HomeNFTsIntuition, Physical vs Digital, and Trusting Art — Interview with Leeaux

Intuition, Physical vs Digital, and Trusting Art — Interview with Leeaux

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In this interview, Brady Walker sits down with the artist Leeaux, known for his surrealist illustrations and a unique journey through various art forms. Leeaux shares his experiences from high school T-shirt designs to becoming a well-known figure in art collectives such as Team Kill Everyone and Milky Way Art Cult.

He discusses the challenges and triumphs of his artistic path, including his move from New Orleans to Las Vegas and his eventual establishment of the Abracadabra Gallery. Leeaux also dives into his inspirations, the evolution of his creative process, and his focus on creating physical paintings. This conversation offers insights into Leeaux’s artistic lineage, the significance of his work, and his vision for the future.

Visit Leeaux’s MakersPlace Profile

View Leeaux’s latest exhibition: EPOCH

Brady Walker: All right, welcome back to the makerspace interview series. Today we have a painter named Leeaux, spelled L-E-E-A-U-X, which is a very Louisiana spelling that I very much appreciate. Leeaux, welcome. Can you maybe give a little elevator pitch of yourself as an artist for anybody in our audience who might not be familiar with you and your work?

Leeaux: I am a dedicated artist. My name is Leeaux. I’ve survived on art for a really long time. All I’ve done is make art, live by my art. I’m a surrealist illustrator. I kind of just paint what’s in my mind or illustrate with my mind. I mastered the pen, and now I’m conquering the acrylic painting world. I’ve just survived on art. It’s been a turbulent journey, from ultra-realist to more tools. I’ve experienced a lot in life through my art and found success by staying hyper-focused on art.


BW: When did you start taking art seriously as the thing you were dead set on doing?

L: Well, in high school, when I was 17 or 18, I started making T-shirts. I was super popular on MySpace because of it. I was pursuing my craft even outside of high school. I dropped out because my family didn’t understand the direction I wanted to go with my art. They gave me an ultimatum: if I left to sell my garments, I couldn’t come back. So I left to sell my art. I had cool T-shirts, and it was a successful run at the time. Seriously, it was 2013 when a friend saw my drawing at a party and bought it for $30. I realized I could survive on my art, so I kept going. 2013 is when I really started.


TAKE HOLD OF MY WING (AND I’LL SHOW YOU SOMETHING GREATER THAN MAGIC) by Leeaux

BW: And what did that look like? What kind of path did you take, like, I’m going to start making a living this way. Step one, step two, step three?

L: Step one was to figure out how to do it. I didn’t really know how to do it, but I was really good and knew a lot of people, so it wasn’t too challenging. I basically would appear at functions and events with my illustrations in front of me. Eventually, I learned I could go to Walmart, get cardstock paper, and make duplicates and prints of my originals. I realized I shouldn’t sell or get rid of my original art, so around 2014, I started keeping track of my favorite pieces and making prints of them. 

I planned where to go, couchsurfing and homeless, going to concerts, following rock bands like Silent Planet. I met Silent Planet in my hometown. I had my art in front of me and said, I don’t have any money to get into your concert, but if you want my art, it can help me pay for the ticket. We’re still friends to this day. This was 2013 or 2014. 

Eventually, I ended up in New Orleans, hanging out on Royal Street with my friends. My life started to change a lot more then. I showed one of my largest illustrations inside Red Rock Gallery, a well-known gallery in New Orleans. That was my first showing among big-name artists. I heard stories about how to get into places and be like, here, you want this? So, I walked into a restaurant, talked to Gabriel Shaffer, and said, hey, I want to show in here, look at my art. He agreed, and it felt really good to be consistent in my art and focus on that.


BW: And then from New Orleans, you left to go to Las Vegas. What motivated that move?

L: There’s a producer named Clams Casino who makes beats for ASAP Rocky, Mac Miller, Joji, and others. He had a date in Los Angeles for the first Adult Swim Festival. I wanted to go, so I tweeted, can someone buy my art so I can get a ticket to LA? Clams Casino’s dad saw my tweet, bought a T-shirt, and wrote to me about it. I couldn’t believe it. A friend helped cover the ticket cost, and I took a Greyhound bus from New Orleans to LA. 

I hung out with Mike (Clams Casino) for the first time. After a week and a half in LA, I wasn’t sure if it would work out. A friend suggested going to Vegas, so I took a bus there and ended up staying for three and a half years.


madolché prison — golden mode by Leeaux

BW: And yeah, you had a lot of projects and a lot of seems like you had some kind of art collectives in Vegas. I was looking at your website and your social and I saw references to Team Kill Everyone and Milky Way Art Cult. Can you tell me about those?

