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Leigh in her studio.

Featured Article

Lean in and Explore The Magic

How Smyrna artist Leigh Pursley moved through her pain to create a magical life, and then captured her connection to her inspiration on canvas.

As the common proverb says, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Leigh Pursley’s embodiment of this mantra manifested her remarkable life, personally and creatively. At age 25, Leigh was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. “I became depressed and stuck,” Leigh says. “In the last, like, three years getting back out there - it's brought my art and my life to a whole other level.” Three years ago, she got a phone call from her cousin, Cal, to see if she wanted to join him on the trek to Everest Base Camp. Leigh said yes without hesitation - but asked him to give her two years to prepare. Her energy, productivity, and physical shape were greatly diminished as she struggled to adjust to life with a chronic condition. But two years later, on May 6th, 2023, at 1:45pm Nepalese time, Leigh and Cal completed the trek. “And this was just the beginning. No one was going to say that I couldn’t accomplish something.” Her newest series of paintings, “Lean into the Magic,” is one of her most personal, and pulls inspiration from her newfound love of hiking and backpacking. “Travel in general, even when you're not backpacking, gives you this free feeling, and I think it's a big part of how I create.” Leigh has always loved nature and the outdoors. “Waking up on the trail and watching the sunrise is my biggest color inspiration.” Then she layers in sounds, textures, and the changing light. “Almost all of my paintings consist of fifty to hundreds of layers. Each layer is almost a battle I have, from letting things stay and letting things go.” Leigh Pursley leans into her magic, one day, one step, one layer at a time.

Above: Leigh Pursley at Everest Base Camp. “Pushing into the discomfort… that’s where the magic is. I find something about myself that I need to work on, or I find where I've grown. And I think that's the same when it comes to every art piece.” Below: Abstract painting of Everest in process. Leigh’s palette is inspired by the five colors of the prayer flags, each of which represents an element, and together, signify balance. Art by Leigh Pursley is currently on display in “Explore,” the Community Art Exhibit presented by Smyrna Arts Council and the City of Smyrna. Visit smyrnaartscouncil.com to learn more. To commission or connect with Leigh Pursley, visit artofleighpursley.com, and follow her on Instagram at @art_of_leighpursley.

  • Leigh in her studio.
  • Everest Base Camp (credit: Photo Provided)
  • Everest piece in process.