Interview with Award Winning Illustrator Kiri Leonard

Apr 22,2020 PM 16:44



XP-Pen: Hi Kiri, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Kiri: Hi, my name is Kiri Leonard. I’m a full-time artist, illustrator, and creator. I have been working professionally as an artist for about 10 years now. I am from Denmark but immigrated to the US in 2010 to pursue a career in the arts. I focus on Fantasy Art and children’s illustration and draw a lot of my inspiration from folklore, childhood, and nature. You can find my work at and


Kiri at her studio

XP-Pen: What was your path to becoming an illustrator, and from there to focus on Fantasy Art?

Kiri: I was obsessed with fairy tales as a child, and I never questioned which type of art to focus on. Fantasy Art was the only one I was passionate about, so it was the one I pursued from the get-go.  I always drew a lot as a child, and I loved it, but I didn’t realize until I was in my mid-twenties that it was something you could make a living at. From there on, I began practicing art every day to learn how to draw and paint well. Once I had a portfolio put together, I began sending art out to potential clients to find work.  



XP-Pen: What kind of illustration projects are you most interested in?

Kiri: I love book illustration and am currently working on two books of my own, which I am writing and illustrating. One is called Locke the Legend, and the other is called Montague Mouse.

Locke, the Legend is going to be an illustrated novel for mature readers. It is set in a gritty, dark fantasy setting where dragons are real, and magic is something to be feared. In the fighting pits of the city of Agos, the boisterous reigning champion – a woman by the name of Locke Galston who fights only with her fists, is offered a hefty sum to throw the fight.


Kiri's Studio

Montague Mouse is for a younger audience. It’s a classical adventure story. In a final effort to save the dying Moorwood from the toads’ insidious bog rot, the Parliament of animal elders elect incredible Marten, the bravest and quickest of all the animals, to escape their woodland home, on a mission to plant Moorwood’s last three surviving acorns – but what happens when the hero fails? After a long winter, a very little and very hungry mouse named Montague comes upon the abandoned acorns in the dead woodland. It is an emotional, magical story of dark corners, friendships, perseverance, self-doubt, and above all, hope. 

XP-Pen: Your daily habit of making you focus on your creation and keep progress?

Kiri: When you work from home, it’s essential to keep good habits, so you will get work done. I try to keep a 9 - 5 workday most of the week. I go to work in the studio every morning around 9 am, and then keep going until the evening. I try to eliminate distractions, so I keep a social media blocker installed on my browser, and I switch my phone to silent mode and put it aside. Keeping a schedule is also essential and will help you stay on track. It’s a struggle, but little consistent efforts will get you far!


Montague Mouse Adventure

XP-Pen: How do you stay inspired?

Kiri: My head is always bursting with ideas, but engaging with the world is a great way to stay inspired. Read books, take walks, listen to a podcast, look at art, study people, spend time with friends, watch movies, play games, and then while doing all of these things, think about how you could turn it into art. 

 If you enjoy walks in nature, come up with an art project where you paint plants from nature. Maybe you make up your magical plants, or you paint herbs, or flowers, or whatever you’re into. 

XP-Pen: What is the most rewarding part of being an illustrator?

Kiri: Being able to imagine whatever you want and then turn it into a thing that exists in the world, be it a drawing or a painting, sculpture, or whatever type of art you enjoy. It’s so magical that we can just think of something and then make it real in some shape or form. 



XP-Pen: What advice would you give to someone who wants to go further in their art career? What qualities can an artist develop to go further in their career? 

Kiri: The most important skill you can have is to be proactive and actively seek out the knowledge you need to succeed. The internet is an incredible resource; between YouTube, Skillshare, and many other websites, you can learn everything online, but you must be willing to take the time to do it. Don’t expect someone else to do it for you; if you want to get better, you need to find the knowledge needed to improve and then practice it to your heart’s content.

And then remember to have fun! There’s no point in doing art if you don’t enjoy it.

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