Leonard Rooney

Born 1960 in Nelson, New Zealand, Leonard emigrated to Canada with his family in 1968. He spent the next seven years living in Ontario, Canada before settling in Vancouver in 1975.

His artistic talents began showing at an early age and being an artist quickly became his life's ambition. Upon graduating from high school, he went on to study graphic design at Emily Carr College of Art & Design in Vancouver. He has since spent his time working as a commercial artist and graphic designer.

Leonard began working with acrylics on canvas in 1985 and has steadily developed a style of realisim which he calls, "a refined impressionism."

"The overall result is realisim, yet if you look closely you'll see that I don't pour over every little detail. I like to think of each painting as being composed of hundreds of smaller impressonist paintings."

An exploration of light on surfaces, Leonard enjoys tackling complex scenes, while developing overall feelings of place and atmosphere. He is drawn to city and urbanscapes but also continues to explore other genres and painting styles as time allows.

His original works continue to sell both locally, in Vancouver, and internationally. He also makes his urbanscape works available as high quality, limitied edition, giclee prints and posters. His "Steam Clock (1993)" painting, published as art cards have sold over 20,000 copies since 1994.

Show History

Gallery Hangings and Representation
November 2001 - January 2003, Birthplace of BC Gallery, Fort Langley
January 1992 - October 1993, Gabriel Gallery, Vancouver
January 1991 - January 1992, The Art Emporium, Vancouver

Group Shows
February 1991 - Images '91, New Westminster Arts Council Gallery
May 1991 - Images & Objects X, North Vancouver Rec Centre
February 1992 - Images '92, Burnaby Arts Centre
May 1992 - Images & Objects XI, Vernon Rec Center

One-Man Shows
November 1992 - New Westminster Public Library


From The Burnaby News - Wednesday, November 18, 1992

Rock and roll art/ Len Rooney's art is a tale of two styles. A realist at heart, and introspective in nature, Rooney has dabbled in the dark side of his passion, producing three impressionistic rock band album covers. His work is on display at the New West Library.

Rooney's two realities

By John Wawrow
Staff Reporter

You can't judge an artist by his album cover.

Leonard Rooney looks nothing like someone who's made a name for himself in the rock and roll business. His hair is short. His slacks -- slacks?--are creased. There's a quiet nature about him, introverted and polite.

And yet here is the artist who painted a pair of dark and menacing heavy-metal album covers for the band Annihilator.

The juxtaposition is odd: Pat Boone meets Gene (Kiss) Simmons.

Even Rooney, who grew up on rock and roll, even played guitar in a band, in uncomfortable with it all.

"There's a part of me that wants to get away from it all because I don't know what it's doing or where it's going. Rock and roll is very powerful. Some people think it's taking apart the fabric of society as we know it. I don't know about that. I always thought (rock and roll) was a good thing."

And so he is at war with himself. "Do I keep doing it? Do I not do it? I don't know."

This is not a simple fellow; and certainly not an artist to be pigeon-holed in the realist gerne, no mater what some of his more commercial picture-post-card prints suggest.

His waters run deep and murky.

Through this weekend, a collection of Rooney's work is on display at the New Westminster Library.

Included are the three album covers the Burnaby North high school grad has done, two for Annihilator and another for the lesser known band Assault. The three prints are hung in the corner and look out of place from the rest of his works.

In one corner hangs his Never Neverland piece for the Annihilator cover of the same name. It features a stormy scene with a fallen young girl, her Raggedy Anne doll at her side, at the edge of the seashore. Above the scene is a flash of lightening with a ghostly vision of a woman.

In another corner of the second-floor gallery is an overhead view of Niagra Falls lit up at night in all its purple glory. And in another, a daylight scene of the steam clock in Vancouver's Gastown, so real and detailed that it looks more like a Kodak moment.

Rooney, on hand for the show's opening, compares the two sides of his work. Actually, it's more of an attempt at an explanation. Even he's not sure.

"There's an attraction to that work," he said, pointing to his album covers. "Some of the images themselves; it gets pretty scary to work on, even think about. I wonder what kind of ...(pause)... You wonder why?"

And if he had a choice between the two styles?

"I would say, keep a balance." Again pointing to the album covers, the 31-year-old Rooney said, that sort of work, uhm ... How do I describe it. It's faster, more intense work. Yet it takes a lot out of you."

Then pointing to the other wall, he added, "This sort of stuff allows me to sit back and relax."

Rooney, an Emily Carr graduate, appears more comfortable with his realist works. And truly, they are more obvious, less interpretive, easier to digest: barren landscapes of boats and winter and farms and Vancouver. These are more straight-line representations than interpretations.

That is not to say they are not powerful, especially when standing from a distance, from where they offer their full impact. This is most true when dealing with his painting of Niagra Falls and his wide and large acrylic reproduction of the Cineplex Theater on Granville St., with its lit up marquee, the colors highlighted by an evening rainfall slickness.

And yet the gallery showing would be incomplete without the contrasting vision of the edgy album covers.

It was by chance that they were ever painted, starting with the Assault cover, a futuristic vision of gold-metal androids battling it out in some Gotham back-alley.

A former bandmate, who had formed Assault, approached Rooney with the idea. Rooney painted it. Annihilator, liking what it saw, followed with idea, and later cheque in hand.

Currently, Rooney is completing a third cover for Annihilator's next release.

Yet, the artist wonders if he will continue dealing with these dark visions.

Someone offers a suggestion: perhaps rock and roll fans of his work aren't looking for some deeper meaning. Maybe they simply like the art and, in their quaint way, say, "Cool."

"An interesting concept," Rooney said. "To sum it up, I'm an artist trying to make a living."

Ah, he is a realist at heart.