Leanne Spanza

Bold Colours. Simple Lines. Happy Art.

Canadian Landscape Painter

Three Years Ago I had a Stroke.

I know this isn't art related but I thought I would share this story with you in hopes that it might create a little awareness about the risks of stroke and high blood pressure during pregnancy.

3 years ago today I had a stroke. Jack was born 40 hours later. The scary thing was that I didn't know it was happening and for awhile I didn't talk about it. But now I do. The Okanagan Heart and Stroke Foundation has been a wonderful supporter, I've participated in the annual Art Attack Fundraiser and last October I was one of the key note speakers at the Red Dress Gala. Below is the speech I made before I walked the runway (in 4" heels too). Hopefully if you or someone you know is pregnant keep watch on your blood pressure and know the warning signs. 

xo Leanne


I was 30 and we were expected our second baby in the early spring of 2013. Our daughter Joni was 3, we bought a lovely home out in Lake Country and I had just dove into being a full time artist after leaving the engineering field.

With my last pregnancy my blood pressure had gradually increased and it was something we consistently monitored with my doctor. I was induced with our daughter  and she arrived healthy and strong at 39 weeks.

This time around I was careful, I ate better and rested as much as I could with an energetic three year old but at 38 weeks my blood pressure shot up, much faster than with my first pregnancy. I went to the doctor and was told to be on bed rest. No walking around, just sitting or laying in down.

The next day was my baby shower. I still just sat down and visited, didn't move around more than I was allowed to and it was a very small gathering. I remember standing up to use the washroom when I started to feel nauseous and my vision went blurry.

In between pregnancies I would sometimes get migraines and although I had never had one during a pregnancy, I assumed this was one coming on. The symptoms were similar.

I asked for a drink of water and sat back down to rest, and breathe. I remember being on the couch and listening to the kids and my friends conversations. I remember not being able to piece the conversations together. The string of words that I heard were not making sense. I remember not being able to think of the correct words when someone asked me a question. I couldn't remember the word 'Parking', it kept coming out as Princess, or Potatoe until I finally said 'that space where you drive a car into'.

The baby shower ended quickly after that, I took some Tylenol, rested and eventually my symptoms lightened. I went to bed.

The next morning I called my doctor and described my 'strange migraine'. He told me to rush down to the hospital as soon as I can. My blood pressure was through the roof and I spent the next few hours being monitored at the hospital.

That's when I learned that it wasn't a migraine but a small stroke and that I was 'lucky'.

While there it was also noted that I was measuring on the smaller side. Being 38 weeks, and feeling anything BUT small, that almost seemed like a compliment But I knew it wasn't. I went for an ultrasound to check our baby (we didn't know if it was a boy or a girl). Our doctor told me that yes, I was measuring small and that our baby was also measuring small. I remember saying that our daughter was 6 pounds 10 ounces which I thought and knew, to be small by our families history. Then he said very seriously. NO, I mean really small. As in four to four and a half pounds small.

My heart sank.

The baby seemed to be doing ok but it turned out that my placenta had been shutting down prematurely and our baby needed to come out asap. So on March 11, 2013 at 38 weeks I was induced. Carefully. Still in the early stages of labour, during one of the contractions our baby's heart rate plummeted by almost half and the nurse ran out of that dark room. 

The rest is a long story that happened over a very short period of time. It was the scariest, darkest moments of my life and I'm sure my husbands life too. But it turned into love when our son Jack was born on March 12 at 4:30am by an emergency c section. His tiny body and heart couldn't handle labour and they didn't think he would have survived. He weighed just 4.5 pounds and was rushed to the NICU where he stayed for almost a week until we could come home. Today he's a healthy and happy 2.5 year old who loves trucks and chocolate chip cookies. 

It took me almost two years to open up to people what had happened during Jack's pregnancy. I'm not quite sure why I didn't talk about it. Maybe it was that I didn't want to worry our families. Or scare my friends. That I was kind of embarrassed about what had happened. But I think the real reason was that I didn't want to accept what happened to me, to us, because that means that I shouldn't have any more kids. And that hurts.

