My story

Ever since I was a child I've loved arts & crafts. One of my earliest memories of me drawing is from when I was around 6 years old. I was drawing a forest wonderland with gnomes, red and white dotted toadstool houses and a whole variety of shrubs and trees. I said to the woman taking care of me: "Your drawing is so much nicer than mine, I wish I could do that too." She answered: "I like yours and I'm sure one day you will draw even more beautiful things than this." I wonder if that was the affirmation I needed to kindle the curiosity for art that was within me. 

Throughout primary school I spent a lot of time colouring and painting. I loved imagining what my future house would look like - I've done countless of drawings of houses with slides from the top floor to a pool in the garden. I also drew many princesses, mermaids and birds. Digging up some drawings from my childhood when writing this story made me grateful for the encouragement from the people around me to keep creating.

At secondary school I had the opportunity to choose art as a subject alongside the sciences. In my final year I was working on my graduation project and I was fascinated by the early studies of human anatomy. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the important role that art played in the discovery of knowledge about the human body within the field of medicine. My graduation project was an artwork that visually portrayed the intricate mechanisms in the brain in a less complicated and quite humorous way. 

After secondary school I went to medical school. I loved it! I kept creating art and it was often a means to relax. I have fond memories of my family members and I gathering together around the dining room table and spending evenings crafting and drawing. An artist and friend of mine that I really look up to was studying in the same city as I was. She was doing a masters in Scientific Illustration and agreed to give me a couple of drawing lessons. We exchanged my sketchbook to and fro and wrote each other notes to communicate what was good and where improvement was needed. It was really insightful to receive her feedback. Thank you Skye!

Then in the second year of medical school I had the chance to do an elective titled: "Does experiencing art make you a better doctor?" Here I finally had the chance to do a short course on scientific illustration myself. I was taught how to improve my drawings and practised with live model drawing. It was intriguing and also helped me to shift my thoughts regarding my art 'career path'. To this point I had considered doing a masters in Scientific Illustration following this bachelor's degree, but I found that this drawing style was a little too technical for me and it felt like it did not leave enough room for creative interpretation of reality. From this point onwards I began to focus my attention more on the intersection of the fields of art and medicine and how the (experience of) art has the potential to influence and improve the skills of doctors. I worked on a scoping review centred around the identification of conceptual perspectives that are taken to train creativity in undergraduate and postgraduate medical training. 

Within my drawing style I kept experimenting, but often found myself being drawn to the nostalgic styles of childhood storybook illustrators such as Sir Quentin Blake and Lauren Child. Their illustrations have always found a way to warm my heart. 

Following my BSc Medicine graduation, I took a gap year and started saving money for ministry work on the Logos Hope ship. This is when the most-loved Léonie Smith Illustrations product was born: The little joys of Maastricht birthday calendar. For a couple of years already I had been playing with the idea of creating a birthday calendar depicting various 'little joys' in the city. I am someone who always has her eyes open to the small things that spark happiness or make someone laugh. I had been collecting a list of these 'little joys' in my phone and decided to translate them from an idea in my mind to something more tangible on paper. I realised however, that I had to create 12 illustrations in order to have enough for a birthday calendar. This is when I started asking friends about their highlights of the city. This resulted in so many fun conversations and it helped grow my appreciation of the city. The calendar sold far better than I expected and soon enough I had collected all the money needed for the trip, so off I went!

On the ship I also had the opportunity to keep creating. One of the projects I was involved in was creating stage decor for a talent show. It was loads of fun and a great challenge to be involved in the creation of such a big artwork.

After coming home from the ship, I invested a lot of time and energy into other creative outlets, such as starting a podcast and making music. Nevertheless, I still had moments where I found that paper and a paintbrush were the most familiar and comforting way of depicting my emotions, experiences or impressions. My favourite artwork I've ever made was created just a couple of months after returning from the ship. This was also the first artwork I sold a copy of to dear friends of mine. 

The interest in the calendar remained and the orders kept coming, so I contacted a local bookshop in Maastricht to ask whether they would be interested in selling the calendar. They agreed and my mum and I raised a glass in the Dominicanen Boekhandel to celebrate! My business kept growing and I'm just so grateful for all the people that have encouraged me throughout this process. Thank you for your feedback, your many orders and your inspiration for many of my projects.

With the many orders, I knew that it was time to see if I could find someone to help me with the administrative side of running a little business. My sister in law had been an incredible support all throughout my illustration journey, often affirming me in my work and even just sitting beside me to observe what I was doing while she'd be reading or studying. She was the perfect match to ensure that I could keep finding enjoyment in my work and not be too occupied with finances, packaging orders and keeping Excel sheets up to date. Without her, Léonie Smith Illustrations would not be what it is today. Definitely read the section 'Meet Channah' to find out more about all that happens behind the scenes of our little business. 

In the meantime, I've been able to be involved in more projects, one of which is the mosaic sofa. If you're interested, have a read about it on my portfolio page. It was so fun to be part of the team designing it.

I'm excited to see how this business will develop and I am curious about how I can keep finetuning my skills and grow in the development of various drawing styles. My dream is to be featured in Flow one day! And even - to curate my own museum collection including artwork, music and perhaps even theatre. Visit this page regularly to keep updated on the process! 

Lots of love,