Since we last featured her work in 2015, illustrator Leonie Bos has collaborated with some heavyweight editorial platforms. From pieces for the RA magazine, GQ France, Monocle, The Wall Street Journal, Wired and ICON, to a cover illustration for Wallpaper*, she’s certainly been busy. So much so, in fact, that her commissioned work doesn’t leave time for much else. “I love to work on personal stuff as well, it’s just hard to find time with a packed calendar,” she says.
Though she later concedes “it’s a luxury problem”, it’s a state of affairs she’s had to work hard for. Growing up with dreams of being a painter, she went on to study fine arts and eventually moved to Amsterdam to pursue her artistic ambitions. But, after becoming pregnant and struggling in a “cold, burnt-out apartment with no water and no heating”, she was forced to reconsider her situation. “I taught myself HTML and found a proper job as a web designer,” she explains. “After a year I was hired as a graphic designer and, after replacing the art director, I discovered I actually enjoyed creating illustrations the most.”
Inspired by this realisation, Leonie decided to give freelance illustrating a go and, 15 years later, she says she’s loved every day of it. Proud of her achievements, including representation by prestigious London-based agency Handsome Frank, she tells us that she’s come a long way and finally considers herself “a real artist”.
Along with this career progression, there has come much progression in her practice as well. Influenced by her father, who was an architectural draftsman, Leonie likes to work very precisely and accurately, and needs everything to be in its proper place. To achieve this exactness, she learnt to use the program SketchUp which, she tells us, was a game changer: “This program allowed me to make things that I had in mind, but couldn’t get my head around. Like drawing a complicated object from an impossible angle and dropping its proper shadow on a curved surface. This was a whole new ballgame!”
Despite having always had a very engineered approach, this new skill meant that the immaterial parts of her pieces, like the shadows, became an important feature in the work. This progression also encouraged her to begin reintroducing human subjects into her illustrations. “Now that I’ve built a strong signature, I feel comfortable that I can bring people back into my drawings,” she explains. “But I’m very aware of the balance; they‘re still mere extras.”
In recent years, she’s also found her way back to painting through a desire to get her hands dirty again and thanks to encouragement from her partner, Joseph Jessen. “He’s an artist as well and he rekindled my love for painting and art beyond my own field,” says Leonie. “He’s given me so much support and trust and has absolutely been my biggest motivation.” This reacquaintance with her old medium has also had an effect on her current style. “I’ve started approaching my digital work as I would an actual drawing or painting, leaving errors partly visible, like where the paint would bleed beneath the tape or the half-erased guidelines.”
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