Website , Portfolio and Blog Address: http://leilanabih.
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1. What is the inspiration for your art?
Images. Just beautiful imagery. It can be an illustration, it can be a photograph, it can be something I see that I will capture with my mind, it can be something I saw in a dream. It can be a beautifully written story. It can be anything really, as long as it speaks to me and resonates with who I am.
2. What has surprised you as you put your work into the world?
As with almost every other artist i know, it's the fact that I'm told regularly that I've got skills that others don't have. When someone actually comments on one of my artworks or asks me to illustrate something for them, I am flattered. I am very self critical when it comes to my illustrations so when someone gives me a compliment, it always surprises me. And of course it helps with my confidence issues.
Trying to get to know one of the characters in a new book project. Sketching away. This was work in progress in January 2015
3. Can you tell us a little about your creative process, and why you work the way the do, and any mistakes they you have learned from perhaps?
Creating is somewhat therapeutic for me. Every time I get into an illustration, the external world takes a step back. It’s addictive. I forget the troubles of the world and just focus on creation and birth of a new illustration. Of course I do get the moments when I am not satisfied with my work and I get frustrated and angry and think that I am really not skilled at all and all that (it’s normal to feel this way every once in a while), so I take a break, and after an hour or two, I just forget the previous experience, start fresh on a blank piece of paper and let my pencil wander until I love what I see on my paper. And that’s it. I’m happy and all fluffy inside again.
For the Monster Chores illustration I started with pencil on paper in my usual sketchbook. I had fun with the creatures for a while before I settled on this octopus with horns. Then I created his environment emphasizing his clumsiness. When I was happy with the result, Ii reproduce it digitally. I had to simplify it in the end because I just found it too busy for children from 0-5 yo. But here is the original illustration for your eyes only.
4. What are your favorite art products ?
I love ProMarkers. I find that they blend well together, a bit like watercolors. But I have a tendency currently to choose to color digitally instead of using traditional media. However for fun, I would go to them. Especially if it is something I'd like to hang in my house.
5. Have you illustrated books for Kindle or iBooks? If so, how is it different than illustrating for traditional books? What was the learning process? What tools or software made it easier?
I haven't illustrated any books for Kindle, but I have one short poetry book on iBooks. I wouldn't know if there are any differences between these two. However I am an avid user of Blurb (www.blurb.com) and have published several books with them for individual authors. They mostly do print books and have recently added the option of making ebooks to sell online on their site and on amazon.com, and I am very pleased with the outcomes. I would recommend them to any self-starting author/illustrator to help them hone their skills and prepare their portfolio. Blurb has their own software which I find very user friendly.
6. What is your favorite medium for illustrating for children?
I love paper and pencil. None of my illustrations start anywhere else. Sometimes I am just happy to finish off an illustration with pencil and move on to something else. I have tried so many different mediums. I have tried watercolor paint and watercolor pencils, acrylics, inks, chalk pastels, oil pastels, coloring pencils, markers, collage but I have never been able to be happy with the results of my illustration unless I finish them digitally. I still try occasionally to develop my skills with markers or pastels, just because I love the handmade feel of the whole process, and if its for personal wall art only. But if I have to publish this art for a book, I go to digital.
7. Do you create digital illustrations? If so, what do you enjoy about it? What tools to you use to make them?
In all cases, I always start with pen on paper. I doodle and sketch until I am happy with the composition, the emotion purveyed and the overall feel of the work.
The only times when I create digital art are those times when I am commissioned a piece that I will license for a product. I use a vector based software because I like the idea of being able to scale the illustrations as desired without loosing the quality of the drawing. It's the same process I used to make the Monster Chores Illustration that you can find in the free downloadable book. I drew the monsters and the composition in my sketchbook, took a picture of the final drawing and using layers, reproduced it using vector lines.
I am currently developing my skills, and can't really invest in a Cintiq tablet or anything costly so I am using my iPad as my main tool for digital art. Its important for me that I can see what Ii am drawing under the palm of my hand. I use a software called iDraw for vector based illustrations, ArtRage for more painterly illos and sometimes procreate for digital collage. Sometimes, I might go to photoshop or Illustrator to do my work, but I am not a big fan of these two software's.
8. What is your favorite children's book and why?
I love "Alice in Wonderland" for its magical spin and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" for exactly the same reason. Two classics that will never go old. They start in the real world and gradually merge with the magical until they return to the reality of things again. And of course , you can always count me in the group of biggest fans of Beatrix Potter and her stories. What I love about her is her journey and learning how her characters came alive.
9. What children's book illustrators are you most inspired by?
That's a tough question. I love so many of them. Amongst the famous I can mention Beatrix Potter, Sarah Kay and Quentin Blake despite the fact that their style is very different. But there are so many more out there. I recently discovered Kelly Murphy and Isabelle Kessedjian. Again two very different but equally gifted illustrators.
