SCBWI

Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Featured Illustrator

Cory Leick
July 2022 Featured Illustrator

 

Cory Leick is an artist, illustrator and art educator living in the Missouri Ozarks with her funny and creative husband Eric, and her cool and creative daughter, Nolah.

Besides having created illustrations for several nationally known clients, Cory has also been a t-shirt designer, band flier artist, public school art teacher, and collaborative mural maker, and has taught art to adults, teens, preschoolers and kids for the Springfield Regional Arts Council and Springfield Art Museum.

 

How did you get started in illustration? What is your background?

I have a BFA in Design and Illustration from Missouri State University. I had the most amazing group of professors there, who had a tremendous influence on me, especially my illustration professor Eric Pervukhin. I am not kidding: my professors and our program were featured in an issue of Print magazine!

While in college, I worked in the university publications office and was fortunate to have been given a steady supply of illustration assignments resulting in a portfolio of printed pieces created for the University. As a senior, I had a portfolio review with the amazing Bob Staake, who told me I had the most professional student portfolio he had ever seen!

I began working for my largest career client, Dynamic Graphics, before graduation.

 

What is your preferred medium and method of working?

Most of my client work has been ink lines with watercolor wash, although I love working in a fully mixed media fashion, including collaged elements.

Working digitally in photoshop on my Cintiq has made my options even wider, and I appreciate the ability to try out multiple solutions easily.

I love the freedom of consequence-free experimentation that digital art allows, but I also feel happiest surrounded by the controlled chaos of real art materials. I often go back and forth between the two, combining the best of both.

 

How did your style and technique develop?

I have always been fascinated by the natural world. As a teen, I discovered Art Nouveau and felt an instant resonance. Taking design inspiration from the natural world feels honest and true to me. Plus, I adore curves. I love hippie and 1970s-style sensibilities, which I picked up by osmosis, being a young kid in the 1970s. And I will absolutely ‘put a bird on it!’ They are to me metaphors for the soul, and every bit as magical as fairies to me.

In the 1990s, working as a screen print T-shirt designer, I developed a style that logically employed black outlines (printed last) used to capture the other colors and to help hide overprinting. After graduating, I spent about 9 years creating illustration work for a company called Dynamic Graphics. I created hundreds of line drawings that they then vectorized and sold as stock illustrations through their subscription service “Designer’s Club,” which was used by magazines, newspapers and smaller ad agencies back in the days before digital download. That seemed to have locked in my tendency to work primarily in lines.

I have also taught mixed media classes for several years. Through this, I’ve become increasingly attuned to my affinity for textures and patterns, which I now include more deliberately in my illustration work.

 

What do you find the most challenging in your work?

The marketing and self-promotion of the work seem to be the thing that magically falls to the bottom of my to-do list. And it is so essential! I have a website (coryleick.com), and I recently started an Instagram account (@cory.leick). I know that this is an important way for agents to find illustrators they love, so I want to show up consistently. (By the way…if you are reading this, would you do me a huge favor and follow my Instagram, please?)

 

What would be your dream project? Or what was your favorite project?

Day to day, I would like to create beautiful textiles and imagery for both children and adults. I love creating patterns. I also love incorporating hand lettering into my work. I enjoy single images as much as a longer-form project.

Dream project-wise, I have been working on multiple picture book proposals. I dream of traditionally publishing my books, which I conceived in collaboration with my best friend and husband Eric Leick. Eric is an amazing songwriter and ridiculously creative thinker who has also written two middle-grade fiction novels.


Do you have a favorite book(s) from your childhood?

Most influential and inspiring for me was anything & everything by Dr. Seuss. He shows up in my work in the form of cute characters and my nearly complete lack of straight lines. I also loved and carefully studied the Little House book series – I loved the wonderfully detailed illustrations of Garth Williams.

I am aware of the unfortunate lack of diversity in these books, but they are what I had access to as a child. Thankfully the world of children’s literature is so much more diverse today!

 

Do you have an agent? If not, are you looking for one?

I am unagented and very much interested in finding a good match.

 

Do you have any art supply-type tips you can share with us? Paint, paper or software that you love, a favorite art store or website to buy supplies or a new product that you’ve tried, etc.?

I work on a MacBook Pro with a Wacom Cintiq. I subscribe to the Adobe creative suite and work mostly in Photoshop. (And I LOVE working on my Cintiq!)

