The richly textured and expressive leather art of László Katona boldly captures the character of the subjects and landscapes he portrays. Please visit his website to see more of his artwork.
I have always been creative, but when I found what really inspired me, I knew I wanted be a visual artist. As a young child, I was drawing or painting five to ten pieces daily. Watercolor, acrylic, pencil and black charcoal all interested me. My skills were most prominent in portraiture. Thirty years ago I attended an arts night school in Budapest, but I had mixed feelings about seeing myself as an artist.
I became a Canadian citizen twenty years later. Here I made friends who were mounted archers in Whistler, British Columbia. Passionate about retaining an old culture, they turned to creating replicas from the 7th-9th century.
Their medium? Leather. I knew that this was my world. They taught me to tool and carve leather, and introduced me to dyes and techniques. I had found my calling. After creating a few pieces, mainly leather armor, I knew I wanted to expand my subject matter.
I considered that it might be possible to apply the techniques I had learned to rectangular pieces of leather; to decorate pieces the way that I had learned but to change the entire concept of this ancient art. The idea of leather pictures was embraced, and I finally felt a medium much more alive than anything else I had ever experienced.
What I love most about working with leather is that the option of tooling and carving helps me take the traditional painting approach even further. With leather, I have the option of making a darker area deeper in the surface, or I can use a sharp carving knife cut if I want to make the contrast stronger between a light and a dark area. Because of the textured carved and tooled surface, the surface of the piece appears differently, especially in natural light.
These are the five steps I take to complete a picture:
- Draw the subject on durable see-through paper
- Trace the drawing on moist leather. At this point I intuitively use additional lines, shapes etc. or whatever is needed.
- Carve most of the lines with a special leather carving knife.
- Bevel one side of the cut with a small leather chisel. At this step the subject takes on a 3D look.
- Painting. I use leather dyes which are both acrylic and oil based.
I am always inspired by intense, telling, and raw facial expressions. This is what I look for in human subjects and, to some degree, in animals as well. I crave the energy-filled moments when thoughts and emotions come to life.
As much as I have wanted to concentrate on one or two subjects, the temptation to always see bigger and farther, to see what can come alive on leather, is too powerful to ignore. Leather is my medium, my meditation, and my life’s work. I hope my audience will enjoy experiencing my work as much as I have enjoyed bringing it to life.