When looking at Leo Hearn’s artwork, a 23-year-old fine arts major from the University of North Florida, you would probably never assume that he had no intentions of pursuing art as his basis of education, let alone a career. After taking a year off once he graduated from high school, Hearn realized that getting back into school and continuing to do art was really the only thing he was passionate about. “Art is really the only thing I can do,” Hearn said. “I can’t see myself being a doctor or anything.”

What encouraged him the most to delve deeper into the idea of becoming an artist was meeting people all around him who took the chance. “It seemed like such an abstract idea, the concept of a ‘starving artist’,” Hearn said. “Meeting people who do it, it just seemed cool, like it was a plausible idea.”

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Q: When did you start painting?

A: I’ve always painted since I was a kid, my sister and mom are both artists, so I grew up drawing. It’s always been something I’ve done on the side. I didn’t really start getting serious until I got to college.

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Q: What’s your favorite thing to paint?

A: A lot of portrait work. It wasn’t until I went to set up all of my stuff that I realized how many faces and dogs I do.

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Q: What has been the hardest thing for you to master since you’ve been in school?

A: Nothing in particular, art as a whole is something you really can’t master, just getting yourself out there and going to events. You can’t just get a degree, you kind of have to put all of your eggs in one basket.

Q: Where do you get most of your inspiration from?

A: I always see that question being asked and people always have such specific answers. I don’t really have one thing I draw my inspiration from. It’s kind of what ever I’m into at the time, what bands I’m listening to. It’s kind of like a day-to-day thing, whatever I’m into at the moment.

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Q: Who has inspired your artwork the most throughout your life?

A: That’s tough. My mom really. Usually, if I have an artist’s block, she reminds me that what I’m doing is for fun. She is so laid back, so it makes me realize like “Why am I so stressed out?” My professors have too, in the same way. People get really locked up in a classroom situation. They worry that because they’re in front of people that they have to do something cool, and they kind of remind you just to have fun.

Q: What art are you most known for?

A: I’m most known for my painted surfboards and skateboards, and the Grumpy Cats. Especially, since I always do art walks at the beaches and haven’t really ventured downtown.

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Q: Are you ever going to make the venture downtown?

A: Yes. It’s a big goal for me. It’s more of an art community, I’m really trying to get down there. It’s kind of like the last frontier of art for Jacksonville.

Q: What do you see for the future of your art?

A: I think because of the reactions from my stuff it’s going more towards surf and skate type art. I can see a lot of stuff on t-shirts, but even if it wasn’t a career, I would still be happy doing something that gives me enough free time to do this, painting and doing little festivals. “Famous painter” is a pretty bold goal. I try not to take it too seriously.

However, this is all I do now. All my homework is painting, and the second I’m done with my homework, I’m like “Alright, now I can really get to painting.” There will be some weekends where I’ll work on a whole project and only leave to get fast food. I’m an exploring artist. Every semester I’m getting introduced to new mediums. I’m getting really big into charcoal right now.

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Q: Favorite style?

A: Street stuff, sounds weird coming from a canvas artist. Ludo, a French street artist, and Banksy, a British street artist are some of my favorites. Mike Maxwell is another big name. I get bored with really realistic pieces. I respect the skill of it but I don’t really see the appeal.

Q: Best way to contact you?

A: Probably on Facebook, Leo Hearn Artist, or my personal website, leosartwork.webs.com.