Local artist paints nature's beauty

Alice Kinerk Artist Leila Luginbill sits at work in her Home studio. Photo by Ed Johnson, KP News

What happens when you mix passions for biology, fine arts and the Key Peninsula? You get a talented local artist who commemorates trees and flowers on paper, pointing out spots of natural beauty that the less artistically-inclined among us would likely rush right by.

Leila Luginbill does just that.

Luginbill's ties to the area run deep. Her beautiful bay-view house in Home was passed down to her through family. Some of Luginbill's earliest known relatives, George and Sylvia Allen, who founded Home.

Luginbill has a special place in her heart for trees she estimates are old enough to have been around when her grandparents and great grandparents were here.

Recently retired from a career teaching science in the South Kitsap School District, Luginbill walks daily, and it is in on these walks that she often is taken by the beauty and stature of the Key Peninsula's trees.

“I decided after I quit teaching that I'd garden and paint,” Luginbill said. “I have a biology degree, so plants mean something to me,” she added with a laugh.

After posting a few of her paintings on the Key Peninsula Facebook page, Luginbill was surprised by the number of responses she received from people suggesting other majestic local trees she should paint.

Her painting of a mossy tree on the corner of 5th and C Street in Home sparked several comments, and now Luginbill has a long list of local trees she wants to view and consider painting. A personal favorite of Luginbill's are locust trees. “Locusts have fabulous bark.  Rugged, gnarled, fabulous,” Luginbill said.

Luginbill does not have formal academic training in the arts, but she has been a longtime student of Sherri Bails, who teaches painting classes, through Pen Met Parks. Luginbill is part of the advanced painting class which meets regularly at Sehmel Homestead Park in Gig Harbor.

“My goal with every student is to help them find their own special way of painting.  Everyone has their own style. She wants to put in a lot of detail. It's not photo-realistic, but it is precise,” Bails said of Luginbill.

Luginbill is also part of an online painting group that issues fun monthly challenges, such as to paint or draw in a stained-glass style.

Trees and flowers are far from Luginbill's only source of inspiration, however. She has paintings featuring trains, architecture and gardens, as well as portraits of her grandchildren.  Trips to Europe inspired paintings of faraway places. A friend's photo of sailboats reflecting on still water forms the subject of another painting. Yet another features a curious goat poking her nose through a fence.

With too many completed paintings to hang in her home, dozens of framed paintings sit leaning against a wall upstairs. Unframed works are stacked on horizontal surfaces in nearly every room. She has, in the past, loaned out some of her works to display at the Key Center Library, the Blend Wine Shop and the office of her own massage therapist.

Luginbill plans to one day leave all her paintings to her children. Although she has sold a few paintings over the years, she's not in it to make a quick buck. “I don't want to do a business.  That's too much work. I'd rather just paint,” said Luginbill.