Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 8, 2022

Illustrator Saturday – Wendy Leach

Wendy Leach Graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Art from the University of Missouri. She was honored in 2017 to be one of the Society of Children’s book writers and illustrators featured artist.

She graduated with a BFA in painting from the University of Missouri. While earning her degree she worked in the children’s department of the local Barnes and Noble where her love for picture book illustration began. Wendy lives with her extremely silly family in Overland Park Kansas. You can see more of her work by visiting her website artofwendyleach.com

Here is Wendy discussing her process for A GOLF BALL IN MY SHOE:

I like to start with character design

Then I work on page design (if I’m not working with an art director who might let me know what they want). My sketch style varies depending on what I’m focusing on or what I really want to figure out. So you can see the character design, the golf swing and the larger background elements are what I’m trying to figure out.

If it’s not a full spread I’ll finish the individual elements.  I normally keep the elements on separate layers so that I can make little tweaks with out having to redraw everything. I left the sketch so you can see that I normally work right on top of the layer like a traditional light box. You can see that in the final, I was able to shift the main characters placement from my original design.

I finish the individual elements and transfer everything to photoshop where I complete the spread.

INTERVIEW WITH WENDY:

How long have you been illustrating?

I started illustrating in the second grade, when I created a magazine for my classmates with stories and pictures. I have always preferred art that told a story. I started offering my illustration services to others about 11 years ago.

What and when was the first piece of art you created for money?

I sold small clay miniatures, at local craft fairs when I was in 6th and 7th grades. It was fun and I remember buying a pair of jeans with the proceeds and feeling very grown up indeed. Several years later I worked for a house cleaning company and I remember coming across several of my creations on one of our client’s kitchen shelves. It’s an interesting thing to think something you created is visible to someone you don’t know and possible brings them a small amount of joy every day.

Why did you choose to get a bachelor’s degree in painting from the University of Missouri?

I knew that I wanted to be an illustrator but didn’t want to be far from my family so I got as close as I could to illustration in my home town.

Did you do any freelance art while working for your degree?

Not that I remember.

What classes were your favorite?

I loved my art history classes, printmaking, painting figure, drawing and color theory. To be honesty I really enjoyed all of my classes. If it wasn’t so expensive, I’d probably still be taking classes.

Were you able to take any illustrating classes while in college.

My last semester they offered an illustration class so I took it.

Did University of Missouri help you find work before you graduated?

No, I was in a fine arts program so it was more about getting work into galleries.

How did you market yourself after graduation?

I had an Etsy shop; a personal website and I joined the scbwi.

What type of work did you do right after you graduated?

I worked at a bank! I also took illustration classes online, wrote, illustrated and self-published my Francis book.

Have you ever illustrated any greeting cards, textile design, etc.?

I created a series of Stamps and have licensed Christmas card designs. It’s fun to try different things but I really do love creating art for picture books best.

When did you decide that you wanted to illustrate books for children?

I have always enjoyed creating stories and acting them out or creating pictures for them. I think it was my job as a children’s lead bookseller at Barnes and Noble that made me see it was possible to illustrate for a living. Having my daughter really kicked me into high gear. I wanted to make sure she knew she could be anything she wanted and I realized I was only sticking my toes in the water and not really jumping in because I was afraid of failing.

What inspired you to write and illustrate, FRANCIS your first book?

Francis came about as a way for me to deal with something hard that happened in my life. It’s about accepting what is and finding the humor in it. I also knew, if I wanted to illustrate picture books I would at some point have to create an entire picture book. It was a way of learning more about the writing, illustrating and publishing process without making mistakes in front of clients (I still make mistakes, but I do it more confidently).

Do you have any plans to write and illustrate another book?

I’m always on the lookout for inspiration and sketching characters and locations. Eventually something will pull together into a full story and I will create another book.

How many books have you illustrated?

More than 10 less than 20.

Violet the Snowgirl: A Story of Loss and Healing by Lisa L. Walsh and published by free spirit October 2, 2020. How long did the publisher give you to illustrate this book?

I got the Script on December 20 2019 the first round of sketches was due March 9 2020 and The finals where due May 26 2020. I was given about a month and a half to do the sketches and around 3 months for the finals.  This Publisher also had me do the cover and an interior spread to final before I finished the book, I believe so they could get the marketing started.

With “Violet the snow girl” I felt like the time was perfect for my working speed.  The shortest amount of time I was given for a book was about a month it was mostly full spreads so around 12 illustrations.  I’m always willing to try something I have never done but I don’t think I would do that again.  I was stressed out and the worked looked a bit more slap dash than I like.

You illustrated two How the Crayons Saved… books, How the Crayons Saved Christmas Nov 10, 2020 and How the Crayons Saved the School published by SkyPony August 2021. Were these books the first ones you illustrated with crayons?

Yes, before this I worked mostly with children and animals.

I just featured Someday We Will by Pam Webb and published by Beaming Books on Writing and Illustrating. How did you get the contract to illustrate that book?

This all happened through my wonderful Agent Aurora with Astound.

