The first son of second-generation Italian/Jewish-American parents, Leonardo traces he creative history to his childhood where he still holds memories of his father’s drawing technique instructions. To this day Leonardo not only continues to draw but over the years he’s added several other disciplines to his creative pallet: photography, painting, sculptures, literature, acting, comedy and most recently, singing. Aside from drawing, Leonardo’s first adventure into the world of Art came via 35 mm film, in the back of a Pentax K-1000. It was through that lens and the study of countless-famous existing Black & white images that he developed his Artist’s eye, which would go on to create images which have exhibited and sold across the country, been published, won competitions, and grace the walls of private collections. Leonardo has lectured and taught B&W photography to young amateurs and seasoned professional. He’s also taught himself how to paint (with and around his colorblindness) and sculpt. Although still learning the craft of filmmaking, Leonardo was initially schooled in its fundamentals in high school then at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) followed by actual work behind and in front of Hollywood cameras. Additionally, like photography, so much of Leonardo’s understanding and relationship to the process and art of Film comes from being a consummate cinephile-who has consumed thousands of films. Another pocket in Leonardo’s creative pallet is the written word: his ability to paint poetically in prose and verse can be traced back to junior high school but it wasn’t until the recent past where this discipline truly began to blossom.
Leonardo calls Charles Bukowski his favorite poet, Mother Nature his favorite visual artist, and has a hard time deciding between Billy Wilder, Martin Scorsese and Francis Coppola as his favorite filmmaker.
PopImpressKA Journal: Growing up in such a colorful artistic family what is the most valuable lesson you have learned from your parents as a human being and as an artist?
Leonardo the Fabulous: I wouldn’t describe my family as colorful or artistic. My parents were/are both first-generation Americans, art wasn’t an iatrical part of their lives, survival was. However, when I was about eleven, my mother began her tenure as a “craft lady and over the years she’s made, designed and helped others create hundreds of “craft pieces,” including ceramics. Although the overwhelming majority of her work was done by herself, she did introduce my brothers and I to ceramics when I was about thirteen. I learned techniques for pouring molds and working with the clay pre and post firing, as well as how to glaze (paint) them. From my father I learned skills that have been with and helped me my entire life. He taught me how to use hand and power tools, how to take apart, fix and repair most everything one encounters in life. I learned how to assess situations and problems and how to tackle them. I continue to use these skills to this very day-as many of the projects I take on are a first-of-a-kind and have little to no reference, leaving me with none but myself to figure out how to reach my desired goal.
“I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” P. Picasso
However, perhaps the most significant thing I learned from my father was what I call, “Blacky’s ice breaking theory.” (“Blacky” was my father’s childhood nickname.) As a teen, on a cold winter’s day I was tasked with breaking up a newly-formed ice sheet on the walkway in our back yard. The ice was think and spread wide. I complained that “it would take forever.” “There’s so much ice.” I said. My father told me to not look at the entire ice sheet, but instead just focus on the section directly where my shovel met the ice and to concentrate my efforts there. “Just do one little section at a time, don’t even think about the rest of it…and before you know it, you’ll be done.” Although simple in its concept, it wasn’t until I actually heard such words-for the first time that I learned a lesson on not just breaking up ice but on dealing with not just arduous tasks, but more pleasant ones such as acting, or even martial arts. If the actor isn’t in the moment, he won’t be believable. If the martial artist is thinking about what his opponent may next instead of what’s happening at this very moment, he’s going to get kicked in the head or slammed to the ground. The kid with the shovel, the actor on stage, the fighter and all of us need to live in and deal with the Now, as its all we have. Pay attention to where your shovel is striking, not the ice twenty feet away. Understanding this concept helped me through the worst and most challenging parts of my life.
PJ: What fashion means to you?
What are your favorite fashion trends?
For me it’s more "style," than "fashion." Contrary to what those who see me these days would think, my current-fabulous style is new. It was born a little over a year ago. As a kid, I’m sure I was subliminally influenced by "Frank Sinatra men." Their style was and still is COOL. Unfortunately my family was borderline poor so my dad wasn't able to dress that way and my mother, the record will reflect, never had any interest in being stylish-at all. It would be years before my father started dressing sharp. So as a youngster I was left adrift on Fashion Island. But then in high school I found a new influence; the black guys in my high school. I began to emulate their style, with a hint of Me tossed in. Meanwhile, a few years earlier, as a babysitter for our neighbors, I "discovered" women'sclothes and can’t help but think, that teenage-sexual stimulation laid the subliminal groundwork for what I wear today. For the longest time getting “dressed up” was purely sexual and “closeted.” Then in mid-2017 while bravely wearing a combination of men’s and women’s clothes in public I was told, by a man, “I really dig your style.”
