Category: Leanne Creates

An insight to how & why I do what I do…

Leanne Creative meets Sainsbury’s!

Soooo this happened!

In August, I entered a Greeting Card Association (GCA), Ohh Deer and Sainsbury’s design competition on Instagram. The GCA teamed up with Sainsbury’s to provide a very exciting opportunity for designers like myself to have our greeting cards stocked in 107 stores across the UK throughout the month of October (and beyond) in celebration of Black History Month.

The GCA said that they had 999 entries and could only choose 26 designs, and I am very proud to say that one of my submitted designs was selected!

My winning design

I entered several designs for this competition. Each design celebrated the diversity of people from African diaspora and were taken from my existing Royalty Collection.

My designs use bright colouring, unique portrait illustration and empowering messaging, which I believe are perfect ways to celebrate not only Black History Month, but every occasion.

The winning design features the wording ‘You Are a Queen‘ and a stunning portrait of a joyful black woman with short hair. With no specific occasion, it can be sent to your recipient on their birthday, wedding day or during any special time during which they need a positive affirmation. You could even keep it for yourself and frame it!

The story behind the design

This design originates from my Crown & Story collection. I first created it to celebrate women with short hair after my mum lost her hair to chemotherapy over 2 years ago. I hope it helps women with short hair (by choice or circumstance) feel beautiful and represented as it’s rare to see on greeting cards and in general media.

Embracing hair loss blog header image

Where to shop!

My You Are A Queen cards can be found in the following large Sainsbury’s stores (if more stores are added I will keep this list updated):

Ashton Moss
Badger Farm
Bamber Bridge
Banbury
Barnstaple
Beckton
Bicester
Bishop Auckland
Blackhall
Bognor Regis
Braehead
Brentwood
Broadcut 
Bybrook
Calcot
Cannock
Cameron Toll
Carlisle
Castle Court
Castlepoint
Cheadle
Chesterfield
Chichester
Cobham
Colne
Crayford
Crystal Palace
Crystal Peaks
Darnley
Darlington
Durham
East Mayne
East Kilbride
Edenthorpe
Edinburgh Longstone
Ellesmere Port
Emersons Grn

Halifax
Hamilton
Hampden Park
Hankridge Farm
Harrogate
Hayes 
Haywards Heath
Hazel Grove
Heaton Newcastle
Heaton Park
Hempstead Valley
Heyford Hill
High Wycombe
Irvine
Kempshott
Kidderminster
Kiln Lane
Kings Lynn Hardwick
Leamington
Leicester North
Leigh
Lincoln
Livingston
London Colney
Longbridge
Longwater
Low Hall
Mansfield
Milton Keynes
Monks Cross
Newbury
Newport
North Cheam
Oldham
Osmaston Park

Penzance
Pepper Hill
Pound Lane
Preston
Prestwick
Purley Way
Romford
Rugby 
Rustington
Salford
Scarborough
Sedgefield
Sevenoaks
Shorehead
Springfield
Sprucefield
Stanway
Stirling
St Clares
Sunderland
Sunderland North
Swadlincote
Sydenham
Tamworth
Thetford
Upton
Wakefield Marsh Way
Wandsworth
Warren Heath
Washington
Watchmoor Park
Wednesfield
Weedon Rd
West Belfast
White Rose
Wigan


So, please visit the store, buy a card and take photos! You can tag me on Instagram (@leanne_creative), Twitter (@leannecreative), Facebook (@leannecreative) and TikTok (@leannecreative). Buying a card (and hopefully selling out) may lead to more orders from major stores such as Sainsbury’s and would be a huge achievement for me as a small business and us as a nation in celebrating and representing diversity.

Thank you so much in advance!

Art or Design – What’s the difference?

Growing up, I loved fine art (still life, acrylic painting and portraiture). I then fell in love with design after completing a Foundation Diploma in graphic design at the University of Arts, London. Some believe that the two disciplines are the same but there are actually distinct differences, which made my transition to design quite a learning curve!

