H.J. Legan meticulously hand-paints watercolor cards, highlighting the sights of Monterey county in her work. The Pacific Grove resident never takes the easy way out, prioritizing quality over everything else in her artwork.
Whether Legan is capturing a hillside, an ocean view, or a historic building, her process is always the same. Legan begins her work by visiting the subject, capturing her surroundings in photos and sketches. Back at her studio, she uses these references to trace a large line drawing, adding small details that bring the drawing to life.
This line drawing – typically 11 by 17 inches – is then photocopied onto smaller cards. She takes these cards to her cozy studio, where she puts on her favorite radio station and begins meticulously hand-painting each piece.
“It's really important to do them in small batches, take my time, and really do a first-rate job on them,” Legan describes. “I do them in batches of about 15, and it'll take a day or so to complete them.”
The Pacific Grove resident enjoys the time-intensive process. She compares it to religious ministry: laborious, focused, but rewarding work. Perhaps the greatest reward is the joy her cards bring to The Quill’s customers. She enjoys hearing from customers about her cards, and their compliments motivate her to keep creating.
The 75 year old has been a recreational artist since childhood, when her mother’s own watercolor paintings inspired Legan to pursue the craft. She briefly studied art in college before pursuing another career, but she always took care to maintain her artistic side. After her retirement, she fully dedicated herself to her art, honing her watercolor skills and exploring new possibilities.
Legan has experimented with many art forms throughout her life. When she first moved to Monterey County in 1985, she studied oil painting under the esteemed Bennett Bradbury. In the 90s, she recreated historic buildings as papier-mache Christmas ornaments, crafting miniature versions of local landmarks. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, she self-studied acrylic painting, yet again broadening her artistic horizons.
She encourages every budding artist to keep learning. Constantly strive to do your best work, she says, and expand your abilities whenever possible. Unlike during her youth, artists today have access to nearly infinite resources through the internet. Legan encourages folks to use those tools to their advantage, whether by studying great works of art or investigating a particular artist’s style.
You can find Legan’s cards exclusively at The Quill. If you’re lucky during your visit, you might even see Legan as she delivers her next batch!