I took part in the Heart and Stroke Foundations Art Attack event last February where I created a painting, along with 7 other Okanagan Artists in under an hour. The paintings were then auctioned off to raise money for the foundation. I opened up about my story then and met the wonderful organizers, Jessica and Wendy, who asked me to speak tonight. It took some convincing but then I thought about all my friends, cousins and family who are getting pregnant and having babies, and how my situation took me and my family by surprise. I thought - if I can share my story, bring awareness to the risks of high blood pressure and stroke during pregnancy, and potentially help someone else, then absolutely this is something I should do.


For more info on Heart and Stroke please visit http://www.heartandstroke.com


Where Have I Been??

Since the end of September I have been running what feels like a small sweatshop here in our home. 

Let me start over.

At the end of September I participated in the always fabulous Etsy Show at Sandhill Winery. I had such a great time meeting new faces, welcoming familiar faces and reconnecting with the Etsy community here in the Okanagan. It was so packed the first few hours that at times people couldn't even stop at the tables! When the show was done, I packed up and re-evaluated my Market Plan and Strategy. Wow, that sounded professional didn't it? Really it's just me scribbling out display ideas, writing down what worked and what didn't and creating lists of what I want to accomplish at the next one. I keep track of what sells and how many people attend the show and this helps me to prepare how many paintings, prints, cards, etc I should bring to the next show.

The Next Show.

I'm going to lump all three of the Next Shows into one big preparation and when I sat down that day after the Etsy Show it scared me. I had three big shows over three weeks with the Winter/Christmas Markets and I had to start getting ready right there and then. I had just over two months to paint, print, and make. I LOVE the Kelowna Okanagan Markets. They are my home and this year I decided to take a step out and apply for Make It Vancouver where I was accepted. YAY! Here's what scared me a little (ok a lot). Our Okanagan shows attract somewhere between 4000-7000 people and I'm comfortable with that. I'm excited. Make It Vancouver attracts between 30,000-40,000. OMG

My mind started spinning, how am I going to prepare? How many prints, cards, paintings, notebooks, colouring books (you see where I'm going) am I going to have to make?! Going back to my calculations A LOT.

I talked it all out with Carl (the husband) and we set up a plan to get this done. Since the end of September we have been making, painting and building......because of course I wanted to change up my whole display at the same time too. Every night after the kids go to bed the printer is running, I'm at the easel painting and Carl is binding colouring books, stuffing card and print envelopes, slicing paper and pouring me a big glass of wine. So that is what I have been up to. I've been trying to stay in touch through my Facebook page and Instagram and please forgive my absence on my blog. 

I would post photos of my preparations but seriously my house is a gong show. There are prints pilled on desks and tables, boxes piled next to the TV and my display is set up in my living room taking over almost half of the room. Instead here's a photo of me at my easel.

I've also been working on a collection of original paintings that I haven't shared yet. These are smaller paintings ranging from 4" x 6" to 10" x 20" and priced from $40 - $200. I have approx 16 of them. Perfect for an original Christmas gift for a loved one or yourself! If you're interested and can't make it to the markets send me at email at leannespanza@gmail.com 

We are now one week away from my first show. Bottega is November 28th and 29th, Make It Vancouver is December 3rd-6th and Craft Culture Kelowna is December 12th & 13th.  If you're in the area come visit me and the others artists and crafters. Shop local and support handmade. We put a TON of work and love into our art and are thrilled to share it with you. 

A coffee would be great too. 

I would LOVE to hear from you. Do you shop at these kind of markets and craft shows? Do you have a favourite Market you attend every year? I'm always trying to plan for next year and search out shows that would be a good fit for me and my art, if you have any suggestions I would appreciate it.

For more info on these events please check out my event page and I hope to see you there.