In this blog, I have teamed up with mosaic artist, Dionne – founder of Qemamu Mosaics, a company that produces beautiful mosaic art – to discuss the differences between art and design and our experiences surrounding the two.

“I am a mother of two teenagers, mosaic artist, voiceover artist, ex gymnast and ex athlete and lover of life! As well as immersing myself into my mosaic practice, I love to take walks in nature, listen to a wide variety of music, from Classical to Old Skool hip hop, Soca, Neo Soul and R&B. I enjoy yoga and self-motivation material and my friends would probably describe me as a sweet and gentle soul, who loves a laugh and can be a bit random and crazy on occasion!” Dionne

Art

My experience with art was very fulfilling and explorative; I loved getting my hands messy with paints, inks and printing materials. It was a very experimental and rewarding part of my life and as students we were encouraged to express ourselves subjectively. There was no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ as long as we could explain our reasoning and concepts behind our work articulately.

Art is a thing of beauty and it can and should be interpreted differently by different people. We bring our own thoughts and experiences to art and the same piece can evoke different feelings for each viewer. For example, have you ever viewed a famous, award-winning piece of art, worth millions and not ‘understood’ it, whilst others were praising it greatly and were able to deduce hidden meanings behind it? Well, that’s a powerful piece of art – its beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder!

“Art to me means total freedom of expression. Art is not confined to one discipline and has the ability to touch people’s soul in ways only felt by the viewer.” Dionne

Art allows you to use your imagination and be as abstract as you like. It can be appreciated at face value for its beauty or analysed and critiqued but there are not rules to be adhered to so get stuck in and enjoy!

Design

Design, on the other hand, does have its rules and restrictions because, generally, design has a function or purpose. For example, posters need to tell the viewers when and where certain events are happening and logos need to communicate whether a brand’s target audience is young children or pensioners. This means it is very important to follow certain design concepts that are universally understood in order to put across the right message to the right people.

As designers, we study universal perceptions of colour, fonts, imagery, hierarchy, sizing and more. For example, it is generally agreed that the colour light blue is calming and gentle, so we could use this colour for a massage therapy flyer. If we used a bright, fiery red with text in capital letters, it would give off the wrong impression to the majority of people, so we need to take this into consideration when designing.

If we break any ‘rules’, we risk the intended message of the design being lost. Have you ever seen a flyer and had no idea what the event was about or struggled to find important information like dates and time? This is probably because of poor design choices and a lot to rule breaking!

Take a look at the designs below. They have the same information on them but the font choices, colours and positioning/size of text has been changed. One follows good design practices making it clear and visually coherent, whilst the other breaks many of the best practice rules and the information is lost or is very confusing for the viewer.

Poor design
Good design

Conclusion…

Both art and design have elements of creativity. Just because there are rules in design it doesn’t mean you can’t place things on a page creatively and use innovative ways to display information clearly – as they say… “Know the rules so you know how to break them properly!” I find design extremely rewarding; I love the challenge of taking information and presenting it in a way that is engaging, persuasive and visually attractive.

Need a designer?

Get in touch with me and I can help you create well-designed documents, flyers, posters, business cards, logos and more!

Need an artist?

If you are interested in buying Dionne’s beautiful work or would like to take part in her mosaic workshops, please visit her website.

Case Study: Activity book design – rant.academy

Original brief

Client: rant.academy (previously RANT Kids)
Project: 28-page activity book/workbook design and character illustration
Target audience: 8 – 17 year olds


The project

This client already had an existing brand under the ‘RANT umbrella’ – RANT Kids; a child-friendly empowerment brand that focussed mainly on producing stationary and merchandise. The rant.academy was due to be a new project under this umbrella, with more of an educational focus for young people.

The workbook was briefed in to be a written course that young entrepreneurs could work through. They (or their parents) would purchase the workbook and it would have activities inside that encouraged personal development and instilled business knowledge and tips.

