Fran LeBlanc and her husband, Dick Drake, usually find themselves outdoors, taking a stroll through a canyon or some ruins. For Dick, it’s an opportunity to take some photos for his photography.
For Fran, it’s an experience she won’t get anywhere else.
“I'm a real outdoor person and I love nature,” Leblanc said. “I’ve lived here 46 years, and I’m still jazzed every time I go out. It’s almost like it’s the first time.”
Much of the time she spends outside is reflected in her work as a painter. Leblanc often uses Drake’s photos, translating his art onto the canvas. It’s quite the collaboration — one that’s been blossoming for nearly 14 years and one she feels when painting.
“When I’m in the zone, it's like I’m meditating,” LeBlanc said. “Like it’s natural. It just flows out. It’s this beautiful, safe place. It’s just such a peaceful, beautiful place to be. It’s really wonderful to do art out of that space.”
At the moment, LeBlanc focuses on paintings and gourds. Although she has done stained glass, for now, gourds and painting are the sweet spot.
“I’ve tried a lot of different mediums and some just speak to you,” LeBlanc said. “Gourds are just so earthy. It's fun and they have good energy.
“I love to paint the sand dunes around Alamosa and I've painted Mount Sneffels a lot,” she added.
Much of her inspiration comes from the places she’s been. After visiting a ruin, trail, river or any outdoor location, LeBlanc is inspired to pour those experiences into her work.
“It’s like nothing else in the world exists,” LeBlanc said. “I love nature so much. It’s like being in meditation. When I look at [my painting], I feel myself on the rock that I usually sit on. I feel it.”
LeBlanc has been around the San Juan mountains so much that she could refer to herself as the Chamber of Commerce since people always come to her for recommendations.
“I know a lot of trails, I’m like the Chamber of Commerce,” LeBlanc said. “People will call me and say, ‘Fran, I’m having company this weekend, where should I take them?’, and I can always tell them.”
Her gourds reflect those experiences, too. With a gourd that depicts the ruins and canyons of the southwest, LeBlanc shapes the design to look like ruins, and the top of the gourd has a building like shape to it. Sometimes, she will turn the gourds into what looks like Indian pottery.
LeBlanc doesn’t find herself challenged too often when she’s working on her art. Her enthusiasm won’t let the challenge become too much to overcome.
“When I get really enthusiastic about something and I can picture it in my head, if I feel like I can get down on the canvas what’s in my mind and my heart, then once while, it is a challenge, but not too often,” she said.
There’s no shortage of locations LeBlanc has painted; the Grand Canyon River, East Dallas Creek near Telluride, and the Sand Dunes outside Alamosa are just a few.
Each location represents a time her and Drake spent their time enjoying the outdoors. A trip outside represents an opportunity for them to capture their art, which makes their collaboration unique, LeBlanc says.
It can’t always be about work, LeBlanc added. Having fun should be a priority. There needs to be a proper balance. That way, it might just inspire the next person to start their journey.
“I think part of my reason being on this Earth is to show many people that it’s not all about work,” LeBlanc said. You have to have some fun. I’ve just had fun all my life... it's relaxation, it's meditation. It’s the core of what makes us who we are, to have fun and be enthusiastic.”
Some of Leblanc’s work is featured at Art by the Park in Ridgway, the Ute Indian Museum in Montrose, and Jackie’s Trading Post Gallery in Taos, New Mexico.