Colors, forms, and movement from the natural world inspire my paintings, merging boundaries between representation and abstraction. My background in geology and microbiology filled my mind with images from both the landscape scale and the microscopic scale. I want to engage the viewer with ambiguity and changes in perspective.


Over the past few years I painted a series of closeup portraits of animals, using watercolor, gouache and ink on bristol board. I developed a fascination with the way that color and extreme magnification could turn a realistic photographic drawing into something that might initially look like a landscape or abstract painting, but with a change in perspective could click into a recognizable animal.

Between 1980 and 2004, my early watercolor and mixed media paintings evolved from landscapes to non-representational expressionistic images with suggestions of animal figures and faces. After taking a biological illustration course in 2004, I found myself unable to work in the non-representation mode, so would place realistic figures into a more abstract background.

Lea is a retired scientist (geologist, microbiologist) living in Santa Cruz, California.

The recent series entitled “Close Encounters” uses a more integrative approach to combining abstraction and realism.