 

http://leannespanza.com/upcoming-events-1/

Thank you so much

xo Leanne


Artwalk Then and Now

The Friday night before Artwalk I can never sleep

 I'm up all night tossing and turning, going over and over my set up that I completed earlier that evening and buzzing with excitement. It's my biggest art show of the year and every year, it feels like I go back to 2010 when it was my first art show. Yes, Artwalk was my first ever art show. It was in front of 6000 people and it was terrifying. I had always wanted to apply to Artwalk but I only created a painting or two a year. In 2010 I was on maternity leave with Joni and I had painted five so with much encouragement from Carl I applied.  I had no idea what people would think, accept that the jury must have saw something in my art and certainly not in my CV (artist resume) because there was nothing there. I remember walking to the main building, under those flags that they have up every year with my stomach in knots and my head was spinning. What was I going to say to everyone who came by? What were they going to ask me? Was I really going to be able to pull off being an artist? Would people actually like my art? Besides my friends and family no one had seen it before and, well, they basically have to say that they like it right? I wanted to meet every artist possible and introduced myself as often as I could and then the show began. I started to get some positive feedback, lots of questions and about half way through I SOLD my first painting! I could not believe it and was just flying. Carl came by half an hour before the end of the first day with Joni, who was only 11 months old at the time. While he was there a couple came by that had been by before looking at my large 48" x 48" painting of Kelowna. I had listed it for $1000 which Carl and I thought was ridiculous, that no one would EVER pay that much.

'Kelowna' 48"x48" SOLD

'Kelowna' 48"x48" SOLD

Then they said they would take it. 

I remember trying not to faint, scream, cry and resist hugging them all at the same time. I remember looking over at Carl, who was behind them, who silently mouthed the words 'Holy Sh*t!' to me. That was my moment. That was when I knew I could do this. 

That Artwalk I sold a total of 4 paintings, which was half my work. I met some inspiring artists who I'm still friends with and chatted with as many of those 6000 that walked by. That Artwalk gave me the confidence and kick in the butt to say 'Let's GO, I can do this'.

After take down that year we got a bottle of Cipes Brut and after only two days of 'being an artist' Carl and I decided that I could go back to work part time so that I could spend more time with Joni but also to pursue this artist dream. I was very fortunate that at the time I was working in Mechanical and Refrigeration engineering and they were very supportive of my creative pursuits and I could be completely honest with them about it. When I went back to work in December 2010 I was the only part time employee in a large company with five different offices across Canada and into the USA. And I painted away like a mad woman, but I'll tell you more about my first year in another post. 

Until then, below is a little gallery of my past Artwalk displays. 

Artwalk 2010 (sorry for the bad angle)

Artwalk 2010 (sorry for the bad angle)

Artwalk 2011

Artwalk 2011

Artwalk 2012

Artwalk 2012

Artwalk 2013

Artwalk 2013

Artwalk 2013

Artwalk 2013

Artwalk 2014

Artwalk 2014

Artwalk 2014

Artwalk 2014

Artwalk 2015

Artwalk 2015

This year was fantastic. I was set up in the Foyer which had amazing light and allowed me to see everyone right when they walked in. There are so many wonderful art supporters in the Okanagan and the talent here is amazing. One thing I get most excited about is seeing the other artists and what they have created this year. Artwalk is almost like a 'coming out party' for us, we've been in the studio all year and that weekend is all about coming out and celebrating how we've grown in the last year. 

Thank you to everyone who came by and said hello, to those who took home original art and supported our dream and especially to all the volunteers and organizers of Artwalk. You gave me and so many others the opportunity to share, inspire and create. 

Below is a gallery of the paintings that sold at Artwalk and are now hanging on the walls of the wonderful people who support me and my art. Always grateful. 

'Two Lakes' 40"x30" SOLD

'Two Lakes' 40"x30" SOLD

'Big White Clock Tower' 30"x36" SOLD

'Big White Clock Tower' 30"x36" SOLD

'The Rockies' 24"x12" SOLD

'The Rockies' 24"x12" SOLD

'The Ski Village' 24"x20" SOLD

'The Ski Village' 24"x20" SOLD

'The First Swim' 20"x16" SOLD

'The First Swim' 20"x16" SOLD

'Hazy Summer Days' 24"x30" SOLD

'Hazy Summer Days' 24"x30" SOLD

'The Snowman' 10"x8" SOLD

'The Snowman' 10"x8" SOLD

'Arbutus Tree' 8"x8" SOLD

'Arbutus Tree' 8"x8" SOLD