I love Arches hot press watercolor paper, Schmincke and Windsor & Newton watercolor and gouache. Mechanical pencils are great for drawing details but good ol’ black Ticonderoga pencils are my favorite otherwise. I like working in watercolor or mixed media sketchbooks because you can do just about anything with them.

 

Any words of advice for those just starting out in illustration? What do you wish you would have known sooner in your author/illustrator career?

Always pay attention to the things that are enduringly attractive to you. They are a part of you and should be your raw materials. A truly individual style is very much a secret recipe: the result of countless ingredients (influences) that you combine in your own way to make something entirely new.

Besides membership in SCBWI, I would also like to recommend SVSLearn.com: $200/year for an on-demand illustration education designed by three successful working children’s book illustrators! They also have an excellent, funny podcast called “3 Point Perspective.” I also highly recommend the podcast “Creative Pep Talk,” by Andy Miller (a.k.a. Andy J. Pizza). It is literally impossible for any creative person to not be inspired by this amazing guy!

Keep working! Your work will continuously evolve if you show up, put in the time and effort, and never quit.

 

What’s next for you? Any upcoming book releases we should be on the lookout for?

I am about to submit a new picture book proposal to agents and have a stack of additional books in dummy/concept stages.
So hopefully I will have good news to share someday soon.

 

To learn more about Cory, visit her website at coryleick.com and @cory.leick on Instagram.

 

 


 

Previous Featured Illustrators



Jennifer Stolzer
is an author/illustrator who loves to create bright and engaging characters. She graduated from Webster University with a degree in interactive digital media and animation. She lives in the St. Louis area. jenniferstolzer.com

 


Jessica Blackburn
is an illustrator and art educator located near Branson, MO. She lives in a cabin nestled in the Missouri Ozarks with her husband, Joel, their two young boys, and their black kitty, Nessie. jessicablackburn.com

 


Brandon Todd
is an author, illustrator, creative director and animator. He lives in North Kansas City with his wife, two daughters, and a dog. He Illustrated The Bear Must Go On by Dev Petty and wrote and Illustrated Tou-Can’t: A Little Sister Story. btoddbooks.com

 

 

Katie O’Malley is an illustrator who works in digital and traditional formats. She lives in Fenton, MO with her precocious daughter, three kitties and a Diet Coke addiction. katieomalleyart.com

 


Katie Schaefer
is an illustrator working in St. Louis, MO. Her favorite place to be is in her colorful home studio with her hairless pup Mysterio and mustachioed honey bunny David. www.katieschaefer.com

 

Dayne Sislen has enjoyed a career as an art director and an instructor in Design Graphics and Illustration at Maryville University. After retirement, she reinvented herself as a children’s book illustrator. Dayne lives in St. Louis with her husband Don and their wee Scottish Terrier, Ghillis. daynesislen.com

 

 

Lisa Harkrader is an author/illustrator who has published twenty-five books for children, including the award-winning AIRBALL: MY LIFE IN BRIEFS and THE ADVENTURES OF BEANBOY. She lives in Tonganoxie, Kansas, with her husband and two children. www.ldharkrader.com

 

Maja Anderson creates illustrations for greeting cards, apparel, gifts, home decor, memory keeping albums and books. She lives in the Kansas City area. majaandersen.com


Rob Peters
has worked with a number of self-published authors and worked on a variety of licensed sport books for the Kansas City Chiefs, KU Jayhawks, and others. He lives with his wife Janie and four kids in Topeka, KS. rob-peters.com


Blayne Fox
has illustrated books for Scholastic Publishing, Brown Books Publishing, Double Ink Publishing, and Benchmark Publishing, as well as several self-published authors. Blayne currently lives in St. Louis with her partner and three cats. blaynefox.com


Elizabeth Baddeley
is the New York Times Best selling illustrator of I DISSENT: RUTH BADER GINSBURG MAKES HER MARK. She resides in a historic neighborhood in Kansas City with her husband and young son. ebaddeley.com

Lois Bradley


Lois Bradley
is an author, graphic designer and visual artist working in acrylics, watercolor, pen/ink and mixed media. She served as ARA for the New Mexico chapter of SCBWI from 2008 through 2012. She now lives in Kansas City, MO. www.loisbradley.com

 

Phyllis Harris is an author/illustrator who has illustrated over 35 children’s books. Her debut book as an author/illustrator, GIFT SHOP BEAR is scheduled for publication on Oct. 5, 2021. She lives in Kansas City, MO with her husband and pup, Brinkley. phyllisharris.com


Il Sung Na
is an author/illustrator and illustration teacher. He lives with his wife and small dog in Kansas City, MO. ilsungna.com

