Featured Artists

Artist Spotlight: Leah Kellaway

Leah Kellaway is an art educator and acclaimed illustrator based in Atlanta, GA. Specializing in the fusion of illustration, fine art, and design, she crafts expressive pieces centered around character and portraiture, everyday magic and exploration, as well as inspiration and empowerment.

Having dedicated ten years to working independently and through collaboration, Leah established Kellaway Creative Collaborative in 2023. The Collaborative provides vibrant, bold, unique visual storytelling to businesses and individuals. Read on to learn more about Leah’s journey as an artist and her creative process.

Where are you from and where do you currently reside?

I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia – the heart of the south and home of the civil rights movement. Between 2011 and 2019, I attended school in Athens, GA before traveling to Virginia, North Carolina, and then back to Atlanta. 

What drew you to become an artist and what type of art do you most enjoy doing? 

I had the wonderful fortune of being raised by a single mother who was an abstract artist, colorist, and designer. Throughout my childhood, she encouraged my creativity constantly, which inspired me to take art more seriously in my late grade-school years.

Although I focused my pursuits in graphic design during my undergraduate career, I was fortunate to be introduced to the field of illustration simultaneously. My introduction into illustration allowed me to broaden my definition of an artist, and combine my skills of design and art into one, truly inspiring me to reach for higher goals than I had ever thought possible. This realization was what initially fueled my interest in becoming a full time artist and illustrator. 

The art I most enjoy making is expressive work that focuses on themes of character and portraiture, everyday magic and adventure, and inspiration and empowerment. My work constantly incorporates likeness and humanity, which stems from my hope for society and our individual selves. 

How would you describe your style?

I firmly believe that no one should put themselves in a box. It was something I was taught from a young age. I believe boxing in a style hinders creativity, inspiration, and the necessary process of making mistakes. However, if I had to define my style, I would describe it as ‘Whimsical Realism’ for my common telling of unique narratives through dynamic composition, vibrant color, bold shape language, and well-crafted design. 

What has kept you engaged and committed to your craft over the years?

Constant, consistent, ever-inspiring growth. Knowing that every drawing, painting, or design I create, whether a success or a failure, brings me closer to my next goal or accomplishment. This sense of drive has fueled my engagement with my work for almost two decades, and it is amazing to see how I have grown in that time span. At the age of 31, knowing my commitment to this path will not waver, I’m looking forward to what the next four decades (or more!) will bring. 

How have you grown as an artist in the past five years and what are the major contributing factors to your growth? 

The last five years have been a whirlwind creatively. Due to a variety of factors, including the global pandemic and caring for an elderly parent, the past five years have been a period of struggle in my work. Necessary struggle.

In 2019, when I began to care for my aging parent, I also began to struggle with my artistic purpose and style. At the time, I was working primarily digitally in a very line-based graphic way, and I was beginning to disconnect from my work. In 2021, I made the decision to attend graduate school for illustration to reinvigorate the drive that I’ve always had for my work. This decision was the best decision I could have made. Between 2021 and 2023, I was able to grow both artistically and personally, completely reinventing myself, my family life, and my portfolio. 

What I’ve found throughout my time as a creative professional is that growth does not always come in the forms that you hope it will. Growth comes from hardship and resiliency; it comes from continuing your craft even when the results are not what you hoped; it comes from finding a community of like-minded people; it comes from the lessons you learn with your friends and family, chosen or otherwise. Most of all, growth comes from pushing through fear or disbelief and proving to yourself your dedication.

What materials do you most commonly use?

As a multimedia artist, I am constantly drawing and painting, both digitally and traditionally. My most common traditional materials include Blackwing graphite pencils, Golden acrylic paints, gold leaf, and wooden panels. My traditional work is often small in scale (less than 12” on the widest side) due to my attention to detail. When working digitally, or digitally embellishing a traditional painting for illustration purposes, I utilize digital graphite in Procreate before finalizing my work in Adobe CC. 

 Can you describe some of your favorite pieces you’ve worked on?

I’ve recently been working on my own tarot deck that combines the meanings of traditional tarot as well as the corresponding astrological definitions. This project has been quite challenging, but one of the most fulfilling. The process of each piece includes detailed research, comprehensive thumbnailing and sketching, and an average of 100 hours per 12” by 6” painting on account of the numerous meaningful details of each piece. Not only is this project an intensive test of skill, it is also an emotional feat. Since tarot itself as a practice is very self-reflective, I find myself continuously reflecting on how the meanings imbued into the painting itself mirror my own experiences. This personal reflection adds even deeper meaning to each of the pieces. Currently, two of 72 pieces are complete, with several currently in progress and ready for painting throughout 2024!

In addition to these traditionally painted tarot pieces, I’ve also had the wonderful opportunity to work on digitally illustrated commercial work. Some of my favorites include my Wizard of Oz tryptic movie poster series, empowering Magical Woman poster series, and John Lewis – Forever stamp, which has since won several awards including inclusion in Society of Illustrators LA 61, Creative Quarterly Best of 2022, and Communication Arts 2023 illustration shortlist. 

Do you have any advice for up-and-coming artists? Are there any tips or techniques you can offer?

Only compare your current self to your past self. In a day and age where we are constantly inundated with AI images and notification of other’s achievements, it can be easy to compare your work to others, making it hard to see your own growth. Instead of comparing yourself to those you follow on social media, compare the work you make today to the work you made one, five, or even ten years ago. I guarantee you, you’ll see the difference. No matter what kind of growth, your perseverance and commitment to yourself will shine.

Find balance. The society we live in sets a standard of work work work in order to live. However, we cannot live only by working. We must find hobbies, communities, and experiences that provide inspiration and create routines and boundaries that aid in our mental health and stave off common burnout. Always find a way to create, but do not extinguish your own flame.

Do not stop. The journey of a fine artist and illustrator is not a sprint – it’s a marathon. Every time you create, you’re learning. Whether or not you make mistakes, each piece is an achievement that pushes you towards your greater goals. Take breaks when you need to and find inspiration where you can. Find a way to support your art if your art isn’t fully supporting you yet. Have that part time job at the local art store; attend the small local markets; find the opportunities that will lead you to the next part of your journey. No matter what the journey looks like for you, never stop creating and never stop believing in your unique journey.

What are your website and social media links? 





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