The child characters already existed on previous merchandise for RANT Kids, but I was asked to rework them in my style of illustration. The original illustrations looked good and were well designed but in order to fit the new branding and style of illustrations due to go into the workbook, they needed to be updated.

Challenges and solutions

Challenge: The initial target audience age range was too wide. Having such a wide range meant that the content and the illustrations would struggle to appeal to either end of the spectrum.
Solution: Reduce the target audience age range to those most likely to have an entrepreneurial spirit, be able to fulfil the tasks/activities and appreciate the content. It is now aimed at 10-15 year olds who would benefit most.

Challenge: Too much content for 28 pages. As I was putting the creating the flat plan and laying out provided content, it was becoming increasingly clear that, in order for there to be enough space for the children to write in their answers, we needed more space.
Solution: Increase the page count to produce a much user-friendly design. This does increase print costs but it will make the workbook more appealing to the users. It is now 56 pages long.

Challenge: The client wanted to later incorporate more interactivity and have a website linked to the course. In order to keep young people engaged in a digital world, the client felt it was important to have an online element to the course. A great idea!
Solution: I recommended a web design agency (Guessdesignhouse.com) who were able to create a functional and well branded site with interactive elements, a shop (to purchase the workbook from) and more information on the brand in general. We then included bespoke QR Codes into the physical book design which took the children to the supporting website at the click of a button. Guess Design House then used my illustrations and icons to make the site visually coherent.

Design decisions

Module colours: I was provided with the 8 brand colours and decided to allocate a different colour for each module for quick visual recognition when flicking through the book.

Page placement: I highlighted to the client that having module cover pages will help the user easily recognise that they are entering a new chapter of the course. These covers are all on the right hand page so, again, it is easy to spot when flicking through.

Contents page: With the book now being over 50 pages and it being something the children will start, leave and come back to, I felt it very important to have page numbers and a contents page. Being user-friendly is very important.

QR Codes: I wanted the QR codes to integrate smoothly into the page designs so I created illustrations to sit around them and got the characters involved.

Icons: Another great way to make quick visual links is to create icons. I went for a hand-drawn feel to relate to the fact that children will refilling the book in by hand.

Video illustrations for animation: The client needed some illustrations to go into the promotional and instructional videos. These were created once the book was complete in a way that could be animated by the web team.


Conclusion

I and the client are extremely happy with the final product. It has had wonderful feedback from the children and young people who have taken part in the course so far and it is a visually striking and functional book. I love the link to the online elements and enjoyed the challenge of making a text heavy document look engaging and inviting.

What the client says:
“Huge shoutout to the insanely talented Leanne Creative for the amazing illustrations and layout of the workbook and bringing my vision to reality.”

Mental Health Awareness Week – Social media anxiety

Hi guys! I hope you’re all feeling great but if you aren’t, I’m hoping this blog will help you feel a little better.

As you may know, it’s Mental Health Awareness Week (10th – 16th May 2021) – a week where we discuss and highlight the importance of taking care of our minds as well as our bodies. In this blog, I will be talking about the anxiety some of us may face as entrepreneurs or small business owners who use social media to promote ourselves. I really want to talk about this specifically, as its something I’ve struggled with in the past.

Social media & business anxiety

Lockdown has been a huge challenge for a lot of us, with people losing their jobs on an unprecedented scale. This mass unemployment has lead to many of us having to start or grow our own businesses to keep ourselves afloat and a lot of that has been done through social media as it’s now an essential tool to reach audiences/customers.

So, we start our business pages with enthusiasm and hope, posting images of our products or services whilst telling the world “WE HAVE ARRIVED!” A few moments later, we are confronted by the fact that there are hundreds, if not thousands of other businesses out there, doing similar work and we instantly start to question our significance in our chosen industries.

