Tell Us About Yourself:

While I used to say I’m a writer who loves to draw, lately, I’ve been thinking I’m an artist who also likes to write and edit. I’m the co-editor, with Caren Osten Gerszberg, of an anthology called Drinking Diaries: Women Serve Their Stories Straight Up based on our blog, Drinking Diaries. I also write poetry and fiction for adults and young adults, and I am currently working on an illustrated memoir called Unsupervised: Growing Up in the Seventies.

I live in Westchester County with my husband, three children (ages 15, 18 and 21), and a beloved Havanese named Javier. Before I had children, I worked as an assistant editor at One World, an imprint of Ballantine Books, where we focused on multicultural fiction and nonfiction as well as self-help and spirituality titles. My second job after college (after getting fired from my first, as an assistant to a literary agent), was working in the business section of The New York Times—to date, my favorite place to work.

How did you become an artist?

I grew up in a house where there was a great appreciation of beauty: my father was a filmmaker and photographer, and my mother was a painter and sculptor. She always had paintings and fresh flowers in the house and took me to art galleries in and around Washington, D.C.  As a child, I drew and doodled compulsively, but I also loved reading. I took one art class in high school but didn’t really enjoy painting the dark still lives the teacher set up, so I kind of dropped painting and decided I wanted to be a writer. Plus, I associated making art with my mom’s worst days as an alcoholic, so I wasn’t too keen to call myself an artist, though she painted after she got sober as well. Instead of dark charcoal drawings, she began to paint bright, beautiful landscapes of Sweden, her home country.

I wrote for many years, but eventually, it felt like beating my head against a wall. I have five novels in the drawer (4 middle grade and young adult, one adult), but I think in the end, my ADD (self-diagnosed) made it hard to organize my thoughts or finish things (or make outlines!). To calm my brain, I started drawing again at age 50, first on paper, and then on an iPad pro with an Apple Pencil, which my husband bought me a few years ago for Mother’s Day. I got hooked, and haven’t looked back since, drawing every day, sometimes for hours at a time. It focuses and calms me in a way that writing never did, plus it stops time and I get to indulge my love of color. I’ve taken a few classes over the years but I’m pretty much self-taught, though I have recently taken classes online through an amazing program called Make Art That Sells, taught by Lilla Rogers, who is a great mentor. And I like Skillshare and Creative Bug tutorials.

Can you tell us about your work, what your obsessions are, how you choose your subjects?

I’m a very nostalgic person, so a lot of my art is driven by remembrance of things past. I’ve done a 1970s series, as well as a 1980s series, and plan to do a 1990s series, and maybe work my way backward through time. Above all, I love drawing faces, and I choose my subjects either because a friend asks me to do something for them (a portrait of their family members, or of something they love), or from photographs on Instagram that catch my eye. I also love drawing fashion. In real life, I tend to dress in the same yoga pants every day, but I used to be obsessed with fashion magazines, and I now indulge my love of fashion by drawing clothes and the beautiful people who wear them so well. I also love drawing my middle daughter, who actually allows me to photograph and draw her as much as I want. It’s great to draw the same person over and over again until you’re so familiar with their features that you can draw them from memory.

Do you show or sell your work? Can you tell us a bit about that process for you?

I don’t show my work, as I’m more of an iPad illustrator at the moment, but I hope to start painting IRL, with actual paints on actual canvas. That being said, I have done commissions for friends, for birthdays, graduations, and other special occasions. I love painting peoples’ favorite things, or things they’re nostalgic for, like old albums or candies or beer—whatever floats their boat. Recently, I’ve been doing some illustrations for an online men’s magazine called InsideHook. An editor contacted me after he saw my work on Instagram—it’s a great platform to get inspired by other peoples’ work and to show my own work without being so precious and self-conscious about it. Unlike my writing, which made me self conscious, my art feels more free-flowing and natural to who I am. Here’s a sampling of my artwork, but you can find me on Instagram. Lately, I’ve become obsessed with learning how to make animated gifs, so stay tuned….

Pieces by Leah: 
Tags : art
The Woolfer Newsletter Team
Stephanie Staal and Nina Collins have worked together and adored each other since 1994 when they were both babies in the world of book publishing. Stephanie is a lawyer, journalist, & author of READING WOMEN, and Nina is the founder of "What Would Virginia Woolf Do?" Hillary Richard is also a lawyer and co-host of the Raging Gracefully podcast. Sidney Morss is a recent NYU grad and the youngest member of our team.

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