“I look back at my paintings like I look back at my powder runs,” Stuart Leonard says. “Creating these pieces of artwork from a blank canvas just can’t be beat.”
Stuart is referring to his “Shred Art,” a series of what he calls “snowboard mysticism paintings.” These acrylic-based creations are adaptations of photographs and memories styled by the mind’s eye of the British snowboarder. They’re fairly-literal in nature and often feature snowboarders as the subject, along with strong lines and a sense of motion. Over the past eight years he’s created hundreds of these images, dozens of which are now framed and mounted in mountain lovers’ homes across the world.
Stuart grew up in Redditch, England and attended a local college as an art student in the early 1990s. At that time, the rave scene hit England, and in turn Stuart hit the rave scene. He fell out of drawing for enjoyment and initially enjoyed the debauchery, but quickly sought something more fulfilling. Snowboarding served as Stuart’s salvation, when one winter day a friend brought him out to slide some hills around town. Soon after that he discovered the Tamworth Snowdome, an indoor snowboarding facility just 45 minutes away from Redditch. A few years of riding the Snowdome led Stuart to a full season at Morzine-Avoriaz, France where he first experienced the Alps. Upon his return from Morzine, Stuart picked up work at the Dome. He was hooked.
“It’s safe to say the Snowdome has shaped my life,” Stuart says. “I learned to ride there, set park there and eventually taught there. Teaching there is how I met my girlfriend, Lydia—my inspiration.”
During his time working at the Snowdome is when Stuart starting painting again, too.
“I bought some cheap canvases, brushes and paints, and started having a bit of a play really,” Stuart says. “I started painting mountains—two-tones with solid colors and slightly abstract. Then I started adding in more detail and experimentation, just seeing where it went.”
Stuart and Lydia moved to Coventry and Stuart began working at the Birmingham Airport. On a cold, fateful January day six years into the job, he remembers being huddled underneath a section of a massive Boeing 777 that blows hot air out of the plane, trying to stay warm with a few of his coworkers. A security guard who looked to be in his 60s was standing with a glazed face among them.
“I looked into his eyes and I swear I saw nothing,” Stuart recalls. “There was no glint in his eye, no little twinkle—he looked like he may as well have been dead. And I thought to myself, ‘I’m not going to end up like that.’ I mean, you’ve got to have a dream, haven’t ya?”
Stuart cut his hours to one shift a week and now dedicates his time to what he truly loves. With more hours to spend painting, his work became more refined. He started utilizing Instagram (@shred_art_leonard) to promote his work and has watched the popularity of his paintings spike exponentially. It’s led to various commissioned works, snowboard graphics with a Denmark-based brand called Green Viking, a book cover, and most recently Stuart’s seen his designs used for the 2018 Jones Snowboards Explorer and Explorer Split. Less hours at the airport also frees up time for occasional excursions to the Snowdome, too.
Each of Stuart’s detailed works take upwards of 40 hours to create. But, he says, “It’s like snowboarding: sometimes it can be frustrating, but when you step back and look at it, it’s always with a good, proud feeling. And on days when painting isn’t going so great I think, ‘Well, I could be at the airport throwing bags.’”
This story originally appeared in The Snowboarder’s Journal Volume 15 Issue 2.