Over the next few weeks, we keep pushing and promoting our work but can’t stop scrolling through that Instagram discovery feed. We see image after image of our peers and competitors doing well and gaining more and more exposure, but if things aren’t going so well for us just yet, insecurity rears its ugly head and we start to doubt ourselves and, once again, question our abilities. 

Sound familiar? Yea, it does to me too!

As humans, we can’t help but compare ourselves to others (especially on social media) but if these feelings aren’t dealt with in a healthy way, this constant comparison can have a negative affect on our mental state. Because of this, it is so important to curate a strong and positive sense of professional- and self-worth in order to maintain good mental health, otherwise it could lead to to so many issues such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and OCD. 

If you see someone winning, celebrate and learn from them but it’s so important to maintain a sense of value in your own journey too. As successful as someone presents, they too have a story, and the snippet that is shown on social media is just a tiny percentage of the reality. They too may have started out slowly and felt the same way as you do a few months or years ago, so there’s no reason why you can’t be successful in your own time too! Social media is basically a highlight reel, so to compare your real life to their reel life” can be pretty unfair to yourself, right? So cut yourself some slack. If you’re working hard, continuing to learning and taking steps to improve your business, then your win is coming too… trust me! I used to think to myself “Why aren’t my designs being featured in magazines too? (crying face emoji)” …then a few months later… two features in the space a month and that shut me up real quick (LOL), so now I trust the process!

My advice to anyone reading this who feels like their mental health is being affected by comparison on social media is to give yourself a break. Talk to real people you trust who can share rounded experiences and come back with an understanding that you are on your own perfect path and that everyone’s highlights have back stories. It’s so important to celebrate wins, but in reality we don’t all win all the time… and guess what… that’s ok! 

Mother Nature’s healing touch 

This year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is nature and I have to admit it’s been a real blessing for me during lockdown. When things got overwhelming mentally, we would go for walks in parks or woods and I found myself appreciating wildlife a lot more. For me, just being around trees, water and animals makes me feel calmer and in tune with my emotions and always has done. I love the sound of running water and find comfort in the smell of fresh soil. I even have a tattoo that symbolises the beauty of nature and natural human beauty.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, 45% of us reported that being in green spaces had been vital for our mental health over the lockdown period, so I’m glad it’s being recognised as a natural stimulant for positive mental health. Being in nature is also a great form of escapism and helps you put your problems into perspective… it’s a huge world out there! 

“Nature is our great untapped resource for a mentally healthy future.”

Mark Rowland, CEO of the Mental Health Foundation

So every now and then, why not take a few hours or days away from social media (I know its hard if you run an online business but…), explore your local park, sit in the garden, grown a houseplant from an avocado seed (like I did!) and enjoy the calming reality of nature! Step away from seeing others as unhealthy competition but instead use it as healthy inspiration, because after all, a flower doesn’t care how pretty its neighbour is, it still blooms just as beautifully as it’s meant to!


If you are in need of any professional support or want to learn of ways you can help those who need it, please always reach out and contact the below services:

Mindmind.org.uk

Mental Health Foundationmentalhealth.org.uk

NHSnhs.uk


If you’d like to get updates on when I release new blogs, please subscribe to my newsletter.

A rollercoaster 2020!

The year 2020 has been ‘interesting’, to say the least! A rollercoaster of events and emotions plagued our entry into the new decade, making it one of the toughest years in a very long time!

2020 has been a struggle for so many people, not only financially but also emotionally, mentally and physically. Our lockdowns have wreaked havoc with our businesses and incomes (especially small businesses like mine), social unrest and racist rhetoric has made us question our places in society and the unprecedented effects of the Coronavirus pandemic has left us feeling more fragile than ever…what a year! But to avoid complete despair, I’ve made sure to focus on the positive things that have happened in-between the craziness!


2020 Round-up

This blog is a breakdown of all the positives I can take away from this year and the events I am most proud of. I sincerely pray that 2021 has more of this positivity for me, you and everyone who’s been struggling to stay afloat!

