Iceland, Experiments and the Stars: II by Leah Pantea

Leah Pantéa with an titils I

July 18: 

At least once a day it is brought up that time doesn't mean anything here. With the sun only now beginning to set (sort of, my app is saying that the sun rises at 3:16, but the first light is at 1:27... mainly it just gets a little dusky out and then gets light again) it really doesn't matter when you go to bed because its always day time. You will never lose day light. I have discovered that my schedule, if light and duties were no object, I tend to wake up around 10-10:30 and go to bed somewhere between 12-2:00 (much different than my San Diego schedule of rigidly 6:00 am to 10:00 pm).

Interestingly enough, since time really is nothing, I have noticed with myself and the other residents that when we have one non-creative item on the agenda (i.e. coffee + cakes, art movie in the fish freezer, festival in the next town over...) we all nervously joke, "But when will I get work done?" "What about lunch?" It's like our old selves, over worked and over scheduled, seep though our lips trying to find normalcy. We laugh afterward about how silly it is that we were even thinking it. Time is just a word here. 

an titils II

July 20:

A lot of my works these days have included "stars" and/or geometrics that look like constellations. 

Our human need for connection is just astonishing and lovely. We, these vulnerable creatures, pull the universe around ourselves like a blanket. We see our faces in houses and our pets in the clouds. We look to the stars and tie them to each other, even though they are trillions of miles away from one another, and then tether that chain of cosmos to ourselves. We are a resolute, reaching and lonely tribe.

 Native Icelandic bouquet

Native Icelandic bouquet

July 21:


I have been so inspired being here by all of the other artists I share a workspace with. One of the artists here, and at the textile residency (about a 30 minute bus ride away) have been working with the native plants here for dying and crushing. Totally in awe, I began collecting flowers to crush (with a rock I found) into little pieces of watercolor paper. As if that wasn't satisfying enough I have begun to stitch minimal ghost buds and stems onto the marked papers. 

This stitching with white is intended to pull the color out where it is placed. It is a new medium of practicing the same themes I am thinking about in my current collection: adding material (in this case thread) in order to take away.

Iceland, Paradoxes and Trampolines: I by Leah Pantea

THE BEGINNING: Creating and living in a small fishing village in Iceland for three months.

 Skagastrond, Iceland, ~5.5 hours + 3 busses from Reykjavik

Skagastrond, Iceland, ~5.5 hours + 3 busses from Reykjavik

Building up to this trip has been such a chaotic experience from pulling together the most minimal wardrobe to preparing my (high drama!) oil paints for travel, that finally clambering into Skagaströnd was a sweet relief. This blip of a town features:

  • 1 gas station 
  • 1 market
  • 1 restaurant
  • 1 fortune-telling museum
  • 480 residents
  • countless: birds, horses, trampolines (correct, trampolines), and radiant sunset-rises

Needless to say, it has been a pretty easy to focus my energy toward exploring the rugged landscape, investing in the artist network here (NES Artist Residency), researching and creating the collection I am planning to develop out here. 

I am researching janusism or janusian thinking, a theory developed by Albert Rothenberg. This theory discusses opposing principals that come into being at precisely the same moment, and are dependent upon each other for even fathoming the other, i.e. Taoism, night/day, visible/invisible etc. Rothenberg concludes that it is through this mode of janusian thinking that Einstein thought of the theory of relativity! I find it really inspiring, thinking about these paradoxes with my work. I have been working on paper and applying washes of Icelandic-inspired abstractions and patterns, only to paint over with a hazy fog of white, leaving just a glimmer of the content that remains underneath. I enjoy seeing just hints of the forms instead of it being very clear, making it simple to imagine the work as empty, but also imagine it full of pattern, texture and color. Through the physical act of adding with the intention of removing I am practicing janusism. (So far I don't have any complete works, so stay tuned, I will post them into "Janus" as they are completed, so hold onto your britches!!)

This is just the beginning though. I am practicing being vulnerable and available to change and connections. I think it is really crucial to my heart and my work, that I remain open. I am still maintaining my morning pages (three pages, every morning, train-of-thought, including affirmations), in which it seems all I do is repeat how amazing it is that I am finally here, and I can't believe how beautiful it is and my spacious heart feels. Ahhhhhhh...



  • The Rise of the Creative Class: Richard Florida
  • Hell No: Ingrid Michaelson
  • Rising Water: James Vincent McMorrow
  • Bad Self Portraits: Lake Street Dive
  • Saint Valentine: Gregory Alan Isakov
  • Big Umbrella: Jonah Smith, Andy Stack

UGH, Iceland, you're too good!

Follow along with me on Instagram! (below, user: ____llp____)



In Our Phage World by Leah Pantea

I am writing this post way past when perhaps it would have been time-relevant, however, only now, after time and separation, do I believe I am ready to share about this project. I was found for this project by a now-dear friend who saw my works hanging in a restaurant, contacted me, and invested in me to illustrated for a textbook on bacteriophage. 

Apart from interest in high school, I had had no experience drawing viruses, or had any previous knowledge of their workings, so for me, this project was a lot of research. Each of the 70 (yes 70!) illustrations required multiple back and forths between myself and the writers, making sure I understood the concepts so that I could accurately hand draw each illustration. I was creating about three illustrations per week, and honestly, this project was an unexpected joy. Being a school lover, I really enjoyed the return to studying and attempting to understand new things.  I was, and still am, thrilled that I was able to contribute on a project that was so different from my own style of work and be able to use my work to translate difficult things to understand. I also did each of them entirely by hand. All text on the drawings are my own handwriting.  The works were scanned into the computer and from there all that was shifted was the tone of the drawings. I loved being able to add a human element to a textbook, where generally images are just as difficult to understand as the text.  

As if all of the interior illustrations did not fill me with a sense of joy and fulfillment, I was asked to create the cover to be a fusion of my illustrative style and my personal style.  WHAT A DREAM COME TRUE! IS THIS MY LIFE? 

Its challenging for me to put into words how thankful I was for the opportunity to join in something so unlikely. It was truly a strange and glorious project.

Buy it here

See select illustrations here