Avlis Leumas was a child with a lurid imagination. He often dreamed of a moose headed, tuxedo-wearing figure outside the windows of his home watching him sleep. The figure was joined by other animals, creeping closer and closer to the house, but never finding their way inside before Leumas woke. This recurring nightmare was the inspiration behind the drawing ("Chimera," at right), a creepy crawly gathering of all of his nightmarish neighbors.
Leaumas creates vibrant pen and marker art without the use of projectors or tracing. He is a freehand purist who surprisingly—despite his graphic-novelesqe precision lines and masterful use of rich color—is returning to his artistic roots after a two-decade sabbatical. From a nationally touring musician, to UPS delivery driver, to massage therapy school and most recently the designer of the 2013 Jubelale label for Deschutes Brewery's winter seasonal, Leumas has dabbled in many disciplines—and, last year, returning to one of his first loves, drawing. Avlis Leumas is the Source Weekly's cover artist of the month.
SW: So...you have a Harry Potter name. Is Avlis your real name or a pseudonym?
AL: It's Portuguese. My family had two last names and they had two drop one when they came to the United States. Avlis is their last name, Silva, backwards.
SW: How did you start drawing?
AL: Ever since I could pick up a pencil I was obsessed with drawing. Through my senior year of high school I didn't go anywhere without a sketchbook.
I left art behind in 1992 and started playing music with Sol Americano [a band that Leamus described as Afro Latin hip-hop with jazz influences]. It was amazing because it was mostly people I went to high school with. We played house parties and attics and bowling allies and places like House of Blues, big cool venues I had always dreamed of playing. Around 2003 I found myself ready to turn 30 and freaking out. I didn't want to be the guy who was 45, dreaming of my band making it someday. I was driving delivery trucks for UPS as my side job and I kept seeing this commercial on TV about massage school. It sounded interesting, and UPS wasn't feeding my soul, I wanted something where I felt like was making a difference for people. It's a good thing I went to massage school because that's where I met my wife.
[After moving to Bend] I had stopped playing music and was focused on work and being a good husband. I said, 'enough of this art nonsense. It's never worked out of me.' I forgot about music and art and I focused on work and working toward having a family and all those things a grown up is supposed to do. But I had this empty space inside of me it was around the spring of 2012 that I felt I wasn't connecting to anything anymore. I had almost forgotten who I was. So I took a drawing class at COCC. Twenty years had gone by since I'd done art. As soon as I picked up the pencil I reconnected with seventeen-year-old me. I rediscovered that part of myself that had been gone, and all the sudden the space inside me was full.
SW: What is your typical medium?
AL: I had always drawn pencil and pen and ink when I was growing up. I loved black and white. My wife had gone to fashion school in San Francisco and she had all these boxes of colored markers for drawing patterns. It was exciting to have a completely different language to communicate in with that color.
[The cover] is a side profile of my wife on one of our anniversary dates drawn from a photo I took. She was looking out the window at Tart Bistro. I always thought, years ago, that would make a great drawing. I drew it and surprised her and then things really took off. From there, people saw that picture and they said, 'You need to keep looking into this. It's something different.' I had just three pieces and I hung them in Bellatazza in February 2013. I knew Stewart [the owner] and I thought he would probably be the only person who would hang my stuff.
Literally, two or three days after I got an email from Deschutes. I thought it was spam. I was going to send it to the trash bin and never open it, but something told me, maybe it's not spam. I opened it and it seemed real. I couldn't believe it. I had seen the label every year since we moved here in the winter of 2004 and I looked forward to the designs. I never thought it would it would be me.
SW: Is it crazy to see your work mass-produced like that?
AL: It's completely unbelievable. I still can't believe it. I was just excited to put my stuff in a coffee shop less than year ago.