Artist’s exploration of world more than meets eye

By Kevin Tate

Every morning, just as nature’s night shift is clocking out and making way for the day, Eddie LeRoy, 57, takes to the roads around his home in Eufaula, Ala. He jogs to get his blood flowing, his mind working, and to keep the results of joyful Southern eating at bay. By 7:30, he’s in his studio, turning acrylic paints into wildlife images so striking, their realism spans the dimensions of depth, width and height, then crosses into the bending of time and the sculpting of imagination.

His mastery of light and attention to detail are breathtaking. Under his hand, deer dashing across a creek’s rocky shoal send up sprays of water that settle into ripples that blend into standing waves. Turkeys strutting on green hillsides glow with an iridescent luminosity, dark-toned rainbows shifting and changing in the sun, feathers so real, you expect to see them vibrate with a low-octave drum.

Thanks to his brush, four-legged best friends live forever where the coveys are thick, the roosters are long-tailed and shots from the blind are all true.

LeRoy has produced roughly 100 original pieces of wildlife art, part of a career that began humbly and simply, from a small boy’s infatuation expressed through a talent handed down from God alone.

“I tell people, everybody’s got a talent,” he said. “You’ve just gotta find it. Everyone has their own thing. My thing is basically just a board and some paint. A lot of times I have to pinch myself. When I see something I’ve done, I have to ask myself, ‘Did I really just do that?’”

LeRoy’s inspiration comes naturally, no pun intended. Every moment spent outdoors has its own secrets to share.

“Before I paint, I’m outside,” LeRoy said. “After I paint, I’m outside. I rarely sit and watch TV. I don’t understand how people live in big cities and stay in an office building all day, then go to an apartment. I wasn’t raised like that.”

How he was raised, as one might guess, was outside. He was born in Germany, son of a father in the military and a mother his dad met overseas. The family moved to Eufaula when Eddie was 2 and he’s lived there ever since.

“My dad started taking me to the woods at an early age, and I started drawing as any little boy will: trucks, cars and deer,” he said. “I’ve always loved the outdoors and, back then, that was all you could do in Eufaula. There was the lake, and there was the woods, and there was nothing else.”

For LeRoy, that’s been more than enough. Enough for a lifetime’s adventure and more.

He attended art school in Atlanta and went to work producing commercial art in his first professional job for a firm in Montgomery, Ala. When that dwindled, he made up for lost income by working in a local grocery store, where his talent soon became apparent.

“The manager found out I could paint and asked me to do some signs,” LeRoy says with a smile. “I was so good at that, it soon became all I was doing. I panted the whole store before the commercial work picked back up and I could leave.”

LeRoy’s surroundings inspire his work, parts both natural and manmade.

“I put in a lot of barns, grist mills and old cars,” he said. “The places I’m familiar with often have that. I incorporate the old barns I saw growing up, often leaning, never in perfect repair. The elements of nature affect everything. Incorporating that aspect adds to the realism.”

What LeRoy brings to the canvas comes both from without and within, delivering images that create magic of their own.

“I start with a sketch, but the process of painting brings out discovery,” he said. “Each painting has something in it I really like. In the painting I’m working on now, I love the way the light is hitting the buck in question.”

The smallest pieces are the elements hardest to master, which make them the most important finds in quality’s ultimate pursuit.

“The hardest part of any painting is getting the light right,” LeRoy said. “If a guy wants a deer brought back to life, I’ll take photographs of a mount, then have to decide where the light’s coming from in the scene.”

LeRoy works from 7:30 in the morning until 5 or 5:30 in the afternoon and, on average, produces 12 to 15 pieces per year. Today, his mastery routinely graces the covers of major national magazines. Prints of his originals draw every eye at conservation fundraising banquets nationwide. His originals grace the walls in scores of stately homes. 

Recently, he provided some of his work to be sold by Turkeys For Tomorrow.

“In the 80s, when I was a teenager, it was nothing special to hear 20 or 30 gobblers on a spring morning around home,” LeRoy said. “Now, in those same places, if you hear 2 or 3 you’re doing well. I like helping TFT’s mission to bring back turkey populations to what they used to be. Days like those don’t have to be just a memory.”

To see more of LeRoy’s work, click here to visit his website.

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