Leo Espinosa
Gallery: Illustrator Profiles
28  of  28
28  of  28
Growing up in Colombia, he drew everything, all the time, like everyone else in his family. Then there were the bikes, a passion that grew out of longing. Leo Espinosa, age 36, talks of being in transition and trying new things.

"Drawing has been my life. I can't remember a single day that I haven't been drawing since I was probably four. I don't know ... it's just what I love. I didn't pay a lot of attention in other classes school – everything was just about drawing.

"A lot of people in my family were artists. Back in history, my great-great-grandfather was a painter in Colombia. His parents were from Spain, but he fought for the revolution in Colombia. When he was in the army, he would paint all these famous generals, while he would sit on the side during battles. Then he got captured by the Spaniard troops, and he escaped into the jungle, where he learned how to mix natural dyes from Colombian Indians. And of course there was no paper in the jungle, so he would paint on wood. When the revolution was over, he was able to come back into the city, and he was doing cartoons of people in the cafes. `

"I think I've incorporated some of the survival part of my great-great-grandfather's approach to art, because when I was in college, I was so broke, I was rescuing paper from garbage cans to re-use. Where I went to university, you paid according to your parents' income tax, so there was a lot of rich kids and a lot of kids who barely had enough money to go to college. Some of them were presenting their sketches on this beautiful watercolor paper, and at the end of the presentation they would just throw it away, so I would go back and fish out the paper to re-use it.

"My dad was an architect and my mom was an art teacher in high school. She's been a very big influence on me, too. My mom thinks about enjoying the art and works like crazy, but she doesn't think about success. She does all different kinds of work: she paints, she draws with pencil, she does a lot of knitting and crafts ... one day she's doing some really funky plush dolls, and the next day she's making bags with bamboo. I think I inherited from her my dreamer side – that you can do it all. I'm driven by the project itself, and sometimes I don't really envision where I'm going to put it, in the marketplace.

"When I was a boy, I liked to draw bicycles the most. I fell in love with bikes when I was 10. My parents were not doing well economically, so I couldn't have a bicycle until I was 11 or 12. So I was drawing them, feeling that I could ride those things before I could. When I finally got my first bike, I had to share it with my sister, and it was not hip at all: it was yellow. In those days, I was dreaming for more like a silver kind of blue, something really shiny.

"I don't want to be only an illustrator for the rest of my life. I can't stand people who do the same thing over and over and over. There's lots more stuff to do: I want to paint, and I want to do animation, I like storytelling and comics. I'd like to do collaborations with other people; sometimes I see the work of another illustrator or animator and I just go, 'Maybe we could put things together. We could combine and do something cool.' There's always something new that's happening and more possibilities: maybe designing a toy, maybe designing a playground ... that's my goal.

I usually know where I'm going, but now I don't think I do. I've been mainly focused on doing licensing recently, and I decided I wasn't going to do editorial jobs much anymore, and I stopped working through a rep. Lately I've been drawing a lot, too, very random stuff, and I'm going back to working in pencil and expressing ideas, which is basically what editorial work is, right? So I might end up putting together a portfolio with a different style that is much more pencil drawings, far way from the computer style, and see if that takes off and maybe I'll start doing editorial again.

"If I love a piece of art I'm doing, then it's likely that I'm doing it right. First there is the process of doing it, but second there is the expectation of what is going to happen when somebody else sees it. I'm dying for the response! I'm not the kind of artist who wants to stay on the sideline; I want to be in front, to see the faces of people when they are looking at my work or commenting or getting feedback from them. So there's those two things that are so important and both make me super happy. The process of drawing, when you get a certain figure just right, there's that joy of, 'Ah! Man, I made it!' It feels so good it makes me want to cry sometimes. I get too emotional with that stuff."
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