January

BBC Radio London interview
The year started with an amazing opportunity which sparked my desire to hop, skip and jump my way out of my comfort-zone. On my birthday, 13th January, I was invited to speak about my business on BBC Radio London’s The Scene with comedian, Aurie Styla. I was so nervous but it helped me find the confidence to speak to my audiences directly and I then went on to creating a YouTube channel!

February

Leanne Creative joins Jamii
Jamii is an online discovery platform, that makes buying from black-owned business easier. There are over 50 different brands and I was proud to join this platform this year. Shoppers with a Jamii discount card also get 10% off my greeting cards and coaster designs! So why not sign up?

March

Representation Matters campaign (part 2)
It was great to find even more people who felt represented by my greeting cards and gift illustrations – it’s why I do what I do! Thank you to everyone who sent in photos of themselves.

April

Healthcare greeting card release
With the pandemic in full swing, I decided to create an illustration to say thank you to the healthcare workers who are working so hard to keep us safe and as well as possible. I designed this purely for an Instagram post but the response was so great that I decided to turn it into a greeting card!

May

1k Instagram followers
I hit my target of 1,000 followers sooner than I had thought! Thank you so much for your interest in my products, services and tips. I’ve enjoyed engaging with my followers and meeting many inspirational people along the way and I am now at over 2.5k followers! Follow me here.

June

LGBTQ+ greeting card design launch
June is the month of many Pride celebrations for the LGBTQ+ community in the UK. I was approached by ParliREACH and ParliOUT to help them promote their initiative of better representation and equality, so they asked me to design greeting cards that had illustrations of same-sex couples.

Response has been very positive and I’m pleased to have been able to create greeting cards that Black gay and lesbian couples can relate to. Shop here.

July

Charity fundraising
My mum wanted to do something special for charity this year – two years after her diagnosis of Leukaemia and losing a lot of muscle strength. She challenged herself to do a 26 second headstand to raise money for The Sunshine Foundation for Children with Special Needs and the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (ACLT) and she smashed it, raising over £2000!

Thank you to everyone who donated and please continue to support these great charities.

August

Black Pound Day
I was very pleased to be able to meet the founder of Black Pound Day himself! Swiss is so dedicated and passionate about his initiative to promote and shop from black-owned businesses like mine, so it was amazing to hear him speak about it and his plans for the future.

This event, at BOXPARK Wembly, was the most successful event for my greeting card and gift sales, so a huge thank you to Carib and Co Brunch for organising it. When we all pull together to support each other, great things can happen!

September

World Afro Day
Founded by Michelle De Leon, World Afro Day is a day to celebrate afro textured hair. Our hair is unique and beautiful but often faces judgement and discrimination in workplaces and in the media, so this day aims to combat these problems. I celebrated by sharing my original illustration of a black woman rocking her ‘fro with confidence and style!

October

Debut book release
I was so excited to release my very own children’s book! MY WORLD – Mackilli & Seeva’s Switcheroo is a fantasy story with real-world themes of self-love, teaching children to love their differences and the unique features of others. I wrote and illustrated this magical book during lockdown and I am very proud of it. The support has been amazing so far and I hope to grow this series of books next year!

November

Ebony Her collaboration
I teamed up with Ebony Her – a holistic digital marketing agency with a focus of unlocking brand validity – to offer those who sign up to the marketing packages FREE bookmarks that I have designed (while stock lasts). I understand the importance of great marketing strategy, so wanted to partner with a great company like this!

December

Stylist Magazine Feature
I couldn’t believe it! I was so excited to see that my classic bauble Christmas card design had be listed as Stylist Magazine‘s Best for Subtle Sparkle! To have my work recognised and awarded felt amazing after such an uncertain year. Were you able to grab a copy (Issue 533) and buy this card?


Roll on 2021!
With so much happening this year, we have to count our blessings to still be here in the first place, so I am very grateful to be healthy, working and thriving amongst the chaos. What have you been grateful for?

