"Where Do These Ideas Come From?"  

It's one of the most common questions I hear, so let me tell you a little bit about how this all got started...

Creating art has been a passion of mine since I was small.  Sometimes I am so inspired by the things I see that I just have to draw them.  It's like solving a puzzle - getting all the lines and colors to match up just right.


In college and after college, I continued to practice, but when I had kids in 2009, it became harder to make art my profession. I was working full time and commuting an hour both ways to work. I took a 4 year break from my artwork, but I didn't stop thinking about it. I thought about what I wanted to draw, and decided that when I had time, I wanted to try making large scale children's book illustrations, and that I wanted to try painting them with oil paint.  


When my youngest child was about one year old, I decided that for a warm up I would spend a few hours illustrating a story each night after putting the kids to bed.  The illustrations were small stylized pen and ink drawings with watercolor washes of anthropomorphized animals.  The story was called "Morgan the Ox." It was written in rhyme by my brother Seth, about an ox who is challenged to a pingpong match by a little cockatoo....  

I finished illustrating the story in 2014. Around this time, I was looking for a new subject.  My daughter had these cool dinosaur toys, and one day she put her barbie tutu on a velociraptor... it made me laugh out loud - Maybe it was the tom boy in me or the wonderful combination of the big scaly monster like predator looking dainty and beautiful in her lovely dress - It was funny on so many different levels that I needed to draw it.  



So, I stole my daughter's toys... and a few of her tutus.  I started with a small detailed pen and ink drawing, colored with colored pencil (the result was the little raptor in the blue tutu that you see above.  


After doing a few drawings that size, I did a couple of bigger ones, and eventually moved onto large scale oil paintings.  I had no idea what I was doing with oil paint.  I'd picked up a few tips here and there, but mostly, I just had an image of how I wanted it to look in my head, and used the toys and tutus as models to direct me on where to put the paint.

It was also around this time that I found myself unemployed.  It was a surprise, but it was actually really good timing for me.  I had plans to do a Kickstarter campaign to self publish "Morgan the Ox" and try selling it along with prints of my paintings at art fairs. Suddenly, I had time to do it.


When I brought my work to my first fair - the Grand Avenue Craft Fair in Phoenix in November 2013, I had no idea how people would respond to my work.  I'd never seen any paintings like them (though I did look at Degas ballerina paintings to understand how to paint the tutus), but I liked them, and I hoped others would too. To my surprise, I sold out of many of my prints and greeting cards. 


After that, I continued to paint more dinosaurs in dresses and participated in bigger and bigger art fairs.  All of the "Morgan the Ox" books we published eventually sold out too.  


I later moved on to other subjects. I'd pick out a specific animal and when I'd have an idea about made me laugh out loud, or was funny on multiple levels, I'd make it - Just like I did when my daughter's dinosaur in a tutu made me laugh.  It was fun to make artwork like that, it still is, and it is fun to watch people laugh when they see it too.


 My work doesn't appeal to everyone, but no one's artwork really does.  I just feel fortunate that so many people do appreciate it.  It encourages me to keep going.  As a viewer, you encourage me to keep going, and I am so thankful that you are part of my audience.


Thank you for taking the time to read my story.  I hope you have a wonderful day!


Leah Kiser