Interviewed by Kelsey Duchesne
My conversation with Brooklyn-based illustrator Leah Goren seemed to mirror everything I love about her artwork- warm, colorful, and v. fempowering. The Queen of cheerful-patterns-I-need-on-my-wall-right-now spoke to me about what inspires her, how she's #breakingthetaboo, and what advice she has for young artists finding their way.
You grew up in San Diego. Did your childhood influence your art?
I think so! I do patterns and decorative things with flowers and plants and bright colors. A lot of it derived from being in the sun, outside and soaking everything in. The feeling of being outdoors is very imbedded into my work.
Team THINX is majorly in love with your work. Any upcoming projects we should know about?
Yes, I just finished up my first illustrated book! I have illustrated book covers before and really enjoyed it, so this project was very exciting.
Do you feel that there are aspects of your work that #breakthetaboo?
Overall, my work is light, colorful, painterly, and not breaking taboos in any way. I know I draw like this because it's a beautiful distraction from any suffering, and I want to uplift those who consume my work. But, I would like to delve into heavier topics at some point, because sharing tough experiences is an important part of being human. I recently wrote a short essay for Jessica Walsh's side project, Let's Talk About Mental Health, after she commissioned me to do the illustration for the site, and this is something I'd like to expand upon in future work. There is a huge stigma surrounding mental health disorders, and I do feel the need to share my story and help disrupt that way of thinking.
Your illustrations of nude women are extremely popular and very empowering to your fans. What inspired you to focus on the female form?
When I was 15 and studying at California College of the Arts, I took my first life drawing class, and life drawing continued to be an important part of my illustration education. I really love drawing the figure from life, but I don't always have the chance to go to sessions with a model anymore, so sometimes I'll do it myself using image reference from Google. It doesn’t really mean anything beyond this, though I suppose on some level I feel comfortable enough with my own identity as a woman to show my interpretation of the female body. Compared to men, there is more possibility to explore fashion that I'm into, and the curves of the female form are just more fun to draw. Women are just more interesting to me in general, probably because I am one.
Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring artists and illustrators?
My advice is to work really hard and know that this is what you want for your life. Thats very important, because you need to stay driven and determined. You could be the most talented artist ever, but you need to have the drive and be willing to put in the hard work to be successful. And school! School was very important to me. I had so many great supportive teachers that are still a wonderful support system at Parsons and New York in general. Reach out to people you care about and trust and talk about your work. That's always helped me. :)