L: Yes, well, Team Kill Everyone is this ongoing art project between a collective of friends. We promote and feature artists on our website. We wanted to base it around killing your ego and embracing life. Essentially, just kill your ego, do the things you love, and be yourself or whatever. I just got an email the other day from someone saying, “Hey, come back online with this project.” Our site’s been up and down; it gets DDoS attacked a lot. We would write articles about artists we admire, honing in on what we feel is cool, creating a subculture of art with similar styles and aesthetic, and just living your life. That’s the energy behind it. People still talk about Team Kill Everyone or Shana. It’s one of the oldest running projects we’ve collected on, and we try to keep it authentic.

We’ve promoted a lot of artists, and many of them have gone pretty far with it. Team Kill Everyone is a little hard to get on fliers, so we created another one called Port Culture. Port Culture went really far. I got flown out from Vegas back to New Orleans to install art for the VIP lounge, media lounge, and artists’ green room at a festival. They needed a roster of talent, and we had it. They flew me out, and I got everyone together as a director.

Port Culture was responsible for Urban South Brewery’s art exhibitions, so we had a year-long residency. Port Culture installed residencies throughout New Orleans. It started in Shreveport in a dive bar and then evolved into furnishing festivals.


BW: Really cool because it’s still going well.

L: Port Culture is in a state of hiatus. We’re just identifying what it is and how it can move forward. There’s so much stuff, and I don’t want to be like everybody else. That’s a huge deal; I don’t want to give people recycled ideas or anything.


DREADNESS by Leeaux

BW: Yeah, what about Milky Way Art Cult?

L: Milky Way Art Cult is the same as Team Kill Everyone. Someone took our URL, but it was essentially the idea that it’s the Milky Way, and the art cult is a collective of artists. We harnessed it and focused on a collective of artists. We got URLs like article.net and artcult.com. It existed because of what happened in New Orleans in 2015 or 2016. Fifteen friends went to New Orleans and set up art in the street, saying, “Here, get our art, it’s the art cult.” I liked the name and wanted to keep it. 

Later on, there was a social network called Ello. Makerspace reached out to me in 2018 because they found me on Ello. We used Ello in partnership with Port Culture and evolved the hashtag #ArtCult with it, creating Ello Cult. We kept promoting artists non-stop, meeting different artists, and throwing ideas at the wall to see what stuck.


BW: Does the Art Cult have lore and iconography, or is it more just a name?

L: There’s not really lore. If you search the hashtag on Instagram, you’ll find many artists using it. It’s evolved, which is what we wanted.


CONSUME + TRANSFORM by Leeaux

BW: Yeah, and what about Abracadabra Gallery?

L: Oh my god, that’s the best thing. It’s the accumulation of all the experience and knowledge I’ve described, dialed into Team Kill Everyone’s art gallery, Abracadabra Gallery. Abracadabra is the product, the gallery. We have art, and this is the gallery. I’m getting the abracadabra domain name on Aetherium. The domain was available, and during that time, there were many people building NFT projects. I felt we should rush to make something, but then I decided to wait for the right moment. The Abracadabra project turned into the gallery project, which now includes a physical space gallery. It literally manifested itself, which was interesting because it’s like, is this magic real?


BW: Is it located in Shreveport right now?

L: We were hoping for Vegas or LA, but we put our roots down in Shreveport with our project Abracadabra Studio.


BW: Right on. I’m curious, you mentioned the Dotty domain name. As a painter and physical artist, what appeal does Web3 have for you?

L: Right now, I’m always a fan of domains. When I saw the domain thing happen, I thought it was cool. I’m a fan of naming and branding. Web3 has been evolving over time. As a kid, I always wondered how a digital art piece would be owned, appreciated, seen, sold, and collected. When Web3 happened, I realized that’s how people would own something digitally. The appeal is having something unique and uniquely yours. 

For example, “Abracadabra” is an ancient word, and no one else has it except us. As the Web3 space evolves and more projects are built, when you type it in, it will show throughout history. During this period, a group of people was intentional about promoting and showing artwork. We set the record with the domain, showing “abracadabra.gallery” as the gallery project. So, in the future, it will be known that this art is affiliated with the Abracadabra domain. That’s intriguing to me. I hope I answered that correctly.


CELESTIAL OFFERING by Leeaux

BW: There’s no right answer. I want to talk about a recent piece you sold on MakersPlace, “Celestial Offering.” Why did you paint “Celestial Offering”? What did it mean to you?

