Artist’s Statement

“My name is Leah Kohlenberg, and I am a painter hailing most recently from Portland, Oregon. I’ve been painting for sixteen years, and am mostly self taught, though I’ve taken classes at the Gage Academy of Fine Art in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest College of the Arts in Portland, and I’ve studied privately with a host of professional painters spanning the globe in Budapest, Armenia, Croatia and New York City. When I’m not painting, I offer drawing and painting classes in Portland, Oregon, and online through my company Art at Work, teaching drawing in a corporate setting.

I often find that the best way to work with paintings is to work in a series: that is, to take a single idea and tease it out over 10-30 paintings, using specific mediums, style and content.   I nearly always have several series going at any one time – currently, I’m working on a portrait series of women, a looking up at buildings series, an Americana series done in sepia tones, a bridge series and an animal series (based primarily on a trip I took to a Scottish farm this summer). But the series I’m most excited about now is my “City at Night” series, scheduled to launch on October 2, with two paintings being available exclusively here!

Based on the photography of my boyfriend, Rob Forrester, all the paintings are set in the late evening or early morning hours of various cities – primarily Portland, though we’ve also got some New York City and London photos mixed in. Rob is a stagehand and works crazy hours, so he is often out and about at these times, when most of the city is asleep.   His photos of the city at night are very different from mine: they contain no people (though in one case, I swear I saw one and added them in!), and have a very specific atmosphere and mood. It’s a little bit lonely, a little bit removed, still, electrically warm (all those city lights) and a bit reverent, all wrapped into one shot.

I love painting cities and buildings. I’m a child of the city at heart, and while I love the countryside, it’s the urban that gets my blood pumping. Urban architecture is often a feature of my work, and so the guts of this series have been a long time coming.

I’m primarily working in acrylic, though it’s oil you’d normally turn to for that warm city glow, and the technique I’ve developed to capture the warmth was very challenging to develop – I use a lot of glazing mediums and build up the darks, rather than start with them.  It creates the feeling of light coming out of the darkness, an appropriate sentiment for these absurd and terrible times.”

If you have questions or would like to purchase one of the paintings in the AIR Gallery’s fall show please contact Ms. Kohlenberg at:

Leah’s webpage:

Leah is also the author of:  The Roaming Studio Step-by-Step Guide to Drawing Faces