Red Bank, NJ

Meet Red Bank, New Jersey's Finest Painter: Leni Forssell

Bridget Mulroy
Red Bank's finest painter!Photo byBridget Mulroy

Red Bank, New Jersey is known for being a Mecca of artistic influence. Located along the shore of central New Jersey, and far enough away from the city to hold its own, Red Bank is the perfect mix of urban and suburban. The area is known for being home to Count Basie, and Kevin Smith (aka Silent Bob,) but it’s also recognized for its vibrance. Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, and plenty of the Real Housewives of NJ are known for showing face in Red Bank.

So, considering Red Bank’s ability to invoke art, culture, and creativity, it may not surprise you to learn that Red Bank is home to one of the world’s most talented portraitists.
"I have a passion for women in red dresses depicting different emotions."Photo byLeni Forssell

Leni Forssell was born in Borås, Sweden. As a child, she created art with anything she could get her hands on. Sometimes to her parent’s dismay, she says, “I specifically remember drawing on a very expensive wooden guest book on the day when guests wrote thank you notes after visiting. My parents were furious, but they still kept the guest book. I’m glad they did. 

Art was my favorite subject in school. In my early teens, my friend and I would sketch all day long on rainy days. Looking at [the sketches] now (my mother saved them too,) I am amazed at how good we were at such a young age! I later studied at the Borås Academy of Fine Art in Sweden under very well-known Swedish artists and I took classes in anatomy sketching.”

Leni Forssell came to the United States in 1974. She was a young bride and pregnant with her first daughter Carolyn. While she was then a young mother eager to start a life in the United States, her flare for art never left her.

After moving to the US, the family purchased a summer home on the West Coast of Sweden. Located near an archipelago, the home overlooks a golf course outside a small fishing village known as ‘the pearl of the west coast.' 

The home is surrounded by more than 150 smaller uninhabited islands that were part of a well-preserved National Park. The fishing village has now become a very affluent community of renovated homes and boat houses converted into summer cottages. 

Leni’s family would take boat rides to the Islands and have picnics, swim, and watch other sailboats. “The area is where my inspiration comes from. I would bring my art supply and paint the views from the islands. It was hard to capture the beauty on a canvas, but I tried.”

After years of making oil paintings in private, (Leni was then still very closeted with her artistic ability,) she finally asked her father to arrange an art show. Mind you, this was ages before social media. Leni’s father sent out flyers and spread the word about his daughter’s art show.

Familiar with an artist’s struggle, Leni’s father was also a talented watercolour painter. “Before becoming an established executive, my father supported himself by selling watercolor paintings when he was in high school.”

Thanks to her father’s support behind her first art show in 1982, Leni sold 20 paintings in a single weekend. This lit a fuse in Leni and inspired her to put more energy into her art. Since then, Leni has created masterpieces (pictured) that hang around the world in the homes of some of the world’s most affluent, and respected art collectors.
Wedding portrait by Leni Forssell.Photo byLeni Forssell
Still photo for wedding portrait by Leni Forssell.Photo byPermission by Leni Forssell

What sets Leni Forssell's art aside from other art is her ability to capture a moment. Portraits and still paintings have always represented a factor of elitism for the people being painted. Since the style of painting dates back so far, Leni’s ability to capture a moment on a canvas is what makes her work so coveted.
Portrait by Leni Forssell.Photo byLeni Forssell
Still photo for a portrait by Leni Forssell.Photo byPermission by Leni Forssell

“I was known to be able to capture ‘the essence’ of the people I painted. The tears of joy that I saw in my clients when I unveiled the portrait are amazing and extremely rewarding. My favorite paintings are the ones that are born out of my soul and express transformations in my own life.” 

When Leni needed surgery on her shoulder in 2020, her frustration with not being able to paint drove her to train her opposite hand. “After my shoulder surgery on my right shoulder, I was devastated until my lovely, supportive boyfriend encouraged me to paint with my left hand. Remarkable things happened to my brain. By unlocking my resistance to break out of my comfort zone, I tried all kinds of new things.”

As a world-renowned, ambidextrous painter, Leni says, “I love it all but am now longing for my traditional oil paints and subject matter. I have a passion for women in red dresses depicting different emotions. I want to paint for myself, not for what I think people will appreciate. I have no regrets. I am so fortunate to have people buying my art. Who could ask for more?”
"I have a passion for women in red dresses depicting different emotions."Photo byLeni Forssell
"I have a passion for women in red dresses depicting different emotions."Photo byLeni Forssell

One of Leni’s most respected clients writes, “I woke up this morning and studied this painting of Jocie. I mean, I can’t stop looking at it. I can find and pick out so many things about it. [Leni] captured a maturity in her with a sense of grace, [which] I am having trouble finding the right words for. It is so not what I expected. I love it! [Leni is] a true artist! This will be a treasured [master] in my home forever!”

“I was born to create art and create beauty for all to see. There is nothing more rewarding than to see my customers' eyes light up in wonder when I unveil their paintings, regardless of the subject matter they have chosen. I love to be in my beautiful studio for hours letting my imagination flow!”

Leni continues, “My advice to all budding artists is to dare create from your heart and not to worry about the results. It is very freeing and so good for your soul. I invite students to come to my studio on the Navesink River in Red Bank. If anybody is interested to learn, you would be so welcome. There is an organic garden to harvest from situated on 20 acres, and coffee will be served. Come and have fun and create with me!"
Glass art by Leni Forssell.Photo byBridget Mulroy
Glass art by Leni Forssell.Photo byBridget Mulroy

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