Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 9, 2017

Illustrator Saturday – Leila Nabih

Leila’s illustrations combine hand drawn lines and digital elements. She loves drawing bunnies and cats, as well as little boys and girls. At the moment she is working on a few self initiated educational projects to benefit her two year old toddler and submitting picture book dummies to a variety of publishing houses. She has self published a couple of books and is currently working on another two. She has also been commissioned to design and create picture books as gifts for little children from their parents, aunts or friends.

Leila has a French baccalauréat in sciences, a Bachelors degree in chemistry with a thesis in organic chemistry, a Masters degree in international business and a certificate of achievement in illustrating children’s books from a London based school. She speaks several languages and have grown up and lived in around 10 countries across the world (so far).

Here is Leila discussing her process:

Most of my work usually starts by putting pencil to paper and randomly creating a composition of objects or elements. When this is done, I start refining the sketch , one element at a time, until I am done with the nitty gritty details. I use reference materials that I own or that i find on the web to adjust poses and expressions if there are characters in the illustrations. I find random images of backgrounds that have elements that i like and that fit the story and add them to the sketch. I usually end up with something like this.

I render the sketch digitally by taking a picture of it with my phone and sending it to myself by email. I add that picture as the base layer of my illustration, change the opacity and draw on top of it. I start putting in shadows on the next layer. I then choose my colour palette. I also find my inspiration for colours around me. Something that caught my eye, the mood i wish to convey, everything is determined with the colours.

Once I am settled on the colours, i colour in everything, usually one colour per layer. I then rework the layers accordingly adding shadows or light where i see appropriate. The final step is to add texture, either by adding a watercolour layered texture or by making it myself using a different tool.


Finished piece

How long have you been illustrating?

I have been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. I used to watch my mum paint silk scarves and pastel landscapes when i was a child, and wanted to be just like her. But in terms of making it a career, I’ve been hard at work to make that happen for the last four years.

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

It was a whole picture book actually, and it was back in 2014. It was a private commission to illustrate and produce a picture book for someone’s niece who had a birthday coming up. It was a challenging project in the sense that there was a very tight deadline and that neither the author nor myself had ever done this before.

What made you choose to study with London Art College?

Back in 2013 I got made redundant from my day job. It didn’t go very well. It was a bit of a traumatic experience for me, so I decided to take a year off to ponder on things. I travelled for a while and whilst away, I found myself writing and illustrating everyday without actually thinking about making it my career. I searched for a course that I could do whilst travelling and found the “Illustrating Children’s books” course from London Art College. So I enrolled.

Do you think art school influenced your style?
Yes, It definitely did. My style was different before I started the course. It was different whilst I did the course, and it has greatly changed since I finished it. I cringe at what it was today.

Was LITT’’L RED your first illustrated picture book?

Officially, Yes. But in truth, it wasn’t. I have published two other books before , but I have removed them from the shelves because of my change in style.

How did the story idea come your way?

I wanted to illustrate a classic fairytale that I loved. So I decided to make my own interpretation of Little Red Riding Hood. What also influenced my choice was the fact that not many had heard of the Charles Perrault version, the one with the dark and sad ending. Everyone seems to know the version where the little girl is saved but not this one. Despite the fact that it didn’t really fit with my target audience in mind, I altered my style a little and adapted it to older children.

How did your latest picture CHRISTMAS EVE come about?

I believe I was recommended to the author by someone on one of the social networks. The author then contacted me last October saying her current illustrator was ill and couldn’t do the work for her and she wanted to publish the book beginning December. We negotiated fees and talked about how we could make this happen, and when everything was agreed, I started to work as fast as I could. My toddler cooperated and my husband helped a lot as well. We successfully met our deadline and published the book.

How many interior illustrations did you need to do for this book?

All the illustrations are actually full colour. It is a 24 page picture book, 8.5×8.5” with a variety of double spreads, single spreads and spot illustrations. In total , there were 14 inside the book. I created the front cover and the back cover as well.

Have you illustrated any book covers?

I have made the book covers for LITT’L RED, for CHRISTMAS EVE , and for my next upcoming book, JOY’S SNEAKERS.

Do you illustrate greeting cards?