 

Heather Bell is a picture book author and illustrator. When she’s not illustrating or writing, Heather searches out story ideas as an undercover school bus driver. heatherbellbooks.com

 

Sandra Ure Giffin is an author and illustrator. Her creative work depicts our relationships with each other and our planet. She lives in St. Louis, MO. instagram.com/sandraugriffin

 


Wendy Leach
is a picture book author and illustrator. She lives and works in Overland Park, KS. artofwendyleach.com

John Hare

 

John Hare is a picture book author and illustrator. His latest book FIELD TRIP TO THE OCEAN DEEP comes out Sept. 8, 2020. He lives in Gladstone, MO with his wife and two boys. john-hare.squarespace.com


Daniel Miyares
is a picture book author and illustrator. Some of his books include FLOAT, NIGHT OUT, THAT IS MY DREAM and BRING ME A ROCK! He currently lives in Lenexa, KS with his wife, their two wonderful children, and a dog named Violet. danielmiyares.com


Violet Lemay
has illustrated nearly 40 books for children, several of which she also wrote. Her husband’s job as a PGA teaching pro has taken her family all over the world. Her family lives in the St. Louis area, so Missouri is Violet’s home base. violetlemay.com

 

Morgan Hutcherson is an illustrator, graphic designer, and author. Morgan is currently enjoying first-time-homeownership in Maplewood, Missouri with her rescue Corgi Scout, and her long-time boyfriend, Rutger. morganhutcherson.com


Stephen T. Johnson
is an author and illustrator of many children’s books, including ALPHABET CITY, a Caldecott Honor and a New York Times Best Illustrated book of the year. Look for his upcoming book MUSIC IS, which is slated to be published in the fall of 2020. stephentjohnson.com


Heather Hatch
is a writer and illustrator. She teaches art classes and volunteers on the board of her local art museum. She lives with her family on an Ozark, Missouri farm with a Big Red Barn and a chicken-coop-turned art studio.


K.L.B. Barsotti (Kate)
is a writer and artist specializing in illustration for children, special commissions, fiction (middle grade and below), and poetry. Kate lives in downtown Kansas City, Missouri with three cats, a bundle of rats, her husband and father. snawfus-tracks.com


Jeanne Conway
has written and illustrated many children’s picture books. She has also been an art teacher in elementary and secondary schools. Jeanne lives in St. Louis, Missouri. jeanniespaintings.com

 

Polly Alice McCann is an author-illustrator, critical writing professor and managing editor of Flying Ketchup Press. She lives in Kansas City, Missouri. pollymccann.com


Joe Mohr
is the author/Illustrator of ROBOT+BIKE=KITTEN: 34 OF JOEM’s POEMS. He is also a cartoonist, dad, hubby and bicycle lover. Joe lives in St. Louis, Missouri with his wife and three kids. joemohr.com


Daniel Wiseman
is the Illustrator of over 16 children’s books. Daniel also hosts a podcast with his friend Rob Bennet called REMOTE with Rob & Dan about working remotely. He lives with his wife and two sons in Knoxville, Tennessee. danieldraws.com

 


Lynn Alpert
is a writer, illustrator and graphic designer. She can usually be found reading, writing or drawing in St. Louis, MO where she lives with her husband. lynnalpert.com


Kathy L. Perry
is an author, illustrator, speaker and publisher at Chicadee Words. A former elementary teacher, Kathy still wants to make a positive impact in today’s youth. She lives in Kansas City, Missouri. kathyjperry.com


Ed Koehler
is an illustrator living in St. Louis and working nationwide, primarily for the Christian publishing market, creating art for children’s books, curriculum, activity books, and a variety of kid-friendly products. edkoehler.com


Kim Wilson
is an illustrator, designer, artist and writer. She runs the Dittmer ArtBarn, which offers year-round art classes for children and adults. Kim lives just outside of St. Louis in Dittmer, Missouri. kimwilsonillustration.com

 

Karen B. Jones’ illustration work has been featured in magazines, books, and the educational market. She lives in living in Olathe, Kansas with her husband and two daughters. karenbjones.com


Brad Sneed
has illustrated more than twenty picture books. He enjoys visiting schools to talk with students about illustrating picture books. Brad lives near Kansas City with his wife and daughter. bradsneed.com


Deborah Zemke
has written and/or illustrated more than fifty books for younger readers. These include picture books, chapter books, drawing books, early readers, and humor books. She lives in Columbia, Missouri. deborahzemke.com