Artist Spotlight: Leen Isabel

Leen’s Portfolio  |  Leen’s Facebook  |  Pole Dancing Adventures

spin-sugar-final-webCould you give us a brief overview of your art background (when you first became interested in art, education, work history, etc…) we just need a couple sentences, doesn’t have to be full bio.
I grew up with American comics, anime and manga – all of which laid the foundation for my interest in comics and illustration. In college, I added to my love of popular arts and graduated with degrees in classical Art History and Studio Art from UC Irvine. During those years, I took private figure-drawing lessons as I learned that the drawing classes at the university weren’t adequate for further education. After graduation, I immediately began working in packaging and web design while taking classes at Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art. While I currently still work full-time as a website designer and content manager, I also have a busy schedule as a webcomic creator and freelance illustrator.

You practice pole dancing, could you elaborate on how this influences you artistically?
Besides drawing, I’m very passionate about pole dancing / pole fitness. After being a student for two years, I decided to create a webcomic dedicated to the subject, which led to a wonderful following mostly within the pole dance community. I just ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for my first creator-owned comic book, which ended just a few days ago. It’s been a humbling experience having the chance to interact with fans from around the world because of my project. (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/leenisabel/pole-dancing-adventures-the-book)

When I focus on the mission of Girls Drawin’ Girls’ and how we seek to redefine pin-up art, I turn to female aerial artists as my favorite subject matter. When I see a woman performing 15-20 feet up in the air on silks or on the pole, I’m amazed at how graceful & calm she can be! When you realize that an aerialist can carry her body weight in ways a normal person would not be able to do is really amazing. Capturing that in a single painting is my goal so that my audience can realize that women can encompass both grace and physical strength.

Who are your artistic and personal inspirations?
Right now, I really admire Fiona Staples. I’m really floored by her character designs and knowledge of anatomy as well as her painting techniques. Claire Wendling is another name that comes to mind for her anatomy knowledge. Her cat sketches? I love them! Another recent discovery is Juanjo Guarnido. His comic book pages leave me speechless.

120-pole-bruise-map-final-webHow has your style evolved?
When I draw Pole Dancing Adventures, it’s all for fun. I’m not concerned about anatomical accuracy or heavy detail. I just want to enjoy the process of making a short comic strip that will educate or make people laugh. And even with those simple character designs, they have evolved over two years to become more expressive. I like seeing the evolution of my characters. It’s like seeing a real-life dancer grow.

With my pin-up work, my style has evolved towards an animation inspired look rather than a focus on realism. The decision to make a shift in style feels more cheerful to me and reflects me as a person.

Do you have a preference between working with digital or traditional methods? Could you give a couple reasons why?
I admire both mediums. I often do my pencils and inking for comics & illustrations by hand before either making the decision to make it a digital or traditional painting. It depends on the project. With digital, I favor the forgiving use of the tools. Made a mistake? Ctrl-Z and it’s gone! There’s less stress when working digitally. Hiding your flaws or going back over your mistakes is very simple to do.

With traditional medium, in my case I prefer watercolor and gouache, there is no going back. I like the idea that I’m making a one-of-a-kind work of art that takes time and patience. Mastering a traditional medium takes a lot of hard work and in the end you’re left with a piece you can really be proud of.

Are there any artistic disciplines (sculpture, painting, photography, fashion, etc, anything…) that you have a passion for?
Perhaps its debatable, but I also consider cosplay a fun artistic discipline. I’ve been a cosplayer for 4 years and the pleasure of making your own costume and embodying a beloved character is really addicting. Due to recent events of cosplayers being attacked, harassed, and rise of the “cosplay is NOT consent” movement, I decided to stop cosplaying for a while. At least, I no longer bring my costumes to conventions. Right now, it’s not a safe environment and I choose not to subject myself to it. For now, my costume creations are piled up in my closet waiting for the day I feel like wearing them out again.

334258_10101218427238901_1844862239_oIs there a type of art that you’ve always wanted to learn?
Thanks to the success of my webcomic, it gave me confidence and interest to learn more about creating sequential art. I hope to branch out into non-pole related works such as original short stories and who knows? Maybe I’ll make a graphic novel someday!

Based on your professional experiences, do you have any advice for aspiring young women artists?
When I was starting out, I think the biggest hurdle for me to get over was fear and doubt. When I shed my inhibitions of “What if this drawing looks terrible?” or “I’ll never be that good!” I was able to give myself the freedom to grow into my own style and really enjoy the process of drawing and learning. Go forth and draw with confidence!