VIRTUE Gallery presents: I See You in all Art Forms

Painting and photography helped me mourn and heal the loss of a friend.

By: Leyla T. Rosario

Friend: “Pick up a brush, and paint. Don’t think, just feel.”

Me: Holds paint brush. Stares blankly at a canvas. “Uhhhh…..I’m a Producer. This is not my thing.”

Leyla with her painting “The Red Flags are There — #1” at Con Artist Collective — (NYC, 2017). Photo by: Breeze

My bestie introduced me to painting. Little did I know how much it would influence me. It became part of my life shortly after he died in 2017. He was gone. I felt pain everywhere. I went numb. I didn’t know how to cope with such a great loss. So I picked up a brush, some paint, a canvas, and got to work.

We were employed at the same advertising agency. That’s how we met. He was my confidant. A bond like no other, a spiritual connection where we didn’t have to say anything, we just knew what one of us needed/wanted. He and I couldn’t get enough of each other — constantly bouncing off creative ideas, confiding everything and anything without any judgement.

After putting in long hours at the office, we would head to the art studio. He was a member of a local art community space in lower Manhattan named Con Artist Collective. It was filled with painters, illustrators, photographers, designers, musicians, ongoing exhibitions –you name it. Every time I would visit the studio, it felt like walking into an explosion of artistic expression. It was colorful. I felt alive. The energy was infectious and artists were creating in all types of ways.

As a Producer and Director, I am responsible for a lot of things. I make decisions all day, and sometimes “production life” can be mentally and physically exhausting. I needed an outlet –and he introduced me to just that.

Painting is my therapy; my way to escape, create, destroy, discover, and pay homage to his lively, loving, and artistic spirit. He encouraged and brought out whatever was dormant within me.

Leyla adding details to “The Red Flags are There — #1” at Con Artist Collective — (NYC, 2017). Photo by: Breeze

Since then, I’ve painted over 25 pieces, predominantly on large canvases. Most of my work is abstract using acrylic paint –although lately, I am digging working with watercolor paint and sketching. I enjoy developing textures and shapes, mixing vibrant colors that provoke feeling.

I look at art a little differently now. If I am at a museum, I pay more attention to the lighting, shading, brush strokes, perspective. I stare at the details a bit longer –take pics, using them as a way to practice. I go to live drawings, host paint jams in my apartment, started an online shop, and give my original paintings as gifts to family and friends.

What I learned from his spirit: Create everyday –be it at 10% or at 100%– just create. He brought out the painter in me, encouraged me to not be afraid of expressing myself in various art forms.

Leyla adding details to “The Red Flags are There — #1” at Con Artist Collective — (NYC, 2017). Denim Jacket by Narcossist. Photo by: Breeze

Painting became my newfound love. I am thankful for that, and for the closeness I have with his family. I miss him. I love him. William Bernhardt aka Narcossist (aka Billy, aka my flamingo) changed my life, forever.

“The Red Flags are There — #1” is part of a series open to interpretation. It is acrylic on canvas. Size: 6.5’x5.5’.

For me, it is an emotional timeline. We all have our baggage. It’s about embracing and accepting your partner’s flaws, vulnerability, habits, and personal history. Or, maybe you don’t. Maybe you notice the signs and decide to part ways — kiss them goodbye.

I began to paint this piece shortly after Billy’s passing. Also during that time, I ended things with someone I briefly dated (just about three months).

On the weekends, I would trek from the Inwood, Manhattan area — all the way down to the Lower East Side (LES) — to paint at the studio. I was mourning two relationships. The loss of my friend, and the end of unhealthy romance. I noticed the red flags and knew that if I kept dating him, it would continue to be toxic. I followed my intuition, paid attention to the signs, and ended it.

During that time, I poured whatever I was feeling into my art. I didn’t overthink the process. It took about two months to complete “The Red Flags are There — #1.” I did not have a sketched out plan of what I was going to do. It came out according to the state of mind I was in. Once done, I felt a release. I felt free.

This is an ongoing continuous series (total of 4), and more will be made. The future goal is to have a solo exhibition where I can showcase all of “The Red Flags are There” at a gallery.

Photography is another form of expression. I am an only child and grew up with quite the vivid imagination. Yes, I had imaginary friends. My parents are Puerto Rican, and both come from a big family. They raised me in The Bronx during the 1980’s. Let’s just say that life was nothing less than boring.

Fashion Designer & Co-Founder of KHALI — Vanessa Mpatlanyane. Cape Town, South Africa 2018

As a kid, photography was my hobby. It kept me out of trouble, and I loved it. I would grab my mother’s vintage Minolta SR-T 101 (35mm camera) and run the streets, taking pictures of anything my eyes were attracted to.

Mermaid at Mermaid Parade — Brooklyn, NYC, 2018

I began working at the age of 12, and whatever earnings I made, I used to get my rolls of film developed. Working with cameras later in life led to a professional career.

School Kids — Arcahaie, Ouest, Haiti, 2018

The camera is as an extension to channel a connection with someone. I am an Empath. I feel everything. It’s about documenting the present which eventually becomes a moment and memory to look at.

Indie 184 at her art studio — Upstate New York, 2017
Afropunk Festival — Brooklyn, New York City, 2017
Merman at Mermaid Parade — Brooklyn, NYC, 2018
Esther — Arcahaie, Ouest, Haiti, 2018
Njabulo modeling for RamKing — Cape Town, South Africa, 2018

People are extraordinary. I truly enjoy capturing someone’s essence. For me, it’s all about the eyes. What do they tell me? There is an openness, innocence, and trust I see. I’m invited into their life.

Young Kings around Hout Bay — Cape Town, South Africa 2018
Puerto Rican Day Parade — New York City, 2018

My most recent portraitures were taken throughout Cape Town, Johannesburg, Haiti, New York City, and Cuba.

Thank you for checking out my work!

Love and light,

Leyla T. Rosario aka loveLEY

Instagram: loveLEY




We were born in your world, but you will die in ours.

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