I had no idea I “had a style,” and was floored that someone (particularly a man) would complement it/me. I pushed it more and more, searching endless racks of countless thrifts stores looking for clothes that “worked.” The clothes and I have developed a symbiotic relationship; I pick the them and the they steer me to where they think I should go. It’s no longer a purely sexual predilection or “cross dressing,” but a fashion style that reflects all elements of me, including my art.
PJ: You have been involved in almost every aspect of the show business and tried many professions including teaching, what is next for you?
LTF: Recently I’ve been exposed to and given the opportunity to work with tools, particularly a computer-controlled laser cutter which I had no idea existed. Working with and understanding what these tools can do has opened up creative pathways beyond anything I’d ever conceived of before. As such I’m making and selling art that’s not just new to me but to the world and I look forward to making (and selling) more of this type of work. However, as much as I enjoy devising and creating this type of work, my primary goal is to get back in to filmmaking-on the Feature level: I want to direct stories that I write. Currently I have about twelve really good ideas in different degrees of completion, with one completed. Now I just need a few million dollars to bring it to fruition.
PJ: What is the most valuable lesson you have learned working in entertainment industry and what is the most challenging thing to deal with being an artist and such a creative?
LTF: One word: focus. Not just for the Art world but for whatever it is you do you want to do it –Focus
Picasso said, a painter must paint every day, all day long and not bother with anything else.
During rare times in my life, when I’ve been able to focus, I’ve produced the most and best work. If you work like a honey bee; flying directly from plant to plant, collecting nectar and returning directly back to the hive to complete your task you will achieve your goal(s). However, If you do as I’ve done- too often, you’ll wind up like me; one whose had occasions over the years to ride the train of Opportunity, but blowing those chances because of my lack of discipline and difficulties focusing, thereby falling off that train and landing in the mud.
The only way to succeed (regardless of your definition of that word) is to FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS.
PJ: If you would take a lesson from any creative artist, thinker, philosopher out there who would it be?
- Be an honorable person
Picasso said a painter must paint every day, all day. Jerry Seinfeld said a writer must write every day
Aristotle said, “Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.”
PJ: What artists and what other talented creatives have inspired you to become who you are today?
LTF: My name sake, Senior DaVinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Dali, Van Gogh, Seurat, Louis David, Helmut Newton, Leni Riefenstahl, Dorothea Lange, MC Escher, Rockwell, Rousseau….Mother Nature
PJ: What are your future plans?
LTF: See #2
PJ: What is your favorite book, Cuisine, Film, time of the year, holiday?
LTF: Book: Creativity and Madness, Film: The Godfather, Time of year: Summer Holidays: No interest in holidays.
PJ: What does happiness means to you?
LTF: Other than being free of shackles and pain, I’m honestly not sure.
PJ: What is the most challenges you have experienced during your career?
LTF: Like most unknown artist, consistently trying to support myself via my art and not being able to share with the world what exist in my create soul.
PJ: What would be your understanding of a successful artist?
LTF: This depends on which barometer we use? The monitory measuring meter says Van Gogh was a complete failure-selling only one painting during his lifetime. The artistic-contributing meter says he perhaps is the most successful artist of all time. While I’m alive I’d consider myself successful if I could survive comfortably by doing nothing other than making and selling art. However that all ends once I’m dead. No young artist twenty, fifty or 100 years after my death will be inspired or care because I may have made a great deal of money. However, just as young musicians are inspired by Louis Armstrong, Elvis, the Beatles or Bob Dillon and writers by, Shakespeare, Steinbeck, Whitman or Hemingway, if I can inspire someone to create art after or before my death, then that is perhaps the most “success” an artist (or maybe anyone) can ask for.
PJ: What would be your best advice to students to get them inspired and help to become successful?
LTF: First and foremost, put aside your brushes and get a real job!
“Artist” is not a job-until you are making a living at it. Whereas, “being an Artist” is something some of us are born with-just as DaVinci was born to be a creative genius, Muhammad Ali, a great boxer or Michael Jordan, a great basketball player.
