Artist Interview - Leslie Sabella

I grew up on four acres of beautiful land in the Midwest about an hour outside of Chicago. I think I had the best of both country and city life, and feel so lucky to call this magical place my 'home.' I spent most of my childhood wandering around our woods, creeks and gardens barefoot discovering something new everyday. Although I miss being away right now, my husband, Jonathan's exciting career as an artist in the visual effects industry has set us out on a big adventure over the last four years. We have lived in Chicago, Vancouver, Los Angeles and now call San Francisco home.

Because my husband and I move often for his career, I have learned to adapt and create a work space wherever we are. Last year, I found an amazing vintage desk with ornate wood carved details on the legs at an antique show in LA, that I love! Our current place is just north of downtown San Francisco and the view from my desk faces rolling hills to the East. Northern California is one of the most beautiful places I have been lucky enough to live in and explore.

Most days for me consist of a lot of time with my drawing pad, walking my dog, answering emails, checking social media and editing my work and interspersed yoga sessions. I am constantly writing down ideas and quotes for illustrations in notebooks and revisit them when I am creatively ready to start a new project. I am definitely not always inspired to work, but I think letting the energy flow is better for one’s health and productivity, although it is not always easy to find the balance. At the end of the day, I always make time for myself and husband, cooking is a great way for me to unwind and reset the evening.

Strangely, I never thought I would be a working artist. My mom a trained artist with a B.F.A in drawing and published artist as well, divided her time when I was young between teaching, creating, running her own gallery and being a full-time mom. I knew how competitive any career in the arts would be, so I reserved my interest in art making for hobby. I studied art history in college, thinking I would curate or teach, but with a unique opportunity upon graduating, I opened an eclectic gift shop in my hometown. After five years of running my shop I decided to close and my husband and I moved to Vancouver, BC. During this time, with much encouragement from Jonathan, I started drawing again to fill my long days away from family and friends. One thing led to another and in 2012 I opened my first Etsy shop filled with prints of my original work.

Success is a hard thing for me to measure, but slowly over the last four years I have had fond milestones. My first, was receiving an email that I sold my first print on Etsy. I still remember which design it was! Next, was my funded Kickstarter adult coloring book “Boho Soul.” And finally, getting licensed with Calypso, was a dream come true. Seeing my work pop up in little shops all around me brings so much joy to my soul. Knowing other people love my work is amazing!

When I think about what inspires me, there are too many things to list... I like to think of my work as a little window into the bohemian lifestyle, so I draw inspiration from a variety of periods in time, places I have travelled to, and above all nature. I have always been drawn to things that have history and a story, and love being able to weave together meaningful words with my designs. Having studied so many genres and artists in college, it is hard not to find something inspiring there, but Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau artists left a big impression on me. The attention to fine details, pattern and nature truly sums up my approach to illustrating. A few contemporary artists I love are Katie Daisy, Anahata Katkin, Teagan White and Marjolein Bastin, and Lee White.

My earliest memory of creating art is a little hard to remember, but when I was 6 years old I painted a scene of cats and my mom entered it in a children's art contest. I won, and my piece along with other children's work was sent to Japan for a show. As the prize, I got a ribbon and high quality pack of markers that I cherished for many years after.

Without a doubt, my items to work with are black Micron or Faber-Castell pens. The simplicity of this single medium allows me to focus on the balance of design. After my designs are completed by hand, I scan into the computer and start playing with color. This is where my work experiences the burst of new life and it completed into the prints and cards!

I'm not sure my style has changed a lot over time, but the more I dedicate to creating the more I see my illustrations becoming refined in the details. Also, I have been enjoying painting recently which adds a new element to my style and a big contrast from black pen to start.

Of all the cards Calypso publishes, I think the "Every Call" design is definitely a favorite. The quote on the card by Rumi – "Respond to every call that excites your spirit", resonates with who I am and how I want to live each new day.

Click here to see Leslie Sabella's entire collection!