L: The American Eclipse was the reason. The path of totality was so close to me, and I was excited to see it for the first time in my life. I was speaking with Jared, and we discussed a potential feature drop. He asked if I had a date in mind, and I saw that there was nothing planned for the eclipse. I decided I wanted to have a MakersPlace release on that date.

“Celestial Offering” speaks to me because of the concept of life and death. The figure in the painting has a torso bursting with star stuff, symbolizing a celestial offering. It’s a heavenly body bursting and creating a much brighter, longer story for itself.


BW: And, I mean, ostensibly, the options for painting a painting in homage to the total eclipse, you can paint anything. So why, I mean, there’s this figure lying down, stars bursting from his torso, head as an eclipsed sun. And there’s a genie’s lamp and stars scattered around a grassy field, kind of muddying the waters of are we looking at the sky? Are we looking at the ground?

L: I wanted them to exist on the ground, essentially, but with an ethereal feel. I appreciate how people interpret it differently. Some say they feel like he’s underwater, others feel like he’s in space. There’s a lot going on, and I appreciate all interpretations of that.


TWILIGHT by Leeaux

BW: And I know you kind of pull from folklore, mythology, and occult literature for a lot of inspiration. Is there anything that you were pulling directly from for this, or was it more kind of vibe-based?

L: I would say it’s about the unknown and the afterlife. The power of synchronicity is still exciting to me. Everything happening for a reason continuously trips me out as someone led by intuition. A lot of my paintings come from my mind. I prefer to draw things straight from my head. I don’t use references much unless it’s a known worldly object with a significant structure. Then I might look up references to create my own interpretation.

I don’t want to say ouroboros or use the idea that life and death repeat in a cycle, but that was a bit of the inspiration. The synchronicity of everything having a purpose, like when the sun is eclipsed by the moon, happens so rarely. The significance and timing of everything were important. The next day was my mom’s birthday, April 9, so there were many parallels of life, shedding the old me, and walking into a new path. Right now, I’m focusing on making physical paintings and straying away from digital art. All these thoughts were in my mind while making “Celestial Offering.”


BW: And you have two pieces coming up that will be part of the trilogy that “Celestial Offering” is included in: “Twilight” and “Chariot Ouroboros.” What do these three pieces add to each other?

L: Okay, so it goes a little further. “Twilight,” “Dusk,” “Dawn,” and “Chariot Ouroboros” are all in the same reality of celestial significance with celestial planets and bodies and eclipses. “Dusk” and “Dawn” are two lion-like Chimera beasts I’ve created, representing night and day. “Twilight” was in the middle of “Dusk” and “Dawn” in the studio as a smaller piece. When people visited for the launch, they said it looked great together. “Celestial Offering” didn’t exist yet, but it fits right in with “Dusk” and “Dawn.” 

“Chariot Ouroboros” comes in with an eclipse-like theme, but it’s a crescent moon with the sun and the Ouroboros snake. The figure and the rider tie it all together. I let the ideas come to me, and as I step back and observe my art, I see a story tying it all together. I’ve noticed I’ve been focusing on stars and outer space, celestial bodies. I’m really into the space between, which was literally the title of my first solo art show, “The Space Between.” I’m very interested in the space between this physical world and another world.


NATURIA TROOP by Leeaux

BW: Can you elaborate on what “The Space Between” is for you?

L: For me, “The Space Between” is where I pull a lot of my imagination and art from. It is the non-physical realm, the collective consciousness, the net that ties us all together. It’s the synchronicities, everything happening for a reason. When people experience me drawing in person, it’s unreal. I’m pretty fast when I draw, and it feels like I’m tapping into this space that’s not physical. It feels like I’m entering “The Space Between.”

A fun example is Mike Volpe, also known as Clams Casino. We bounced ideas back and forth on “Moonship Radio,” one of his albums. He was finding inspiration in my art, and we were discussing possible album covers. At one point, I asked him to describe what he wanted to see. He said he could only see sound, not visual ideas. At first, I didn’t get it, but now I understand. He can only creatively recognize sound because he’s so known for his music production.

The creative mind can pull from and comprehend so much. For me, hyper-focusing and letting the pen go feels like entering “The Space Between.” I joke with my friends that I blacked out and just drew something. It was a great feeling, a rush.


BW: When you sit down to draw or paint, do you have a sense of what’s going to come out, or does your pen just start moving?

L: I just start moving. Sometimes I sketch with pencil first, but I usually don’t know what I’m doing. I just go with the flow.


UNCHARTED by Leeaux

BW: Where does photography fit into your creative life?