How did Beaming Books find you to illustrate this book?

Through my Agent.

You just had two illustrated picture books: A The Stray Cat Hides A Secret by Stanis Beck on December 17, 2021and Golf Ball in Her Shoe by Patricia Pedraza-Nafziger on Dec 27, 2021 published by Bookbaby. Are these a self-published books?

Yes. I will take on Self-Publishing Authors if I have the time and their story resonates with me or if I think it would be fun to learn about the subject matter and draw it. I draw things I never would have come up with on my own. Both of the Authors where lovely to work with and had great passion for their stories. The Stray Cat is very much written as a memory with a beloved grandchild and I really wanted to draw the garden during the different seasons. A Golf Ball in Her Shoe has a lot of heart and feeling behind the story that struck me. I also learned way more about golf than I ever thought I’d know!

It looks like you illustrated 16 books in the last three years. Was this hard to do?

Illustrating I enjoy so that part was easy. Organizing my life to make sure I meet deadlines and still had quality time with my family and a somewhat tidy home not as easy. When my daughter was younger, I would work early in the morning before she woke up around naptime and after she went to sleep.

Do you think you will write and illustrate more books?

Definitely yes, it’s one of my favorite things to do.

Have you taken any digital graphic design classes to help you learn Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.?

No but I know I should and that it would be helpful. I’m sure things would be a lot quicker and less frustrating.

I see you are represented by Astound. How did you connect with them and how long have you been with them?

I follow a lot of illustrators on Instagram and I noticed one I really liked was represented by Astound so I looked them up and submitted. I have been with Astound around 4 years.


Do you do any school visits?

I would love to. I was ask once, but then Covid lockdowns happened and I haven’t pursued or been ask recently.

Do you take pictures and do research before you started illustrating a book?

I do a lot of images searches on google.

Has your style changed over the years?

It’s always changing and it varies depending on the projects I’m working on. Sometimes its lose and sketchy and sometimes tidier. I suppose my different works have qualities that are similar, I think if someone looks at my work, they can see they are done by the same hand.

What is your favorite medium to use?
Currently I work on an ipad because it’s easy to manipulate (undo button) but I use techniques I learned from pencil drawing and watercolor. A digital media in a more traditional style.

Is working with a self-published author to illustrate their book something you would consider?

It’s one of my favorite things to do! It definitely has the possibility of being nightmare but most of the time it’s very rewarding. I like working with clients who are passionate about their subjects and trying in some way to make the world a kinder better place to be. A lot of subjects don’t have a large enough market for a publisher, but the stories are still important. If your book can help even one person, I think it’s worth it.

What do you think is your biggest success?

I think the fact that I keep going until eventually someone says yes. I suppose some of my favorite career milestones where, self-publishing Francis, my first paying customer, my first published piece in the scbwi magazine, my first signed contract from a publisher and my first book with a larger publisher “A Small Kindness” written by Stacy McAnulty.

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

I work on an ipad pro.

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

I try to work around 4 hours a day with two days off a week. but I normally sketch an hour or two on my days off as well.

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

I have a lot I want to do, but the one at the top of the list is to write, illustrate and have a publisher pick up one of my picture book!

What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on another book in the crayon series. Several smaller projects for the educational market. I’m putting the finishing touches on a picture book proposal and trying to work on new pieces for my portfolio. I’m trying to find projects in the beginning chapter book and middle grade markets.

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

Use whatever you have to just make a lot of art. Some of my best artistic growth comes from things I don’t feel precious about like my 6 yr. old’s art supplies. But if you can swing it, the ipad pro and Procreate are on my must haves. The ability to try things and not worry about the outcome because I can always hit the undo button has allowed me to grow artistically and the digital application have made changing things for clients quick and easy. I like being able to go from thumbnails to sketch to finish drawing all in the same file.

Any words of wisdom for new illustrators?

Keep drawing what you love, it’s your passion people tend to relate and respond to, but stretch your legs try drawing the hard things. You will improve your craft quicker. If you want to work in the children’s market Learn to draw children that can move and show emotion it will help, get you work. Standing, smiling cute children will not fill 32 pages, they must move. Find a critique group. Get out there you don’t need to wait.

Wendy, thank you for taking the time to answer the interview questions and showing us your process. Please let me know about your future books and successes so I can share them with everyone.

You can visit Wendy using the following links:

WEBSITE:  http://www.artofwendyleach.com/

INSTAGRAM:  https://www.instagram.com/wendy_leach_illustration/

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/wendyleach12345

AGENCY:  https://astound.us/publishing/wendy-leach

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Thanks for the inspiration, Wendy! I typically use my iMac, but your work encouraged me to try out some ideas with my iPad Pro and Procreate.

    Like

  2. Wonderful interview. I enjoyed hearing about the process and looking at the art.

    Like

  3. I love all of these, but if I have to choose a favorite, I love the one of the girl sitting in the big chair!

    Like

  4. It was great learning more about Wendy’s work. She captured well my text in Someday We Will.

    Like

  5. Fun illustrations! So much personality! Thanks for sharing with us! 🙂

    Like


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