Please stay posted, for my 2021 blogs, new items and books by signing up to my newsletter and I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas (if you celebrate it) and a Happy New Year!

Welcome to My World

I’m so excited to announce that my debut children’s book is now on sale! Growing up, I’ve always loved writing fantasy stories and poems, so this was an opportunity for me to delve into my imagination again and create a story for children and families to enjoy…

What’s the story?

Written in prose and poetry, My World – Mackilli & Seeva’s Switcheroo is a magical story about two young aliens from opposite worlds; Mimpal and Stiplop. Mimpal is calm and dark with rolling hills but not much to do, whereas Stiplop is bright and busy with tall buildings and angular shapes.

One day, Mackilli, who lives in Mimpal, stumbles across an unusual rock on his way to school, which turns out to be an amazing portal into Stiplop. In the portal, he discovers an intriguing alien called Seeva and they are envious of each other’s world, so they wish as hard as they can to switch places.

Overnight, they magically switch worlds and, although it is a very strange experience for them, they each have a sense of belonging because they both have something a little different about them.

Read the book to find out what their differences are!

The message…

Mackilli and Seeva each have something about them that makes them stand out from the other aliens in their own worlds and they’ve hidden it all their lives. After experiencing opposite worlds, they find the courage to be proud of their differences and agree to show them off from now on.

This book helps children (approx. aged 5 – 9 years), who may feel a little different from their peers understand that their differences are what makes them special and with 36 pages of vivid illustrations, I aim to entertain, inspire and boost confidence!

We all may feel a little alien sometimes, but that’s OK. As Seeva says “my differences are what makes me, me!”

Meet the characters…

Mackilli is a brave and inquistive character who has a cute gap in his teeth. He is grey with patterns all over his body, including his special mopspots.

Does your child have something unique about their skin or know someone who does?

Purchase a copy of My World

Seeva is an intelligent, chatty and independent alien with big green eyes, two noses and four ears! She wraps her hair because she feels self-conscious about her grey afro which she calls her ‘grey-tness’.

Does you child have hair that is different from their peers?

Purchase a copy of My World


Thank you!

This is a massive step for me and I’m very proud to have been able to self-publish my own book after illustrating many other author’s books. Please support and let me know what you think by leaving a review.

I plan to write more in this series and potentially some merchandise to accompany the story, so please do stay posted by joining my mailing list or following the dedicated Instagram page: @mackillaandseeva.

If you would like to buy wholesale copies, would like me to read the story at an event or want a signed copy, please do get in touch.

Looks like you! Bespoke illustrations

If you’re familiar with the mission behind my greeting cards and gifts, you will know that positive and diverse representation is something I’m very passionate about. And what better way to represent and celebrate a friend or loved one, than a personalised illustration.

As well as my Royalty collection of items, I offer a bespoke service to those who want an extra special portrait illustration. I can create these illustrations using one of two different styles – a poly-vector technique or a flat vector technique.

How it works…

  • Send me the photo of the person you’d like illustrated as well as any wording you’d like featured and any colour preferences you have for the background.
  • Please send an image that is as high quality as possible.
  • I will then illustrate the image in your chosen style and send you the high-quality image for you to print on anything you’d like! (Or, I can send off to print for you at an extra cost).

Poly-vector technique

This style of illustration takes the longest to complete, so please allow up to 5 working days before you need it (longer if you require it to be sent to print).

This technique is best suited for completely front-facing or side-facing close up portraits.

It gives quite a realistic finished product and is my product’s signature style! Watch a video about this style here.

Send an image and get a quote

Flat vector technique

This style is the most versatile. I can work with most photographs and even change the colour of clothing.

It is a great way to revamp old photos or have portraits of multiple people in different poses.

I can produce either a more realistic style or a cartoon version, which is great for kids!

Send an image and get a quote

Although my cards and gifts feature a wide range of hairstyles, ages and skin tones, I will probably never build a collection that represents every single beautiful person in the African diaspora (but I’m trying!), so bespoke illustrations are a great option to get that illustration looking just like the recipient!