L: Photography has always been a passion. I go out and take pictures often, like I was out taking pictures this morning. I love photography. It’s a byproduct of having a great visual sense. Having a camera allows me to capture and share what I see.


BW: I want to ask a little bit about your other artworks. You have a series on MakersPlace called “The Courtyard Spirits.” Who are the Courtyard Spirits, and where is this courtyard?

L: I’m glad you asked that. The Courtyard Spirits started with “The Omen.” As I began painting this square piece, I wanted to place a part of myself into this realm. The spirits started as simple floating shapes in earlier pieces but became more defined over time. “The Omen” felt like it dropped from the ether of my mind onto the center of the page.

I was inspired by Mortal Machine Gallery and the level of detail in their hand-painted works. I wanted to create a sense of intense dexterity while keeping the spirits simple. The courtyard is a realm I didn’t know existed until I created it. 

One piece I love is “Courtyard Spirits.” It shows the spirits dancing around an orb. It was a challenge to paint each individual hand holding another’s. It looks simple, but understanding how it was made reveals its complexity. I paid close attention to detail, making sure each part was well-painted. I’m very proud of them.

As for where this land is, I’m still working on that.


NATURIA EMERALD by Leeaux

BW: What about Naturia and Naturia’s Legacy? It seems to be a name that pops up a lot in your work.

L: It’s my play on producing very natural art with nature elements. People say, “Oh, I like your dreads.” I’m like, yeah, they’re freeform and all natural. I feel like I’m a very all-natural person. You get my art and get me as is. Naturia is also inspired by a Yu-Gi-Oh archetype. I’m a big fan of the card game and some of the show. The card game has a nature archetype with cute little animals and trees. It doesn’t look like my work, but I was inspired by the name.


BW: What do you see as your artistic lineage? Who are the artists you see yourself in conversation with?

L: Who are the artists that I see in conversation with?


BW: That you feel like your work is in conversation with, even if it’s over time or space?

L: That’s a good question. I’m a huge fan of James Jean. If I ever meet him, I’ll probably start crying. James Jean is probably one of my favorite artists who has inspired me. It would be cool to see that existing simultaneously throughout time. 

I was having a conversation today in a cafe about Salvador Dali and how he inspires through surrealism. I see myself as a surrealist artist. Surrealism is all I want to produce because it’s fantasy, from my mind and my emotion.

I don’t want to butcher his name, but Hedi Xandt is an artist I would appreciate having art next to. Their work is impressive and incredible.


CHARIOT OUROBOROS by Leeaux

BW: I am looking at it right now. I can definitely see some shared affinities.

L: Yes, yes. He inspired me to take on creating environments. I know there are a lot of artists I like, but as far as having my work in conversation with theirs, I feel like I’m in my own little bubble. I’m putting together so many influences to be uniquely me. 

I aim to be a household name like James Jean or Hedi Xandt, like John Ryan Young or Joey World. I want people to remember, “Oh, that’s Leeaux.” Like, “I have a Leeaux from 2008,” or “I have one of his first T-shirts.”

Alex Pardee is a wonderful illustrator and artist whom I had the honor of meeting. Alex Pardee is amazing, and I’d love to have a show with him one day.


BW: Is Pardee based in New Orleans?

L: Alex Pardee, he’s based in LA right now. He’s been around for a long time.

When I said, “Do you have a Leeaux from 2008?” that was because when we hosted Alex Pardee in Vegas, people brought pieces of his art that were older than me. They brought these for him to sign, and they were like 30 years old. That really opened my eyes. It made me realize people are going to appreciate your art for years and years. If I had a solo show soon and someone bought something from 2015 or 2014 and asked me to sign it, I’d be like, “Oh my god, this is my dream. Thank you.” It’s amazing.

It brought me into understanding that I’m making artifacts. These paintings are extremely limited, personal, intimate, authentic, real, and tangible. You can give them to your children. Making something that’s going to live longer than me is the point. If I’m on Procreate all day, I’m not getting real experience in dexterity, neurological pathways, or my reward system. Making these paintings, this artwork, is honing in on my skills. 

I’m left-handed, so everything I draw and paint with this hand is tied right to my mind, right to the ether. To toil away to make something perfect and then be satisfied with it being real is incredibly rewarding. I don’t use brush assistance; I make all my colors. I have to create and preserve all my colors. I can’t just copy them. I have to take care of them, keep duplicating and replicating these colors. It’s hard work, but I prefer that to taking the easy route.

I realized in December 2022 that I want to only work on physical paintings. I want to show off how talented I am and how good I am. That’s a big part of it.


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