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 (, 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 $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 and @cory.leick on Instagram.




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