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Spotlight On: Leo Songco

Since his childhood in the Philippines, Leo Songco has been passionate about the arts. It wasn’t until retiring in 2017, however, that he fully began devoting his time to it. Now the self-taught painter creates colorful florals, seascapes, and other landscapes on both traditional canvas and resurfaced surfboards with most of his inspiration stemming from international travel and frequent trips to the Pacific Northwest. “I love using bold, primary colors in my artwork, which I hope attracts, intrigues, [or even] invokes a personal memory or smile from my viewers,” he says. A member of the Folsom Arts Association, Songco has shown his work at the Harris Center’s Bank of America Gallery and Gallery at 48 Natoma. Currently, you can view his impressionistic style at Anita Rochelle Boutique & Fine Art in Historic Folsom.  

Describe your process and what inspires your work. 

LS: Seascapes, landscapes, and flowers inspire me, because the challenge is to translate them into an impressionistic style. I mostly use acrylic since it’s water-based and less messy than oil media. My “studio” is essentially the kitchen, which gets the best light, and my art supplies are confined to a cart; the portability of it allows me to clear the kitchen when it’s time to eat.

HLN: Who has been your biggest influence? 

LS: When I was young, Marvel comic artists, as well as impressionist painters like Monet, Renoir, and Cézanne. I’m also a fan of Erin Hanson, a contemporary landscape painter and Steve Barton, a surfboard artist. 

Sand Dunes and Waves


HLN: What compelled you to paint surfboards?  

LS: [Maybe it’s] because I’m an island boy by birth and at heart, as I was born and raised in the Philippines. My parents used to live in Hawaii and during one of my visits, I met Steve Barton, who was so gracious and showed me how to prep surfboards for painting. Surfboards are expensive, so I only use old/trashed ones, then repair them and prep the surface. The two surfboards featured on my website were gifted by a close friend who found them in Santa Cruz. 

HLN: Is there anything you would have done differently in your career? 

LS: I always knew that being an artist would come later on in life. I grew up as a military brat and it was always my intent to enlist in the U.S. Air Force, where I served for almost 23 years. I then worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for another 16 years, until my retirement. I’m happy and fortunate that I was able to live my life the way I planned it.

HLN: Do you have any words of wisdom to aspiring artists?

LS: Practice, practice, practice; and be bold in your creativity.  

HLN: What are your future goals? 

LS: I’m a recreational artist. Since my previous careers were fraught with suspense and deadlines, I just want to enjoy my retirement with family and with art not too far away.