Monthly Archives: February 2012

About Leah

I was born in Austin, Texas, USA and spent much of my childhood moving from one place to another– including Copenhagen, Denmark, where I attended a Danish school. There I learned to speak a fair bit of Danish, and discovered that liverwurst and pickled-beet sandwiches were lunchbox staples, while peanut butter and jelly were considered exotic and slightly disgusting. And yes, I came to enjoy those strange new flavors, along with salty licorice, yum! 

I was a shy but curious child. (I’m still quite shy, to be honest!) Each move forced me out of my shell to learn about my new environment and find new friends, but moving so often also meant that drawing and reading became my comfort and refuge: steadfast companions that would always be there no matter where we went.

Maybe that’s why I’ve always been so obsessive about words and images and the ways they interact.

In college I discovered the wonders of the Rare Book Room, learned to set letterpress type by hand, and lettered, illustrated and bound a 100-plus-page manuscript. While still in school and for a while after graduating I freelanced, mainly as a calligrapher at first, but then branched out into illustration, and later, painting personal pieces for gallery exhibits & my Etsy shop, Curious Art Lab. 

Whether I’m rendering words in calligraphy, illustrating an author’s words, or incorporating words into my paintings, the verbal and visual are always at play in my work. And I’m still insatiably curious about the world.

My illustrations and calligraphy have appeared in numerous annuals and exhibits, including Communication Arts, Society of Illustrators, Print, Spectrum, Visual Club, and RSVP competitions.

My paintings and other works have been shown in galleries in North Carolina, New York City, Los Angeles, New Zealand, and elsewhere.

I’m a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and have presented several talks and workshops for the Society. I’ve done school presentations about writing and illustration, led creativity workshops, and painted murals for a local school and a children’s bookstore.

I majored in Studio Art at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, USA, and graduated magna cum laude. I’m a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

After college (and several more moves) I finally settled down in Raleigh, NC, USA, with my husband and twin sons and our cat Ivy. I’m happy to have put down roots, although I still love to travel. The photo at left is from a visit to the Olympic National Park in Washington, USA, home of the world’s largest Sitka spruce.  Being in an old-growth rain forest for the first time reminded me vividly of my youngest years, when I loved to pretend that I was as tiny as a fairy, and could live in a stump or hide under a leaf.

Client List

Hi-Fructose Interview

Noah Scalin’s 365 Feature

Lines & Colors Feature


Red Cabinet

I’m a bit of a magpie.

I love picking up odd things that catch my eye, gathering interesting information, looking at art and nature and people and books, filling my house and my brain with all sorts of miscellaneous stuff.

Medieval manuscripts, MAD Magazine, 19th century textbooks, puppets, pulp fiction, anything Alice, botanical specimens, Persian miniatures, Monty Python, scientific illustration, Flemish Renaissance paintings, old lab glass, Victorian scrap, rusty hardware and the art of the insane– when it comes to inspiration, I’m omnivorous!

But it’s after the collecting that the real fun begins.  I love juxtaposing different elements and watching what happens when they get together. It’s like having a lively conversation with ideas & objects and images, full of surprises, twists and turns and curious coincidences.



Process Goodly Creature

The slides below show stages in the creation of my 2010 painting, Goodly Creature: first concept sketch, prepared canvas, initial collage layers applied and glazed with acrylic, six finished canvas sections, assembly (rear view) and final results.

Although most of my paintings aren’t assembled in this fashion, the collage and painting process is much the same.

Goodly Creature was created for the Things to Come exhibit, September 2010, Bold Hype Gallery, New York, NY. {SOLD}


Drawing Table
I’ve always loved experimenting, so I’ve explored many different techniques and media including graphite, pen & ink, etching, watercolor, gouache, colored pencil, oil, acrylic, digital (Photoshop, Illustrator, & Flash), polymer clay, fiber, found objects and collage. I’ve enjoyed them all and learned much from each, and I still have a restless urge to try new techniques. But most of my gallery work these days is a combination of collage and acrylic. Above is a picture of my drawing table set-up. You can see my palette, which I keep in an old tin that can be covered to slow drying, and a few jars of pre-mixed colors of Golden Fluid Acrylic, my favorite paint ever. You can also see the teeny-tiny brushes I love, along with some bigger ones I use mainly for backgrounds and glazes. Just visible at the lower left is the edge of a printed collage piece, glazed with translucent color in preparation for painting.
My studio is stuffed with old books and papers that I’ve found mainly at our local flea market. I especially love 19th-century textbooks and instruction manuals, which can often be had for a dollar or two. I scan texts and sometimes maps and illustrations from these sources, them print them archivally to use as a collage base for my paintings. You can see the way I incorporate these elements in Process.