Photo: Nichon Glerum

When I grew up I spent a lot of time drawing and crafting. I had my own little drawing desk in the living room, filled with piles of paper, pencils, markers, watercolours and what not. Any passerby – from my grandmother to the mailman – received a drawing, randomly taken from the pile of drawings I made day after day. “Here, it’s especially for you” I would say, to the laughter of my mom.

Although for a while I thought that going to art school would be a good idea, I gradually developed many more interests. Among them were cultural diversity, human interest stories and languages. So I studied Cultural Anthropology in the University of Amsterdam. Initially because I wanted to tell important stories as a journalist or documentary film maker. Later I was more compelled to where the action takes place as I worked to support children from a socially disadvantaged background.

Traveling has been another way for me to collect stories worth telling. In 2008 I spent 6 months in Morocco living in with local families to learn the language and get to know their culture, in 2009 I backpacked trough Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. In 2010 I visited Burkina Faso and Mali. In 2012 I backpacked through Nepal and in 2015 I spent a full year traveling solo in South East Asia and India.

During that sabbatical year of traveling I rediscovered my passion for drawing. As I kept an illustrated travel journal, I got to warm up my hands to the practice of holding a pen every day. Soon I felt that there was no way back: I had to somehow integrate creativity and visual expression into my professional life.

And here I am today, a self taught illustrator and visual storyteller. I combine observation of the ordinary and telling personal, human stories. My illustrations are playful, witty, relatable and personal.

Through my illustrations I inspire people around me to find back their creativity – whether it’s through drawing, writing, playing music, building or cooking – because it makes you happy and healthy.

Contact me if you’d like work with me.

Check out my inspirational Pecha Kucha presentation if you’d like to know how you can trade your creative skills for travel.

Lilian Leahy drawing