No teacher or coach made these men great. Their trainers merely brought out what was within and enhanced it. On the other hand, no one is born a doctor, lawyer, or teacher. These are fields that individuals choose to pursue-if they have the intellectual capabilities for that field. Nor, does anyone choose to be an artist. Those of us who are had no choice; we were hit with the curse/blessing. If you do got it, you may choose to make a living as one, or not. But simply saying, “I’m an artist” does not an artist make, nor does an actual artist choosing to pursue the field mean you’ll survive with only your skills. A student must allow himself to be honestly evaluated by those much better than he is and if the feedback is very positive and encouraging, that individual must take a long hard look at themselves and the world and decide if they want it so badly that they’d starve for it. If you think you’d truly starve for it then jump in-full force. But if you like to eat, have hot water and a clean place to sleep, then get a good job and make art every day after or before work and show that art to everyone and every gallery within fifty miles of where you live-as well as on line. But, don’t think of artistic fame and success, think of just the part of the canvas where your brush is stroking at that very moment and make it the best damn stroke ever made. Be happy with each stroke, and then you will be successful in the only time that exists, Now.
PJ: What are your three wishes?
LTF: To be physically, financially, spiritually and lovingly in a place where I don’t ever “need” to wish
- 2012 Bridge Hampton National Bank, Patchogue, permanent collection
- 2006 Alley Gallery, Port Jefferson, NY
- 2005 Parish Art Museum, Southampton, NY: Group show
- 2004 Joy's Gallery, Patchogue, NY Lace Mill Images
- 1998 Statue of Liberty assignment w/ Peter B. Kaplan
- 1998 NBA Hall of Fame &Parade Magazine High school star basketball player Nicole Kazmarski
- 1998 Gift for President Clinton Fireworks image from his 2nd inauguration
- 1997 Painters Restaurant/Bar/Gallery, Brookhaven, NY: Permanent collection
- 1997 Bellport gallery; Juried show: Sold
- 1992-‘99 Chief Photographer-Fireworks by Grucci
- 1982 Long Island Life Magazine competition-First Place.
- 2016 “Muhammad Ali” Graphite- illustration: Book Revue, Huntingtin, NY
- 2015 Three Graphite Illustrations: Paper Cup Studio, “Works on Paper” Bellport Village, NY
- 2011 Human Feet-Graphite Illustrations: Permanent collection, Two Long Island Podiatrist offices
- 2010 "Lace Mill" Painting/Mosaic: Patchogue Village, public Bench project
- 2009 "Accordion views NYC"-Sliced photo-“montage: Port Jefferson, NY Community Center
- 2009 Acrylic on glass: Port Jefferson Community Center
- 2005 "Anatomical Man" mixed media on glass: Health Spa, Port Jefferson, NY;
- 1997 "Flanges" Acrylic, printer’s ink-canvas: Painters Restaurant/Bar/Gallery, Brookhaven, NY
- 1988 “Ali vs Liston" Acrylic on canvas: Lyle Alzado’s Bar, LA, CA
- 2018 Saxophone-mixed media; Michele Coltrane, President Clinton
- 2018 “Long Island” Wood/Acrylic –Suffolk County, NY Executive’s Office
- 2011 LED/Steel US Flag: Suffolk County, NY Historical Museum:
- 2009 East End Gallery, Greenport, NY: LED/Steel US Flag
- 2005 Collaborative “Eco” Serpent: Parish Art Museum, Southampton, NY
- 1996 Flight 800-first memorial (Sand) sculpture
*Other Photos, Painting and Illustrations in private collections
- 1996 Lace Mill; Independent Short film. L.I. Film Festival finalist-Co-Writer, Producer, Director & Editor:
- 1997 Associate Producer: Change Over, independent feature film
- 1997 Co-Writer, Producer, Director & Editor: Brookhaven M. Hospital
- 2010 Writer, Producer, Director: Smart One Golf Balls
- Pretty Woman, The Hanoi Hilton, China Beach, CHUD II, Change Over, Lace MIll
- Stand-up Comedy-Current, NYC & Long Island
- One Flew Over the Cuckoos' Nest, Martini-Hampton Theater Company,
- Improv comedy-LA Connection, Burbank, CA
- West Side Story-Carriage House Players, Stony Brook, NY
- Anything Goes & Aesop Fables Theater Three, Port Jefferson;
- Staff Writer/Photographer: Long Island Advance, Islip News, Islip Bulletin.
- Freelance Writer/Photographer/Videographer-Producer Newsday, North Shore Sun
- Song Lyrics, Poetry, Screenplays
- Dan’s Papers Literary Prize 2012