Gabriel Lehman, an Indiana native, lived in Wilmington when his paint-ing
career began in 2009. His imaginative murals can be seen at Duck
& Dive Pub on Dock Street and Chops Deli in Monkey Junction, and he
describes the area
and local community
as “elemental” to his
beginning as an artist.
Lehman is self-taught,
and has devel-oped
detailed and wildly
creative style. His
images tread the line
between realism and
youthful figures in
fantastical, fairytale-like settings.
“When I was a kid, I enjoyed surrealism and cartoons, so my style
developed into ‘illustrative surrealism.’ I draw inspiration for subject
matter from things that I see and the intention behind my work is to
evoke a childlike nature and sense of wonderment,” he says.
He paints figures amid unexpected components, colors and details, cre-ating
a sense of contrast that is enhanced by his use of light and shadow.
“I paint light,” he says. “My focus has always been the shape and color of
light as it reflects. I feel as though I am always studying when I’m looking
around because I don’t use visual references; I pull from my mental study.”
Lehman’s figures have slightly exaggerated facial features, drawing
one’s eye to their expressions. Their often-wide eyes contribute to the
sense of wonder that Lehman instills in every composition. They can
be seen floating through dream-like landscapes, climbing in star-filled
skies, and chasing odd, unexpected creatures.
He works in liquid acrylics on canvas, and recently began using oil on
linen. Choosing large format canvases — his favorite size is 2 feet by 4
feet — Lehman transports viewers into the worlds of imagination and
joy he creates.
“Oftentimes, when people walk in to look at the work, they just smile,”
he says. “Some even cry. When you talk with people while they’re viewing
the work, their inner child comes out, which makes me incredibly happy.”
“Crystal Pier” was inspired by time spent at Wrightsville Beach. This
painting showcases an impossibly bright red-and-orange skyline with
large, rolling clouds. A young man sits on the edge of a pier and, with
ecstatic surprise, reels in a fish that is twice his size. The image conveys
the sense of possibility and delight inherent to the Wrightsville area, and
emanates a nostalgia that childhood beach-goers will recognize.
Lehman’s wife, Jamie, is integral to his practice. The two have been
together since he illustrated a children’s book she authored.
“I love doing illustration,” he says. “The project came together so well,
I married her.”
Crystal Pier, 23 x 30 inches, acrylic on canvas.
Playful Imagination, 36 x 48 inches, acrylic on canvas.
Dandelions Blown from the Walking Stool, 24 x 30, acrylic on canvas.
WBM july 2017
Gabriel Lehman was a featured artist at the
Indiana Artisan Marketplace in 2015.
PHOTO BY DAVID HUTCHISON