Grad Spotlight: Leah Zobott

Leah Zobott recently graduated with a BFA in Illustration after studying at both the University of Brighton and Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

Since graduating, Leah has set up as a freelance illustrator in Minneapolis and has been commissioned by the likes of CitypagesChildren’s Theatre Co.Penguin & Fish, and Kings Colleges, to design murals and produce editorial illustrations.

Intrigued by the complexities and uniqueness that exist within people, culture, and environments, her ideas are revealed throughout her portfolio as she explores these curiosities through experimenting with a variety of materials.

Tell us a little bit about your career so far – have you worked for any clients whilst you have been studying?

To be quite honest, it has been a slow and uneasy start coming fresh out of school and straight into the big kid world of professional illustration. But nevertheless a very exciting moment in my life. While I was in school, I found it difficult to balance both school work and client work so I didn’t get to produce much outside of class. One of the major projects I did while studying was a mural for Kings Colleges. Post graduation, I have worked for a few local clients around the Twin Cities producing some editorial and large print works. I also freelanced with a product design company and helped with some mock product designs. On top of that, last month I completed an internship with a local artist making murals with elementary school kids and the community. It’s been nice dabbling in more than one field. It shakes things up a lot, especially for someone who is still figuring out their path.

What aspect of your illustration course have you most enjoyed? Proudest moment so far?

I really enjoyed the last illustration course I took at MCAD which was called Senior Project. Senior Project was a semester long course fully dedicated to the making of our final thesis. This class allowed us to create our own prompts and to fulfill it in anyway we wanted and saw fit. So the first idea that popped into my head was that I had to go BIG. I have always had a thing for murals and having already had experience with mural making, I wanted to do it again, but in the sense that I wanted to push my intricate linework beyond the standard sizes that I usually design for print. After many weeks and many hours of non-stop drawing and coloring and pots of coffee, I was able to create my most favorite piece I have ever made ever titled “Progression”. Progression is a 7.5 ft by 7.5 ft piece based on megacities and overpopulation. It took a very long time to draw but I am still so proud of it.

 I have always had a thing for murals and having already had experience with mural making

How would you describe your working process? What materials do you most enjoy working with? 

My working process is awful sometimes. I love details. I love having lots of references. I save folder upon folder of reference images just for one project. I go through Pinterest, and through Tumblr a lot. Because I like the security of having references and inspiration to look at, I usually go overboard and save more than what’s probably more than safe. When it comes to materials, I usually ink things out and scan it and color through on Photoshop. Throughout the last year though I’ve been getting out of my shell by utilizing more traditional mediums in my practice such as gouache, acrylic paints and inks, and watercolors. I’ve also been getting more into my crafty side by making clay pins, keychains, and other knick-knacks.

Last book you read – is there a subject matter interests you most? 

I’m in the process of reading Kate Moross’s book, “Make Your Own Luck”. She’s insane. Like a good insane. Reading about her process and looking at her work and learning about how she got to where she is really lovely and sort of comforting to a rookie illustrator like myself. She seems super cool, she’s super talented, and has good hair. I love books that are about process, about print and pattern, or children’s books with contemporary illustrations.

What is your go-to snack of choice to fuel your creativity and productivity ahead of a big deadline? 

FRUIT. I eat excessive amounts of fruit. And veggies. Just ask my girlfriend. Basically I’m a rabbit.

Name a creative project that you’ve seen recently that you wish you’d made? 

I’m a huge huge Kate Bingaman-Burt fan. I watched a TEDx talk she did where she talked about her fascination with consumption and how to harness the power of accumulation with a system of rules. She then dived into a project, which I actually partook in something quite similar while I was studying in Brighton, in which she drew every item that she ever bought. I can’t remember if it was specifically just any item or just food, but basically it was this ongoing project/documentation that little by little, these sketches of these items added up and looked super cool. I kind of wish I would have stuck with my mini Brighton project. I know that I had like 20 things I had purchased over there and gone ahead and drawn, but I sort of grew tired of it. BIG MISTAKE. Don’t ever throw aside something you’re in the middle of. Save it and revisit it when you’re ready. It’s funny how many times I’ve thrown away something I absolutely hated in the moment but loved months later.

Don’t ever throw aside something you’re in the middle of. Save it and revisit it when you’re ready

Are there any illustrators that you admire or look up to? 

There are so many artists and illustrators I find absolutely inspiring and wonderful and who all make jaw-dropping work. I have always been a fan of Julia Pott and Natsko Seiki for years. In fact, they are two of the most influential artists who inspired me to become an illustrator. I am in constant awe of Olaf Hajek’s colors and process, Tuesday Bassen’s characters and typography, David Ryan Robinson’s incredible linework and supreme detail, and the way Yeka Haski applies her cute concepts into 3D and non-print configurations. 

Where do you currently work? Do you have a studio?

I don’t have a studio so I work in my bedroom or the spare bedroom in my girlfriend’s apartment, which is actually our bunny Alfie’s bedroom (yes it’s true- our bunny has his own bedroom). I am in desperate need of a proper studio. For now I prop a few pillows up, lay down a large drawing board (which serves as a table surface) on which I place my laptop and paper and materials.

How was your graduatio? And what have you been working on over the Summer? 

It was super exciting! I have been busy filling up sketchbooks with project ideas, dabbling with typography, and seeking out studios and people to collaborate and or work with. I know how important it is, especially for me, to remain in constant visual stimulation, so I’ve been visiting the museums, going on walks, rumbling through Tumblr, and buying magazines and books for inspiration including that book by Kate Moross and a few really cute children’s books with illustration work that I really love. I’ve also gotten into a couple shows and a solo show in the city. 

What would you most like to be doing with your illustration in 5-10 years time?

I would love to see it out of print and on a wall. Or on kitchenware. Or implemented into toy design or lawn chairs or bath towels or on some Japanese candy packaging. I just want to draw on everything.


Posted on Sep 11th, 14 by

Greg McIndoe - also known as Headless Greg - is an illustrator and design writer based in Glasgow, Scotland. He regularly writes for design magazines and online platforms, interviewing fellow illustrators and leading creatives.

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