Self-taught painter obsessive about art

Artist Paula Leftwich doesn’t care where she paints. She’s happy outside in the open air, or at her home studio. Recently, she’s even been setting up shop at Shady Palm Gallery on Thursdays to finish up her acrylic lifelike projects.

Her forte: incredibly detailed marine life and bird scenes. “I’m truly obsessive with the tiny details,” she said as a self-taught painter who has professionally been painting for 15 years.

Moving from the coastal region of Mississippi six years ago, her interests changed from her egrets and herons to underwater views.

“The Florida Keys wildlife is so beautiful,” she said. She’s usually strapped to a GoPro on snorkeling trips to Sombrero Reef and Looe Key. “I don’t want to miss anything, so I usually film so I don’t miss the moment and then take the still shots of that to work with.”

She said each spot has something different to offer: Sombrero was the beautiful coral structures while Looe Key offers big fish. She’s also found inspiration at Pennekamp and other lesser known reefs off Marathon.

One of her favorites to paint sky-wise is the roseate spoonbills. “My girlfriend said she saw some off Grassy Key a couple weeks ago; that flash of pink is unmistakable,” she said. “It sparked my interest in painting them.”

As for egrets and herons, she said they are majestic and graceful. “They translated well to here from Mississippi,” she said.

She’s always been a lover of animals and, before moving to the Keys, worked as a veterinarian technician and a dog trainer. She and her husband Hal also have a rescued boxer named Windley (after the Key) and a rescued cockatiel named Schooner.

She is a regular on Thursdays painting in-house at Shady Palm Gallery in Marathon, is no stranger to local festivals like Pigeon Key Art Festival, and teaches classes during the season at The Art Studio.


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