Esa Leppänen

Alajärvi (1967)

Esa Leppänen studied to be a car mechanic and car-body repairer, then worked as a butcher for most of his career. Since he retired, he has become a prolific artist. He knows how to bend metal and creates funny characters with stories from recycled objects.

Leppänen produces his art in two workshops: one is an old school in Kuusamo, the other a former draper’s shop in Lehtimäki, and he exhibits his paintings and sculptures in both places. You can find both on Facebook by searching 100 taulun galleria (‘the gallery of 100 paintings’): Kuusamo and Lehtimäki.

Esa Leppänen describes his work as “artistic tomfoolery”, a term which is by no means derogatory in his parlance. Rather, it describes his lifestyle and outlook on life. The lifestyle element includes his “art ambulance,” an eye-catchingly decorated car that takes both people and works of art from place to place.

Esa Leppänen does not consider wood carving to be his go-to form of expression, but “I have to try it, too”. Once every summer, he takes out a log and his saw to keep his skills alive. Leppänen has attended sculpture courses arranged by Juha Käkelä in Ilomantsi and by Kari Tykkyläinen at his camp in Livo, Pudasjärvi. Leppänen is not keen on competitions but managed to finish in the top three at the camp in Livo “because there were so few participants”.

In 2020 Esa Leppänen participated the bear sculpting competition Bear Festival in Ilomantsi, with a theme “Freestyle”. “I’m not that great a sculptor, but I find being able to create a freestyle sculpture fascinating so I’d like to try it”, he said, and won the third prize.

Text: Raija Kallioinen. Images: Raija Kallioinen, Juho Haavisto.

Esa Leppänen and his “art ambulance” ,filled with humorous small sculptures, visited the Bear Festival 2015 in Ilomantsi.
Esa Leppänen won the third prize in the Bear Sculpting Championship at the Bear Festival 2020 in Ilomantsi. Photo Juho Haavisto.