From a log cabin in the woods, deep in the aspens between Flagstaff, Arizona and the Grand Canyon, artist Leslie Anderson of Ellay Artware Inc. creates custom and unique works of art for people who are nuts about animals. Leslie is an Arizona native with a fine arts education and more than twenty years of experience as an animal lover, painter and sculptor. Her work can be found in private collections from coast to coast as well as abroad.
I was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1962. Animals and art have always been two of the most important things in my life. Both have given me a sense of value and purpose.
Growing up in a rather isolated area, a good 8–10 miles away from friends and schoolmates can give a little girl a lot of time to develop artistic inclinations as well as the chance to discover the unequalled friendship that animals offer. I entered all the state fairs and other art competitions I could when I was little. My subjects were always animals and the recognition I received encouraged me to reach ever higher. All of my early disappointments were countered by the unconditional love of my furry friends. Having been a shy and somewhat insecure teen, I am convinced that I survived those difficult years thanks to my pets and my artistic outlets.
When I was presented with the chance to go to college I chose, of course, to major in fine art and also happily explored equine science.
I married my husband Howard in 1984. Howard always believed in my gifts and encouraged me to pursue a career in art and advised me in business, his area of expertise.
In 1991 we left the “fast-track” of the nations sixth largest city and moved with one dog, one horse and two birds to a remote acreage in the aspens north of Flagstaff and began to build our “little log-cabin paradise.” Howard did all of the physical labor and I painted as much as I could, as fast as I could, to help finance our adventure.
I first gained public and media attention by painting animal portraits on some rather unusual canvases. My initial exposure came from the generosity of my local Petsmart as they allowed me to advertise my work with a small display in their store. This exposure led to getting my work in some of the finest and most exclusive boutiques and gift shops in Arizona: To name a few,
My most requested work was my “Paw-ket Pet Portrait”, a unique, hand-painted pet portrait on the pocket of a fine garment. I painted everything from dogs and cats and horses to pet birds, reptiles, lemurs and even sugar gliders. Hand painting animals on antiques, pillows, wall-murals and other home furnishings also helped to keep us fed and sheltered.
In the early ‘90’s I began to do a lot of traveling to dog and horse shows in the west. I became known in these shows as “the Rock Lady” – as most of my portraits were now being painted “3-dimensionally” on hand picked river rocks.
In 1997 I opened a small gift shop/art gallery in the historic downtown area of Flagstaff. Local news media dubbed me the “Picasso of Pets.” Flagstaff being a gateway to the Grand Canyon attracts thousands of visitors from across our nation as well as internationally and this exposure in my little Flagstaff shop lead to my “discovery” by magazines and catalogues like Dog Fancy, Dog World and Puttin’ on the Dog as well as a licensing contract with New York manufacturer Fiddlers Elbow, a division of the Toy Works.
With Fiddlers Elbow, my portraits on stone went from “hard rock” to “soft” as they reproduced my original images on fabric to create pillows, flags, door stops, “Pupper-Weights”™ and door-mats.
One of my greatest sources of satisfaction has been connecting with people who have had the same magical relationships with their animals that I have experienced with mine. It is this group of people for whom I paint and whose respect I most prize. It is for them that I strive to capture the sense of beauty, spirit and joy that our animals have given to us.
Ok, so… you may be asking yourself, “what is an ellay?” Well it is simply my trademark signature, found on all of my work and it is pronounced L.A (my initials, not the city!)