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Katie Leavens-calligrapher and illustrator who strokes with pens and watercolors.

Updated: Jan 29, 2021

Tell us about yourself.

Hi 👋 I'm Katie Leavens, an illustrator & calligrapher in San Francisco.

What type of art do you feel most connected to?

I don't know that there is one type of art. But I always get a tingling when I see some masterful, luscious brush strokes or a well-drawn letterform.

How long have you been drawing or illustrating?

I started painting lessons when I was 12 and have painted ever since. I started doing it as my career about 7 years ago.

What inspires you the most to illustrate?

I love learning things. Delving into a complicated topic and researching every aspect of it is one of my favorite parts of creating.

Do you remember your first-ever illustration? What was it?

One of my first paid gigs was an infographic for a tech company that was just getting started. The clients told me they loved the work at each step. The project was never finished though. While I was working on the final artwork, I got a one-line email. They would no longer be needing the infographic.

I tried to follow-up and get more details, but never heard from them again. Luckily, they still paid me in full (as per our contract).

Talking to friends in the industry, they suggested the company may have pivoted. It was still a blow to my esteem, not to know what happened. But the whole thing just reiterated the importance of a good contract while freelancing!

Describe your creative illustration process in several steps

7. Where do you see yourself in the future?

I really don't want to answer this question. I have hopes, dreams, and goals. But right now everything seems in flux and I'm not in a place to put these out in the world.

What three things would you tell others to be inspired to make art during Covid-19?

This is something I have been struggling a lot with over the last 6 months. The lockdown has brought up feelings of imposter syndrome and that has put up a lot of creative blocks. It's been a daily battle to keep creating. However, I've found learning new skills, taking walks around the neighborhood, and reaching out to those in my illustration and lettering communities all help keep me moving forward.

Which tools do you use to illustrate? Which one do you use the most?

It depends on the project. I usually start the planning process in Procreate on my iPad Pro. If it's to be a digital piece, I'll do almost all the work in Procreate, with some finishing Photoshop if needed. If it's a one-off piece that won't be reproduced (portrait, family tree, or other commission). After the refined sketch phase (including color compositions) when everything is planned and laid out, I work with watercolor, gouache, and Sumi ink on paper (usually Arches Hot Press watercolor paper).

How can others find your work or connect with you?

Instagram & Twitter: @kmdleavens Website:

I'm teaching Engrosser's Script Calligraphy class at the City College of San Francisco

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