Yay for Banned Books Week!

September 21, 2014 § Leave a comment


Today is the first day of Banned Books week – a week that we celebrate intellectual freedom and stick it to all those who thought they could silence great art and interesting reads by taking a few books off library shelves and school curriculum. Not So! I think it’s been pretty well documented that as soon as a book is challenged, people basically *have* to read it to figure out what the big deal is all about. I love Banned Books week because I love intellectual freedom just as much as I love rolling my eyes at folks that think that books with talking animals are harmful to kids. So I’ve made some art to celebrate banned books! This was my second year to participate in the Lawrence Public Library‘s Banned Book trading card contest. Local artists submit art inspired by banned books, and the library picks 7 winners and issues a trading card with a new piece of art for each day of Banned Books week. Last year I was one of the lucky winners with my entry inspired by Sherman Alexie’s book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

This year I made the above piece inspired by Toni Morrison’s Beloved - one of my favorite books – and while I didn’t win, it was super fun to participate. However, Smashotron Scott DID win with his entry inspired by Art Spiegelman’s Maus.

Bonus: Check out this awesome video I found of Sherman Alexie talking on why its actually pretty great to have your book be banned.


Do you have any favorite banned or challenged books?

Turn, Turn, Turn

September 15, 2014 § Leave a comment


Hard to believe, but summer is officially over here in Kansas. I will miss the long, hot days, but let’s face it, it is a lot easier to get to work when the weather gets colder. Plus, fall is an inspiring time of year. I love the colors of the leaves, the changing landscapes, the perfect running weather, the amping up of preparations for winter and holidays. Fall just feels like a big perspective shift from summer. Different priorities, different horizons. I live in a college town, so back to school time is really noticeable – more people, more traffic, more talk of sports – I just nod and smile – and more noticeable patterns of movement between day and evening, week and weekend.

This year I’m getting inspired to make more leaf-inspired fall art – that’s what that mood board above is for. The photo I took in 2009 in Seoul, of the ginko leaves on my street. I guess fall is kind of a sentimental time of year, as well.  But I’m not just looking back – I’m getting back in touch with some of my art heroes! Below is Andy Goldworthy’s Elm Leaves 1978.  I’m just so envious of Goldsworthy’s ability to make such epic works of art from just the natural materials he finds around him and his own sense of observation.


So far, my fall is looking good: I’ve wrapped up some projects with companies I med at Surtex, so now it looks like I will have time to turn back to creating new collections and illustrations. It’s not all work though – fall for us means camping, hanging out by our makeshift fire pit, and running a lot. What is your favorite part about fall?

New Work: Baltimore Bird Ambassadors

August 8, 2014 § 3 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!


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