Self-taught Mission artist’s work on display

A meticulous attention to detail enables Leo Pollock to create beautiful pieces

Leo 'Smart Eagle' Pollock sits between two of his eagle carvings at his home in Mission. Primarily a pen and ink on paper artist

Leo 'Smart Eagle' Pollock sits between two of his eagle carvings at his home in Mission. Primarily a pen and ink on paper artist

Leo Pollock sits between two hand-carved wooden eagles; his bright blue eyes gleam as he talks about his affinity for the birds.

It was nearly 20 years ago when the 54-year-old Mission artist was looking skyward and saw an eagle soaring overhead. He fell in love and dedicated himself to perfecting their likeness.

The self-taught pen and ink artist’s designs and drawings have garnered the attention of the local art community, including Nancy Arcand, executive director of the Mission Arts Council.

When she first saw his work some weeks ago she thought it was phenomenal.

“It works with the feathers and the way his creatures are, they’re stunning, beautiful.”

He recently took his artwork to Claim to Frame on First Avenue, where owner Phil Vince decided to display his drawings of lions in the front window.

Although reluctant to critique any artist’s work, he said it’s clear Leo has a genuine love for art.

“Over the past 22 years of my involvement in the art community, there are few things that are more gratifying than to be witness to an artist evolving over time,” said Vince, who also displayed Leo’s cedar fungal art in his shop 16 years ago.

Leo used to go into the Mission forests and gather fungus as other artists scoop up paper, but gave up the activity after a close encounter with a black bear.

He now lives with his wife, Karen, in the trailer park near Mission Memorial Hospital where she works as a nurse. Inside his humble abode, the wood panel walls are covered with drawings featuring animals with aboriginal symbols and motifs.

One drawing he pulls out shows a gecko, but a magnifying glass reveals an intricate phoenix drawn into patterns on the head.

Other than Leo’s forays to the public library to study artwork, he has zero formal training. His work is the culmination of a meticulous attention to detail and what appears to be an inborn talent.

“There are some out there that are natural, it just comes to them,” said Arcand. “There’s an inner creator working in there somewhere, an inner spirit that has driven them.”

Another creation features his “dream art gallery,” which shows himself suspended by a platform midway up an enormous flat, green wall. He is painting a giant blue-green swordfish while two men from the street gaze up at him in wonder.

The vibrant colours are created from a stash of dozens of pens he keeps hidden in an old Peek Freans cookie container. Like everything about Leo, looks can be deceiving. The old BC Lions ball cap and hoodie, and his features worn by 25 years of construction, belie the creativity that springs from his pen.

Behind the art, however, lies a difficult past, one he’s reluctant to talk about.

After giving up fungal art he became an alcoholic, and that made it impossible to draw the intricate artwork for which he was known. But Leo says Karen helped him quit and and inspired him to draw again.

“I had to find something to depend on, and I found my art.”

Originally from Chatham, Ont., Leo’s father committed suicide when he was only eight years old, and his mother was an alcoholic.

“It wasn’t a very happy place to be so I ran away,” he said.

He was just 15 when he bought a $57 plane ticket to Vancouver, where he lived on streets for the next two years begging for money. To make ends meet, he’d find a place to sketch and sell his drawings to passersby.

Being a street kid was tough, but Leo shrugs it off.

“I never even really thought about it. When I’m doing my art I get completely lost in it.”

His art still provides an escape from the reality of poverty.

After a few years in Vancouver he took a bus east 35 years ago and wound up in Mission.

“Growing up being lonely and having a lonely life, having no father, an alcoholic mother, running away from home, living on the streets… I used art as a way to survive. And it just blossomed.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

LEFT: Krista Macinnis, with a red handprint across her face that symbolizes the silencing of First Nations people, displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
RIGHT: Abbotsford School District Kevin Godden says the district takes responsibility for the harm the assignment caused.
Abbotsford school district must make amends for harmful residential school assignment: superintendent

‘The first step is to unreservedly apologize for the harm … caused to our community’: Kevin Godden

web
Spiritual senior begins journey as author, 3 years after near-fatal accident in Mission

Donna Gibbons to publish ‘Haunting in Hatzic,’ the 1st in a series on her life as a medium

File photo
Outdoor recreation generates close to $1 billion annually in Fraser Valley: report

Camping, hiking and sportfishing generate the most spending, report finds

Cherry Hill Elementary. Kevin Mills photo.
Cherry Hill Elementary parents heartbroken, angry over mid-year principal swap

PAC president says she doesn’t understand why it’s happening in the middle of a pandemic

On Nov. 20, the Mission Healthcare Auxiliary presented a cheque for $100,000 to the Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation to go towards new lab equipment at Mission Regional Hospital. / Submitted Photo
Mission Healthcare Auxiliary presents $100,000 for lab equipment

Volunteers wanted to put the funds to work in a way that would benefit as many patients as possible

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Peter Wilson, left, and Micah Rankin, right, formed the Special Prosecutor team that was tasked with reviewing and litigating charges stemming from the Bountiful investigation. Trevor Crawley photo.
End of Bountiful prosecution wraps up decades of legal battles

Constitutional questions had to be settled before a polygamy prosecution could move forward

Despite rumours, Surrey RCMP say they are not issuing tickets to people if they are driving in a vehicle with others from a different household. (File photo)
COVID-19 tickets: No, RCMP aren’t checking vehicle occupancies, restaurant tables

Enforcement about education, not punishment says Surrey RCMP Cpl. Joanie Sidhu

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

File
LETTER: Public should provide feedback on Mission’s proposed budget

Writer feels more community push back is needed to stop annual property tax increases

Most Read