I do the odd seasonal Christmas Cards. I have a few on the shop I have recently opened on Etsy. I have also done a few privately commissioned birthday cards and invitations for children’s birthday parties.


Do you think you will write and illustrate more of your own books?

Yes I will. I have another book to be published December 2017. It’s called JOY’S SNEAKERS. If you love sneakers (the shoes, not the candy), and cats, that’s the book for you. It’s aimed at children 0-5. You can find out more about it on my website.

Would you be open to illustrating a book for an author who wants to self-publish?

Yes I am. “CHRISTMAS EVE” is a self published book.

Have you ever tried to illustrate a wordless picture book?

No I haven’t yet. But I do have such a project in the pipeline.

Have you worked with any educational publishers?

I hope to in the future.


Have you ever illustrated something for a children’s magazine?

No I haven’t yet.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I love pencil and paper. Nothing can ever beat that for me.

Has that changed over time?

Yes and no. Sometimes I try to challenge myself into sketching and drawing directly on my tablet, to get into that habit and try to get used to it. I cringe at the amount of paper I have used in the past to produce work. I can’t help but think of all the trees that went down for it. I’ve also had to throw away a lot of my work because I have no room for it and because we have moved house quite often in the last four years.

Do you have a studio set up in your home?

I used to have a very large room up in the attic, but that was before I moved back to London and before I had my baby. Now the toddler is a menace. Anything he gets his hands on is at risk of being destroyed so most of my work things are up on the kitchen counter where he can’t grab or see. I work where I can, which means anywhere in the house.

What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

My bullet journal. I sketch and write and plan everything in it. Drop any illustration ideas or project ideas and even write my first story drafts in it.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

Yes. I must draw daily. I don’t like everything I draw every day so a lot of my work is just for me to practice and warm up. But what I am most pleased with, I do share with my followers on the various social media channels.

Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

Yes I do. One very famous artist agent recommended pinterest for inspiration and reference photos. I do sometimes take pictures of my toddler for poses and expressions, but I also browse the web for more references.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes. No doubt there. I wouldn’t be anywhere without it since I studied online and I network online.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

No I don’t use Photoshop or Painter.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

I do most of my work on my ipad pro. I sketch in my sketchbook with a technical pencil then render the illustration on the ipad. I use a variety of applications, one is called Procreate, the other is called ArtRage, and another is iGraphic.

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

Like many, I want to be traditionally published with one of the big publishing houses. Either as an illustrator or as an author illustrator.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a short 24 page picture book about bedtime routines for infants and toddlers. I have two other projects that I will start working on in January. Can’t say anything about them yet besides the fact that I am the chosen illustrator for those new books.

I am currently being exhibited at the Half Moon Gallery in London along with several other SCBWI fellow illustrators. It’s the first event of this type in the region and I am honoured and flattered to have been selected and featured as a children’s book illustrator. The piece currently on display is “Peekaboo”. The gallery is open until January for anyone interested in seeing some beautiful work.

Thank you Leila for sharing your talent, process, and expertise with us. Make sure you share you future successes with us. To see more of Leila’s work, you can visit her at her website:

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Leila. I am sure she’d love to hear from you and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Thank you for having me today Kathy!


  2. Wow, your work is really amazing. Could I just ask you how much was your course and how long did it take?


  3. Reblogged this on Leila Nabih and commented:
    Because I do love to share my progress online with my fans, family and friends, I thought I’d drop in a line today to mention that I am today’s Featured Illustrator on Kathy Temean’s Blog, Writing and Illustrating.

    It is such an honour and a privilege to be featured on such a specialist blog. I feel like I’ve crossed another milestone with this feature. I’ve been following her and her blog posts for more than three years now, and she has been a very valuable source of information for me to learn about the processes, the ins and outs of the children’s books industry, and to meet virtually other individuals with the same passion as mine. 

    I highly recommend anyone working in the children’s books industry to follow her blog and subscribe to her posts. You can thank me later !

    Enough chitter chatter for today. Head on over to her blog and read my interview. 


  4. […] Because I do love to share my progress online with my fans, family and friends, I thought I’d drop in a line today to mention that I am today’s Featured Illustrator on Kathy Temean’s Blog, Writing and Illustrating. […]


  5. Thank you for sharing, Leila!


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