Lower Burrell art gallery owner breaks wrist, expands talents
By Julie Martin
Published: Saturday, June 22, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Artist Seth Leibowitz turned an unlucky break into a new opportunity.
Leibowitz, the painter and tattoo artist who owns Lower Burrell's Art Form gallery and tattoo shop, broke a bone in his right wrist more than a month ago in a bicycling accident at Ohiopyle State Park.
“It was a damaging physical thing to happen to me, but it was psychologically damaging, as well,” he says.
Tattooing is how he makes his living. With doctors putting a cast on Leibowitz's wrist that would be there for 16 weeks, his ability to work during that time period was brought into question.
“The next day, I had a really hard time getting out of bed. I felt like I let everybody down.”
At first, Leibowitz thought working with his left hand was out of the question.
“I thought it was my dumb hand,” he says.
Even so, after feeling down for a day, he realized he had to try to continue working and make the most of the situation.
He picked up the brush. Working with his left hand, he started a painting of a Victorian woman. To his surprise, he was able to get something on canvas that gave him hope.
“That day, when I was able to paint, I snapped out of it,” he says. “I was like, ‘I have to take care of myself, I have to take care of this situation.' ”
And he did.
He continued with painting, practicing making straight lines with his left hand in a series of paintings.
As his efforts improved, Leibowitz realized that, while he wouldn't be able to draw tattoos until the cast came off, he could focus on painting full time while his wrist healed.
He credits his newfound ambidexterity to the power of positive thinking.
“I think that anybody's capable of anything they put their mind to,” he says. “It's not just a cliche.”
His resulting works — part of what he has dubbed the LLC, or the Left-handed Leibowitz Collection — have certainly proven that to be true.
A glance around his studio reveals his current works equal the high quality of those done previously, right-handed.
The chance to paint full time for the first time has opened him up to opportunities to focus on selling his work, both commissioned paintings and those he auctions on sites like eBay.
In addition, he's been able to inspire and engage through social media, not to mention help root for some hometown favorites.
During the Penguins' playoffs, he completed four large paintings of players including Mario Lemieux, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.
The 2-by-4-foot oil paintings garnered a lot of attention, especially on Facebook.
He put word out about the paintings, and others, through the social-media site, engaging his more than 2,500 friends by encouraging them to guess who he would paint and sharing photos of his work.
“Everybody was following the progress of these step-by-step,” he says. “People were going nuts.”
It wasn't long before each of the paintings found a destination — two of which related directly to the NHL.
The painting of Letang was bought by a friend Letang's and presented to him as a gift.
The Lemieux painting, Leibowitz will donate to the Mario Lemieux Foundation. It will be auctioned for the hockey legend's charity in February.
While he jokes about becoming “Sidney Cross-eyed” after working on the Penguins paintings, he also hints that another black-and-gold project may be in the pipeline, noting that “football season is right around the corner.”
Leibowitz will be sharing his left-handed work at a July show at New Amsterdam in Lawrenceville. It's not only his left-handed painting that's advanced.
He is getting along fine with his right arm in a cast, and is already back on his bicycle.
He attributes his success to an inner progress, as well.
“I understand what art therapy means now,” he says.
Julie Martin is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
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