Artist Leighton Fossum

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LEIGHTON FOSSUM:  Artist and Illustrator, 1922- 2011
By Victoria Chick, contemporary figurative artist and early 19th & 20th century print collector. Photos of art by Tom Maxfeldt.



A treasure trove of paintings, documents, and books were left behind after the death of artist and illustrator Leighton Fossum that, put together, reveal the talent and interests of a man who led an amazingly diverse life.

 

Fossum was born in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. He attended the Minneapolis Art Institute and the New York Art Students League, becoming a productive graphic designer and commercial artist in the Minneapolis area. The invoice books found in his files indicate his skills were in demand as a graphic designer. He also illustrated children’s books and educational materials. Black Cowboy: The Story of Nat Love by Charlotte Clark, was published in 1970, and was illustrated by Fossum.

 

He gained a reputation as an outdoor artist doing paintings that became limited edition prints for the Rapala Fishing Lure Company. His paintings were also featured on the cover of Rapala catalogues. These prints are now collectors’ items.

His profound attention to detail is most evident in the paintings he did after he retired from commercial art. Fossum’s shift toward fine art coincided with his move in the 1980s, to the desert areas of Arizona and, later, New Mexico. He roamed the area recording what he saw in sketchbooks and with a camera. Whatever interested him was likely to be incorporated later into a painting.

 

A mixed media approach to defining visual texture was a method he often employed. Leighton Fossum worked mostly on gessoed panels, preferring gouche, fine point pen and ink, and the humble pencil to build up textures. Subjects of weathered wood, plant life, rocks, and objects worn by the Southwest wind and sun make the viewer certain that Fossum was a sharp observer. Some of his paintings are of historical events or historic figures for which he did considerable research to get the details correct. Leighton Fossum’s love of horses is reflected in the number of paintings he did that included these animals. Compositional surprises occur in many of his paintings as he always sought to present a place or situation from an unusual point of view.

 

Out of Gas by Leighton Fossum. Casein and ink. Collection of Victoria Chick.In addition to his life in commercial and fine art, he served in WWII, was a pilot, inventor, and patent holder. Fossum sold works through several galleries in Tucson, Arizona.

 

Victoria Chick is the founder of the Cow Trail Art Studio in southwest New Mexico. She received a B.A. in Art from the University of Missouri at Kansas City and awarded an M.F.A. in Painting from Kent State University in Ohio. Visit her website at www.ArtistVictoriaChick.com

 

 

 

 

Artist Victoria Chick
Celebrate the Arts


About the Author:

Victoria Chick is the founder of the Cow Trail Art Studio in southwest New Mexico. She received a B.A. in Art from the University of Missouri at Kansas City and awarded an M.F.A. in Painting from Kent State University in Ohio.

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