.

Leanne was born and raised in Vernon. She first picked up a pencil at the age of three. But she never attended any formal art classes. Instead, she learned from her great grandmother, Diamond Varley. To capture the essence of nature through art, Diamond would set-up sketch exercises for Leanne to finish. Using her great grandmother’s drafting table, Leanne meticulously practiced how to illustrate nature through watercolour, pastel, and pencil. To this day, she continues to channel and honour her great grandmother’s talents and teachings by using her original brushes and watercolours.

Leanne’s Artistic Inspiration

Leanne draws inspiration from some of nature’s greatest artists, including Robert Bateman, the Group of Seven (1920-1933), and Emily Carr (1871-1945). But her favourite artist is Tom Thomson (1877-1917), whose oil sketches on wood panels depict the vibrant beauty of Ontario’s forests and waterways. She was also gifted Doug Lindstrom’s Alaskan Sketchbook: An artist/photographer’s guide to the people & wildlife of America’s last frontier. Filled with photographs, sketches, and facts about the many plants and animals of this northern state, Leanne was immediately captivated by a drawing of a lynx as a child. With incredible detailed shading and strokes forming its fur, she would lovingly caress the sketch as if she could feel the soft texture of this wild northern feline.

Doug Lindstrand Alaskan Sketchbook on lynx page
Doug Lindstrand's Alaskan Sketchbook. Image by Leanne Cadden

Outdoor Gesture Sketch

Leanne eventually taught herself to gesture sketch outdoors, where you capture the essence of your subject in a single moment. Everything in nature is shifting. It’s in a state of constant flux, so you have 60 seconds before it moves or before the wind, light, or vantage point changes. Through gesture sketch, she captures nature’s particularities.

Turkey Vulture Gesture Sketch
'Turkey Vulture', gesture sketch in 60 seconds, by Leanne Cadden

This later inspired her to found the Nature Sketch Club at the Bateman Foundation Gallery of Nature. Centered on connecting children to nature, she taught countless pupils through pencil and paper, just as her great grandmother had taught her many years before. What she found most striking was how drawing helped children see details in nature that they had never noticed before. Once one discovers the subtle patterns of a leaf or the texture of feather and fur, they will notice these details for the rest of their lives. Fulfilling her goal to foster a love for the natural world, this program inspired many children to honour and protect wild habitats.

While Leanne’s life has taken many twists and turns, she continues to combine her three passions: nature, art and children. Through her 10-year-old daughter, Sophia, and her many young pupils, she aspires to make a difference for future generations through art and nature.

To learn more about Leanne, find her on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Watercolour painting of polar bear
'Polar Bear', watercolour, by Leanne Cadden
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