Artist finds freedom in creativity

Artist Leslie Ober will featured throughout the month of July at the Southside Art League Off Broadway Gallery. Submitted photo.
Artist Leslie Ober will featured throughout the month of July at the Southside Art League Off Broadway Gallery. Submitted photo.

With every brush stroke and dab of color, the thrill of discovery only amplifies.

Leslie Ober will not be bound in. As an artist, she’s opened herself up to all different kinds of creativity, from portrait photography to mixed media pieces to abstract acrylic paintings. The joy in trying something new is as rewarding as the finished piece.

One of her favorite quotes comes from the author George Bernard Shaw: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Those words steer her throughout her artistic journey, and she hopes that comes through in her work.

“I want to encourage people to never stop playing,” she said. “People need to have permission just to explore. We’re all creative. For some people, that might look like an amazing meal, or for someone else, that might be a perfectly organized spreadsheet. But everybody has the things that they put their creativity towards.”

Through electrifying color and fluid forms, Ober is able to capture a feeling or experience while allowing viewers to take their own journey through the piece.

She’s dabbled in all different kinds of art, finding freedom in discovering new approaches and fresh styles. As the featured artist in July at the Southside Art League gallery, she implores people to explore their own creativity.

“Over the past couple years, I’ve given myself permission to explore all facets of creativity,” she said. “I found myself feeling frustrated at the beginning, feeling that in the art world, people want you to specialize. Pick a medium and master it, and be that. That just doesn’t work for me.”

In the bold colors and domineering shapes, the pain and tumult of life could be overcome. Ober has found solace in her creativity. Depression could be managed with a brush and paint. Throwing herself into artwork helped cope with the grief of losing a pregnancy.

Ober had been interested in a variety of art as far back as her childhood, using art to cope with some tumultuous times in her early life.

“I’m always fascinated by how people feel or are moved by a piece I create,” she said. “And it’s a little piece of myself that I put on that canvas, as I use art often to release emotional energy.”

Though she earned her bachelor’s degree in education from Indiana University, she still found time to take art classes when time allowed.

It was during a bout of depression that she began to truly understand the healing power that creativity can hold. Around her 22nd birthday, her mother bought her an oil painting set. Her experience in oil paints led Ober to join different creative groups around her, even taking her to a week-long intensive workshop in Italy and Slovenia. During that week, she discovered acrylic paint.

Still, she kept looking into ways to expand her artistic scope. After suffering through a number of lost pregnancies, her first child, a son, was born in 2008. At around the same time, Ober picked up a camera.

“I delved into the world of baby and child portraiture,” she said. “I honed my craft, and opened up a business as a professional photographer.”

After a few years operating her own photography business, Ober was compelled to again change her scope. As a Christian, her faith is important to her, and she felt pulled in a different direction shortly after the birth of her second child.

“While I was praying, I felt that God was telling me to just set the camera down and lay it aside. I could not understand why. I was in the height of my business and everything was going wonderfully,” she said. “But I listened.”

The decision proved to be fortuitous. In the following years, she had four more children, and she and her husband decided that they’d prioritize homeschooling them. Ober has been focused on that for more than 12 years.

“I did not have the foresight why I was supposed to step away from the business, but God, in his goodness, he knew,” she said. “I didn’t put the camera away for good; I’d still enter exhibitions, but I no longer had the business.”

Ober still has found time to pursue her creative projects. About five years ago, she returned to painting, and the floodgates opened. She now is open to trying any kind of medium and all different types of styles.

Color dominates her work, and through abstract forms, she is able to convey a wide range of concepts and feelings in different ways.

“I just love trying new things. I might not become a master at any of those things, but I have fun along the way,” she said.

For the Southside Art League show, Ober will feature a selection of her work exemplifying different styles and mediums. At each piece, viewers will find a QR code that they can scan with their phones, where people can try to guess the medium.

“It makes it a little more interactive, rather than just seeing or feeling the work,” she said.

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Leslie Ober exhibition

When: Through July 30

Where: Southside Art League Off Broadway Gallery, 299 E. Broadway St., Greenwood

Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday

Reception: 6-8 p.m. Friday. Light refreshments will be served

Information: or