SHAWVILLE Oct. 3, 2022
Leah Beardsley has received a second letter from Queen Elizabeth in response to artwork she sent to Her Majesty.
Last year, the Shawville artist sent a portrait of Prince Philip to the Queen as an expression of sympathy on his passing after their 73 years of marriage. As reported in THE EQUITY last October, Beardsley received a letter expressing the Queen’s appreciation for the gesture (see Local artist sends portrait to Buckingham palace, THE EQUITY, October 27, 2021).
This year, following that experience, Beardsley decided to send a portrait of the Queen to the monarch.
“It was her birthday and the Platinum Jubilee, and I just thought I would love to send her something that would bring her a bit of joy or a good memory,” she told THE EQUITY.
“There are a lot who have done the older version of the Queen, the more mature version, which is wonderful,” said Beardsley, “but I think I would much rather see a picture of young me,” she laughed, explaining her decision to base her portrait of the Queen on images of her as a young woman.
Though she sent the portrait to Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s response came from Balmoral Castle, her home in the Scottish Highlands where she began her summer retreat in late July.
“At the time, the news was that she was missing some meetings in London and was not doing well,” said Beardsley.
The letter from the Queen was dated August 23rd. It arrived in Shawville on August 31st. One week later, the Queen passed away.
“It was quite an emotional curve,” said Beardsley, “from the excitement of receiving the letter down to mourning her loss.”
Beardsley was born and raised in Shawville and saw early glimpses of an artistic ability in high school. So did her art teacher, Carol Bretzloff-Holmes, who encouraged her to pursue her talent in Grade 13 in Ottawa.
“She was a fearless fine arts student, not afraid to push her already well-developed creativity to beyond its boundaries,” Bretzloff-Holmes told THE EQUITY.
“Leah’s passion for creating art raised the bar, and inspired other art students to exceed expectations with their work,” she said.
But then, after high school, life happened. Leah went to work for an Ottawa tech firm. Then she launched an idea for a car show and ran it for three years. Then it was off to Mont Tremblant to teach snow-boarding while working in real estate. This led her to Hong Kong where, in the absence of snow, she taught snow-boarding on the world’s largest revolving carpet.
“All this time I hadn’t really thought of art as a career choice and really I didn’t do much with it after high school,” she said.
But then in 2019, living near Shawville, married with children, one day she saw her niece sitting on her grandmother’s porch drawing a picture. It inspired her to dig her own pencils and paper out of the attic and try drawing again.
That night she drew a cow. She entered the picture in the Shawville Fair and won a first prize. The next thing she knew, someone wanted to buy it.
“Tom McCann saw it and asked me if I would sell it to him,” recalls Beardsley.
“It was so life-like, you could see the personality of the animal,” says McCann. “I now own a copy of the original and two commissioned pieces that she has done for me.”
Beardsley says that her comfort zone at the time was in drawing animals – a cow, a cat, a dog, a horse – explaining that she preferred not to do portraits of people to avoid insulting anyone with a picture that turned out not to look quite like them. But that changed following her attempt to draw a portrait of an Afghan girl, based on a famous photo published by The National Geographic magazine.
“That’s what kind of broke the ice for me. It snowballed from there, and I was doing more portraits of people,” said Beardsley, describing how this led her to drawing portraits of Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth.
“I believe everyone has a gift within them and the thing is to pursue that gift and not give up on trying to find it,” said Beardsley.
“It took me 35 years to find it, and I think the moment I slowed down in my life was when I started to find it.”
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