This Pinay Mom Had Lost Her Sister; She Processed Her Grief by Painting

“What does art mean to you?”

If you asked Leslie Castañeda 30 years ago, she would’ve said that art is something beautiful, something nice to look at—a thing to admire and decorate the house with. 20 years ago, she would’ve explained it was the world of her family. She married into a family of artists but was never one. 10 years ago, she would’ve said it was a dream lost. A realm in which she could only appreciate from afar.

Never in all those years did Leslie ever think she would be the one in front of a blank canvas, paint in hand, ready to create art. But she was a firm believer that it’s never too late to chase your dreams. One evening, after a hard day’s work as a marketing consultant, she and her daughter stumbled upon the mesmerizing style of fluid art painting through a Youtube video. Enamored by the technique, how the colors flowed and danced together, and with a growing sense of creativity, she decided to try her hand at the medium. So, at the lovely age of 48-years-old, Leslie embarked on her art journey.

Through practice and effort guided by her son, Alphons, a creative director and graduate of Visual Communication from UP College of Fine Arts, she honed her skills. This newfound passion eventually became a way for her to meditate through the trying times of the pandemic. We all struggled with the effects of the pandemic. And Leslie definitely had her fair share. Quarantine and isolation drained out her motivation and drive since the things that used to energize her were no longer something she could do, like join marathons, go hiking in the mountains, and even simply spend time and eat out with her family every Sunday. What made things harder was having to be extra careful of the virus since her sister was immunocompromised as a cancer patient.

But it was through this period of difficulty that Leslie found inspiration to paint. Art was her respite. Art was her comfort.

And this is reflective of her paintings. Leslie’s art is intuitive. She enjoys experimentation, exploring, and surprising herself on the outcome. Because as her technique is flowing, she too allows her heart to be as fluid, to be carried where inspiration and feeling take her.

After much encouragement from her family, Leslie decided to exhibit her art through Instagram and Facebook with brand direction from Alphons, as well as concept-making and copywriting help from her daughter Anika, a Creative Writing graduate from UP College of Arts and Letters.

Leslie Galerie was soon established, an online platform for her to not only engage with the community of artists in order to keep growing and learning, but to also share her paintings so that others may have something to color their hearts and homes as well, as Leslie did for hers. The brand also became a new way for her to help with her sister’s cancer funds. All profits from the paintings go to her sister’s medication and chemotherapy.

However, just like any other artist, tragedy hit Leslie not long after. Her youngest sister had unexpectedly died at the young age of 30. Suddenly, life wasn’t as bright and wasn’t as colorful. Grief was an emotion that no one ever wants to experience, especially in this pandemic where we are trapped in our homes, forced to confront our feelings and thoughts in isolation. For a while, the canvas remained blank for Leslie. But after sorting through family items and memorabilia, Leslie came across a candid photo of her sweet sister in a museum, smiling up at a large painting. And she knew that look all too well—she knows that feeling.

That’s art. It’s feeling.

Leslie confronted this tragedy—this grief through art. She painted her sorrows. She painted her joys. All that she felt, she let out on the canvas. And after one year of painting, it still brings her peace. It offers a chance for her to meditate on the beauty of the world and the grace she feels while living in it. And she wants to convey that same peace and grace through her paintings, offering a moment to pause and feel a deep sense of belonging.

“What does art mean to you?”

If you ask Leslie now, she would say that art is the merging of mind and heart, a soulful expression that maybe words could not convey.

Marketing consultant on the weekdays, contemporary abstract artist on the weekends. This is Leslie Galerie: here to color your homes and color your lives.

Follow Leslie on Instagram.


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