Recently, we at SPICE4LIFE were introduced to the work of Leila Fanner, a local artist, designer, and illustrator. Her work includes painting, graphic design, prints, and curating natural history collections in wooden box frames.

Leila was born in Los Angeles, California to a South African artist and an African-American musician. Raised in South Africa, she studied graphic design and water colour painting at the Johannesburg National School of the Arts.

After working for six years as an art director and production director for a top retail chain, Leila returned to art full-time. Her works has appeared in the Vogue Gallery and Real Simple and Elle Decoration in South Africa. Her most recent exhibition was “Aeipathy” at the Cavalli Gallery in February 2016.

A painting from Leila Fanner's Flora & Gemology series.

A painting from Leila Fanner’s Flora & Gemology series.

Leila answered questions about her life and her work:

Are you a native Capetonian? If not, where are you from and what brought you to Cape Town?

I was born in Los Angeles, California to a South African mother, raised in Pilgrim’s Rest, and schooled in Joburg. I came to Cape Town after high school to study art.

What other positions have you held? Were you ever on a completely different career path?

Yes. I’ve been a Public Relations Practitioner and PA for an engineering company, a Promotions Manager at GQ and House&Garden magazines, and an Art Director for Woolworths foods.

What awards or recognitions have you or your company achieved?

Hmmm…I think I’d better start entering some art competitions! Old ones: Quite a number of the Woolworths foods ranges that I worked on were successful enough for the sister company Marks&Spencer to adopt for the UK market. I won a Best Actress award at the Wits Play Festival in high-school, and a Top Student award in a Public Relations diploma course.

What are you most proud of accomplishing during the course of your life or career? Why?

Deciding in my mid 30’s to follow my heart and give up the corporate ladder by first designing myself a way out of the office job to being a freelance art director to Woolworths, then finally walking away from it entirely to commit to full-time art as a career and business. I did a lot of research and taught myself how to build my own website, create my own licensing deals with various clients and get an international agent.

What are you currently working on?

An abstract series of paintings on wood called Flora & Gemology that centres my focus on the crossing of paths between the geometric forms, light refraction and origins of gemstones and floral shapes. I’m also busy with some very large – almost abstract -portraits that I revisit in between.

Where do you see yourself and your organisation in the future?

I also create surface pattern designs for licensed use on home ware and paper products. So I am currently signing up with an international agent to go bigger with the design side of my art. I see myself having a nice enjoyable balance between work I do for exhibition and work I do for commercial use.

What else are you involved in?

I am based in Riebeek Kasteel, which is soon to host the first Solo Studio’s event, of which I am a part. Art lovers and buyers from around the country will be attending a special weekend-in the-country of touring private local art studio’s and buying art directly from the artists themselves.

What do you do in your free time?

I walk, dance and do yoga. I draw A LOT. I design websites and logos for friends and family. I eat lots of dark chocolate and make up new green smoothie recipes almost daily.

How do you define success?

That unmistakably good feeling you get when you realise that for no reason other than that you are alive and fully present in that moment – you are happy.

What does being a leader mean to you? What leadership qualities do you admire?

Independent thinker. People who have the ability to completely focus on their own path regardless of what their peers are doing/saying or think.

What is your life’s motto?

Everything will be fine in the end – and if it’s not fine, it’s not the end!

What gets you through tough times?

Meditation and doing my best to see every interaction as an opportunity to practice unconditional love.

A painting from Leila Fanner's Flora & Gemology series.

A painting from Leila Fanner’s Flora & Gemology series.

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