Leanne Cusack is well known as the popular host of CTV’s live one-hour show, The News at Noon. Born in Halifax, Leanne’s journalism career began thirty years ago when she was hired as a general news reporter at CJOH-TV while studying at Carleton University. Her natural curiosity in people and their stories has contributed to her long-time career success, yet this creative and adventurous woman has a variety of other talents and interests.
A nature lover, Leanne lives in her home, which she has named Peaceful Breath, on the Gatineau River in Chelsea, where she likes to ski, snowshoe or kayak in the beauty of her surroundings. It is also where she met the renowned landscape artist Gordon Harrison, who is now her artistic mentor after his art classes ignited her passion for painting. Positive reactions to her artwork increased her confidence and encouraged Leanne to set up a home studio to pursue her dream.
Combining an exciting career with artistic pursuits helps Leanne attain a healthy work life balance which allows her to unwind, exhale and create. Nature grounds and fuels her, while also providing the creative motivation to generate artwork which she hopes people will enjoy as much as she loves the personal process of creative expression.
Tapping into her adventurous side, Leanne participated in a fundraising climb to the Mount Everest Base Camp in Nepal nearly four years ago. She was travelling with Dream Mountains Foundation to support her chosen charity, the Ottawa School Breakfast program, but the group landed in Katmandu the day before an earthquake hit. They had to leave three days later due to aftershocks and the severe devastation, which left her feeling powerless, vulnerable and terrified.
While these memories still haunt her, Leanne finds peace and contentment in strong family relationships and friendships. She continues to enjoy the variety and versatility of her work and wants to tell more stories, share experiences and do even more.
Is it difficult to balance your artistic goals with your successful television career? When I paint, I turn my brain in a different direction. I end up painting late at night or on the weekends and get incredibly still and contemplative. I lose myself as painting is meditative and a contrast to my busy-ness. My demanding job involves constant conversation and activity. Art makes you look at everything in a different way. I focus on the canvas and the mixing of the colours. I don’t think of anything but what I am putting on the canvas. Art is always supposed to make you feel something, even if it is as simple as making you happy and joyous.
How have you developed your artistic passion? Art is one of many passions and the beauty is that they overlap. I love spending time outside. Nature feeds my spirit and it fuels painting. Primarily, I am an abstract and landscape artist and consider myself an enthusiastic work in progress. The pieces that I paint are all different, but the common thread is that there is a lot of colour and energy. I love to hear from those who have bought my paintings and how they make them feel.
Although I work in a very public and social industry, I value quiet time. I will confess to being a “shy painter” in the beginning. You feel vulnerable sharing something so intimate and personal. For me, life without art would be unimaginable.
Has there been a special memorable response to your art? My mother is 93 years old and a few years ago I found an old black and white photograph of her family farm in Antigonish, Nova Scotia from the early 1940s. It was a landscape photo of the back of the house, the ocean and other homes in the area. I happily added colour to it and she now hangs it proudly in her kitchen. She comments on it every day and shows it to guests pointing out that it is the house she was born in. When I gave it to her, she was overwhelmed with emotion and excitement.
Where do you sell your art? Some of my works I hold onto as they are family favorites and those hang everywhere in my house. I have participated in a few smaller art shows, but for the most part it has been private commissions and visitors who come to my studio to see my work. My website, leannecusack.com, will be upgraded so that I can get my work out there as well. There is a 100% satisfaction guarantee – I don’t want anyone to purchase a piece they don’t really enjoy.
Over time I will definitely participate in more shows. The reality is that with a busy career I have not had a lot of time to create a large inventory of works to sell.