Get To Know...Xavier Leopold
We had a conversation with Xavier Leopold about his latest book, Art for the Heart: A Fill-in Journal for Wellness Through Art. Wonderful journal for young artist to express their feelings and the love for art. A full conversation with Xavier below, discussing his publishing journey and much more.
Art for the Heart: A Fill-in Journal for Wellness Through Art is your first illustrated book. Can you share the inspiration behind it?
I found that exploring my creativity and discovering that passion really helped me. It gave me so much relief in terms of how I felt mentally, and my wellbeing. Looking at the benefits of how it made me feel, I wanted to share this, and hopefully help somebody the same way it helped me. Producing a book, or a colouring activity book will help the next generation, understand what mental health is or what well being passively. Making things more approachable through creativity. I feel that my generation has only just tapped into what mental health or wellbeing is. It’s important for kids to understand and embrace the importance of this at a young age. The Welbeck publishing team approached me and said “Look we want to work with you”, I already had an idea to create a colouring book. They suggested creating a colouring activity journal. The progress to create the book was around nine months, a really long process but a precious journey.
When did you discover your love for art? What was that experience like?
I've always appreciated art. The mind of an artist has always fascinated me. I didn’t have the confidence to create art. My professional career is as a financial trader. I have worked in the city as a manager since I was eighteen years old. Which I’m currently doing now.
The lockdown period during 2020 allowed me to slow down, really get to speed with my thoughts. I’ve always doodled random post-it notes here and there. Many people would say those doodles are really great. My therapists used to say “you should do something with this, explore art therapy”. When the lockdown happened, some people were fortunate enough to live with people. However, I wasn’t living with someone. I felt my brain was an overload. I had some paints and canvas and I wanted to illustrate my thoughts and feelings on this canvas and then colour it in. During this time, I didn’t realise what I was doing. I thought to myself, this is my concept, which was “how time and experience can change your mental and physical state”. My friends saw my art and said that “it was great art” That's when it just sort of clicked. And I found something that was like a vessel for me. I felt like I had discovered my little superpower during that experience. That can help me with my emotions, relax and also with my anxiety, including telling my story. Fast forward six months after I discovered art, I had my inaugural solo exhibition. I was painting during the height of the pandemic and that was my outlet, which really sort of authenticated my expression. Instantly, I instantly despite the benefits.
What mediums do you create your work in?
Predominantly, I use acrylic anglo paints on canvas. I might explore other mediums like oil pastels or paints. Part of my signature style is using glow in the dark paint throughout my art. When I revealed to my family that I was going through a depression, my mum would remind me she could never tell because I was so radiant and gave off positive energy. As a child, stars fascinated me, especially seeing them in my room at night. I had ones that glowed at night on my wall, which comforted me and made me feel protected. My mum would say to me, “the star shines the brightest when it’s in the dark”. I apply analogy to my craft.
How would you describe your illustration style?
My artistic style stems from Cubism. I feel there is an element of abstract portraiture, featured within my work and illustrative too. Most people view my work as a cartoon, like some sort of utopian vibe. If someone saw these characters pop off the canvas and walked around, we can view it as a utopian sight. The style of my paintings is how I doodle, so subconsciously the style of cubism is featured in my abstract portraiture. I explored my style, I think it’s a reflection of coming from an Afro Caribbean home. My mum and aunties will typically have African style marks around the house. Looking at my work, I can see the similarities between the African masks that we typically had decorated around my home growing up.
Describe your creative space. And why is it special to you?
My creative space is my house. I feel working from home is my comfort zone. I’m able to paint whenever I feel like it. It’s beautiful to see that in 2020, I had a small part in my home that was filled with newspapers on the floor next to the radiator and paintings surrounded me on tiny canvases. Just over a year, I now have an easel in the corner of my living room with art stationery organised, like a mini studio. What’s hilarious is that my neighbours can’t work out what I do. One day I’ll be in a smart shirt, and a jumper, and other days I'll be in my painting overalls, carrying canvases. I really enjoy this way of working. It’s almost like my Batcave and I don’t have to commute that much.
Who inspires you?
Artistically, I would say Jean-Michel Basquiat, Picasso and Paul Gauguin. My mum and the women in my family. From a strength and majestic perspective, Black people inspire me. From a spiritual perspective, God inspires me through God's nature and just now, the world is designed and perfectly balanced. To me, that’s art.
Quick Fire Round
Your favourite snack?
Suya, with the onions, tomatoes and cucumbers.
Any hidden talents?
I can sleep anywhere. No matter the sound or movement around me, within two seconds, my eyes are closed.
Art for the Heart: A Fill-in Journal for Wellness Through Art | Welbeck | Available Here
Photo Credit :Peter Mkistro
About the author
Xavier Laurent Leopold is a self-taught contemporary artist, exploring abstract portraiture, cubism and illustrative styles. He grew up and still lives and works in London. Though Xavier always had a love for art, during the lockdown period in early 2020, he unearthed the artistic side. Leopold pieces draw inspiration from his lived experiences, relationships, ideology and worldview. Leopold’s art has been a source of personal therapy for him, and escapism for his audiences.
Leopold is passionate about giving back to his community with his philanthropic brand, Xavi Art Community. Through it, Xavier works with various organisations, including children’s mental health charity, Place2Be. He also raises awareness and funds for Black Minds Matter UK.