New Work: Baltimore Bird Ambassadors

August 8, 2014 § 2 Comments


A couple of weeks ago I heard a story on NPR about the Baltimore Bird Ambassadors – a group of Mexican and Central American women who have taken on the job of building bird habitats in Baltimore’s parks. The thing that got me was the connection between the women and the birds, Orioles and other songbirds that migrate between Central America and the Northern United States and Canada. So the birds the women see in Baltimore aren’t just the same species they would also see in their home countries – they’re the exact same birds! This idea stayed with me, so I decided to create an illustration based on the idea.

Travel and Inspiration: the Beach in Kansas

August 1, 2014 § Leave a comment


“Beach” and “Kansas” are two words might seem totally incongruous, right? Well, Smashotron Scott and I did some exploring out in western Kansas a few weeks ago and found a pretty sweet beach! We visited Wilson Lake, which is just off of 1-70 and near Lucas, Kansas (home of the famous Garden of Eden). Wilson Lake is also know as the “clearest lake in Kansas” and I’m not arguing with that title! It is truly a beautiful place, with clear water, weird sandstone rock formations, tall grass prairie, and horned lizards running around. Scott and I camped the night on the shore of the lake in our little pup tent, experimented with some campfire cooking, went swimming and hiking. All in all, a very successful mini-vacation! I’ve been around the world but still haven’t been everywhere in my own backyard here in Kansas – so I guess more exploring is in order.

Do you have any exploring plans for the last days of summer?

New Products! Back to School at Staples

July 14, 2014 § 2 Comments

 leahhoelscher_map_staples_1 leahhoelscher_map_staples_2


Super exciting news today – my world map products are in stores at Staples! The composition book and folder feature my World Map of Wanderlust. The map is one of my very favorite illustrations I’ve made – the original inspiration for it was my own bucket list of sights I want to travel to someday. Making it was a joy and now it’s even better to see it utilized on these great back to school products at Staples!

Inspiration: Doorway Confidential

July 10, 2014 § Leave a comment


Above: Insadong, Seoul, 2010.

Lately I’ve had doors on my mind. Doors, gates, windows…portals. I guess what I find fascinating about them is their ability to frame a picture and add an element of mystery or confidentiality. I have always been fascinated by cities and all the little nooks and crannies and openings that make them awesome to explore.  Like the photo above of the chefs having a smoke – the super narrow passage really gives the image an intimate mood. Walking on the (extremely chaotic) street at the end of the passage felt l got a glimpse into another state of mind


Above: Kyoto, Japan, 2011.

Some doorways just make me too curious – like this place in Kyoto. What’s going on with that shopping basket, and the electronics in the bike basket? I’m also a big fan of anything cheerful with a darker side to them – and this place definitely had that vibe.

So why am I so into doors at the moment? Well, naturally I’m starting all kinds of new projects now that it’s summer, and some door and window illustrations are in the works! It’s been a while since I’ve really had a chance to make full-on illustrations (vs. surface design). I can’t wait to share the process of making them, and the final images!

P.S. I’ve been reading that bloggers should always end their posts with a “call to action,” usually a question. SO: Have any of you ever trespassed (or felt a strong urge to trespass)? What was that place like and why was is so appealing?



Inspiration: Summer Drinks

July 3, 2014 § Leave a comment


Summer is in full swing here in the studio! Longer days and warmer weather make me thirsty – specifically for sun tea, lemonade, limeades, and maybe even a mojito…mmm!

Surtex 2014: Return of the Backpacker

May 29, 2014 § 1 Comment

As always, it starts with a backpack. And a plane ticket. And an oversize dream:


Me and my backpack are a compact – but PACKED – package with a lot of ideas. Nearly full to the brim but still saving room for extra adventures and last-minute detours. It took a lot of hours to pack this baby – to make the things, polish them, pick over everything and find the best stuff – only what’s really worthy – and print them and roll them tight. That part got to me a little bit…it can be stressful feeling like so much is on the line.

And then I took that sucker on the plane, and the bus, and the subway. And then I unpacked it – and there is no better feeling than letting it all roll out and expand and breathe:


You might not even guess all that was in a 60L backpack, right? And this year was a little more complicated than last year. I brought some paper and fabric mock ups to flesh out my collections:



I liked the paper mockups because they felt really “me” – and it’s fun to create a little illusion once in a while. I felt like they were at the right intersection of “realness” and playfulness for my art.


Another new/improved thing this year was branding – last year I was totally new at the business and hadn’t had time to really consider branding, and how that would affect how (or if) people remember my art – this year it came together more for me and I realized that I actually am building an audience and relationships with companies. Several companies remembered me from last year, or from my web presence. I got to see lots of exhibitor and artist friends and meet many new ones. Best of all, this year I had great support from Smashotron Scott, Jee, and Madison:


Surtex for me this year took on a huge importance – for most of the past year I feel like I’ve been on the cusp of gaining traction with my business, and I’ve felt that a good showing was the key to moving forward. And honestly, yes, I think it was a great show – we were steadily busy, talked to several dream clients, and had better location, portfolio and displays over last year. But as anyone who’s exhibited knows – no one really knows how well it went until a few months down the line.

So for now, I’m still hiking down my own art licensing trail!

Giveaway time!

May 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

Hello Hello! I’ve been thinking for a while about changing things up by doing a giveaway. I thought now would be the perfect time, as I prepare to return to Surtex and launch my monthly newsletter.

Here’s how it works: If you subscribe to my newsletter between now and June 30, you will be entered in a drawing to win this sweet journal and zip pouch set, adorned with art from my new Bon Voyage collection! The winner will be announced on July 1st.

The newsletter: The newsletter will be a brief monthly email with studio news, sneak peaks of new work, inspiration tidbits, and some freebies and exclusive things added in, like printables or desktop wallpaper. It will never be spammy and certainly never more than monthly! If you want to keep up with all the art I’m doing and projects I’m working on, the newsletter will most likely be the best source to go to.

The prizes: The winner will get 1 Toasty Baguette zip pouch (lovingly hand sewn by yours truly), 1 Tricolor Vespa notebook and 1 Airmail notebook. The notebooks are both lined Moleskine cahiers, with a custom slipcover added – so you know they are quality! This set was so much fun to make, and I just know it will be perfect for any of you to keep a travel journal, daily diary, short stories, or just something spiffy to spruce up your desk and make co-workers jealous ;)

Soooo, are you ready to enter to win this thing? Head on over to and sign up for the newsletter! Here’s a close look at the prize pack:

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P.S.: The winner will receive these three items 100% free, shipping is on me! So international friends, no worries there :)




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