10. How do people react when you tell them you are a children's book author or when you say you're an Artist?
They are amazed and ask me what I have published so far, then go on asking me if I can make an illustration for them. It's very flattering and I usually agree to it as long as it is a very simple illustration. After all its very good self promotion when your fans feel like they own a little piece of you that is just for them.
11. What one children's book do you WISH you could have illustrated?
Again, tough question to answer. There are so many. But if I had to pick one I would illustrate in the future, it would be one of Charles Perrault stories.
12. Are you open to working with self-published children's book authors? If not. Why?
Yes I am open to working with self-published children's book authors being a self published author myself. I do understand them in a certain way and can relate to them wanting to publish a story they have written. It's like leaving something concrete of yourself behind, be it a fictional story or a real life one. Once we've agreed on prices and deadlines, and everything is in order then we can proceed. Its the only demand I have to work with such projects.
13. Have you always wanted to be a children's book illustrator, if not, when did you decide this was something you wanted to do?
I’m a Walt Disney child at heart. I grew up with its cartoons and animated movies, so naturally as I got older, my dream was to make cartoons and animated movies. However, society imposed its materialistic beliefs on me and I forgoed my dream for a regular 9-5 career. I’ll spare you the details. 2013 was a very important year for me as I decided to pursue a career in illustration and children’s books and let go of everything else.
14. What is one piece of advice that you want to give to new children's illustrators starting out?
Draw everyday. Draw anything. Paper and pencil, or iPad, or tablet, or computer and mouse, or anything tool you like is fine as long as you are having fun doing it. I recently learned online via an agent who provides inspiration and courses to artists that "people buy your joy". So if you are drawing whilst being inspired and having fun, it will show in your work and people will encourage you to pursue that dream of yours.
15. What one piece of advice do you have for Artists starting over again, because they were raising kids, had setbacks, or have a full time job?
I wouldn't know what to tell them. I'm a recent mum myself so will be looking for this advice very soon.
16. Do you feel the industry is changing for illustrators? Are there more or less opportunities now?
I feel that with the internet, the industry has opened up for artists like myself. In my younger age, we didn't have the internet, and trying to make a living out of illustrations or making art seemed almost impossible. We have access to more resources and more opportunities. Networking got easier, reaching out to family, friends and potential fans has also become easier via the use of websites, blogs and social media platforms like twitter, Facebook and Instagram for example.
17. How long have you been illustrating children's book and will you ever stop?
I've started working on my new illustrative career in 2013 after i got made redundant from my corporate job. It was at that time that i really wanted to give my interest and passion for illustration a serious go. I enrolled into university for a diploma in Children Illustrations and I haven't stopped learning since. I draw everyday, be it a sketch or finishing up a piece I am working on. I participate to many challenges online and on Facebook to help me source themes via daily or weekly prompts. So far, its been challenging but a rewarding couple of years too and I have absolutely no intentions to stop (except maybe for a couple of months after my baby is born).
18. What inspired you to become an Artist and when did you first realize that you wanted to do children's illustrations?
I have a billion gazillion stories to tell. I have a bursting imagination that I cannot contain. I don't know if it is a blessing or a curse.... For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to tell magical stories and capture the imagination and minds of children. Consequently, I chose, not only to write these down , but also to illustrate them.
19. Do you make art on commission? What? and what is your process?
Yes I do take commissions. I usually have a brief email exchange with my clients where I inform of time frames, and prices, I send them a standard contract with the terms and conditions before setting up a Skype call and discussing the particularities of a project. Of course, I remain reachable at all times should they need me to.
20. What is your favorite affirmation or quote and why?
"Impossible n'est pas français" from Napoléon 1st. I truly believe nothing is impossible as long as you set your mind to achieving it. And yes, I am French !
21. Can you tell us about your work-space? What tips would you give another artist to make their work-space more efficient?
I change set-up all the time, depending on my mood and my needs. I'm currently relocating however so my studio is all packed up in boxes ready to go. But I used to have it place in the Mezzanine where I stored all my supplies and where I occasionally did some work. I also used the dining table, the sofa or a spare desk at my husband's office. Its where inspiration finds me that counts. At home or in a cafe outside or anywhere else for that matter. I always carry a sketchbook with me and my iPad should I wish to interact with my fans whilst I am on the move. Here are a few pictures I took in 2014.
22. What other talents do you share with the world?
I sew, I cook, I take pictures. I am a problem solver by definition and i strive to be a source of inspiration for my family, friends and fans.
Do you have more questions for Leila?
Tweet her during the month of August using the#MonsterChore2015 hashtag, along with her twitter tag @LN_Illustration. Then she's reply back to you as soon as she can! Also download her coloring page Watering the Plants from our Monster Chores Coloring Book! Click Here Now!