PLEASE NOTE: As every illustration is unique and won’t be used anywhere else, prices are more expensive than my existing collection of cards (from £35).

Written by Leanne Armstrong

Character design and illustration

Leanne Creates illustration blog header

I’ve been a professional graphic designer for just over seven years but always had a creative mind from a very young age. I grew up loving to dance, write short stories, paint pictures and sketch animals and fictional characters.

When I left college, I decided to enrol in a Graphic Design Foundation Diploma at the University of Arts. I then went on to do a degree in Dance and Media Cultural studies at Kingston University where I learnt more about the theories and strategies behind media production and marketing. This degree opened my eyes to different techniques for advertising, animation and brand development and I fell even more in love with graphic design during a design module.

Film Africa design by Leanne Creative

Fast forward to 2016 and I entered a design competition for Film Africa, where designers across the world were tasked to create artwork for the front cover of their programme. The above artwork was my submission and I was selected by industry professionals to be one of the top three designers! It then went to a public social media vote and I came second place.

Seeing as this was my first attempt at bespoke illustration, I was extremely proud of myself and my passion for illustration (portraits in particular) grew, leading me to start designing my own collection of greeting cards.

What is Illustration?

Illustration us a strand of design that can be broadly classified into two categories: traditional illustration and modern illustration. Traditional refers to hand-drawn using pencils, pens, paint and paper etc, whereas modern illustration, which I do, is created using software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator on a computer – although my work often does start off with a pencil sketch.

The Magic Bubble Wand by Barbara Adu-Darko. Illustrated by Leanne Creative

Illustrations are pieces of imagery that accompany text to aid understanding or visualisation. They could also simply be purely decorative and used in anything from books to magazines, annual reports to posters, video games and films. Illustrations are an effective way to communicate with readers in a creative and visually descriptive way – as they say… an image can paint 1,000 words!

What’s my style?

Many illustrators have their own unique style of working and drawing. For example, the work of Quentin Blake, Matt Groening, Dr Seuss and of course Disney, are all recognisable simply by their illustration styles.

Matilda by Quentin Blake
Princess Tiana by Disney
Homer Simpson by Matt Groening
Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss

Over the years I have experimented with a few different techniques to create the portraits featured on my greeting cards and gifts. These include:

Polyvector trianglesA time consuming but extremely detailed, decorative and effective technique, great for close-up portraits.

Free-hand digital Starting from a hand-drawn sketch using a digital pen. This gives the artwork a traditional feel but with a lot more creative flexibility.

Black girl modern hipster illustration by Leanne creative

Vector illustration – Block colours and shapes put together to create recognisable features with simple shadows and highlights.

No matter the technique, my personal style uses bright block colours and I tend to embellishing the portraits with shapes and patterned backgrounds, which I believe has given my items their signature look and feel. I also like to use a range of different black and asian skin tones and hair styles to make my brand as representative as I can.

Children’s character design

I really enjoy working on children’s books and creating dynamic and expressive characters, so recently, I decided to start developing a style of character that I hope will be recognisable as a ‘Leanne Creative character’ in the future…

Meet my LC family! They will be the basis of my children’s characters (unless the client requests otherwise, of course) going forward. I wanted to create a black family of different ages that can be adapted to the client’s needs but can still be recognised as my artwork.

Here’s the break down:

Crescent eyes – They are simple but effective in portraying different emotions. They also portray an openness and positive engagement, which many children respond well to.

Button nose – It was important to me to capture black features and the nose is one of the them. The rounded shape and shadow above, I believe captures this.

Low ears – This was a cute a playful feature I thought would relate the characters to each other.

I really look forward to developing them further and working on more books and characters.

If you are interested in working with me, feel free to drop me an email and we can start to bring your ideas to life!

Written by Leanne Armstrong

Being an introverted entrepreneur

Leanne Creates blog header

Growing up I was a very shy and quiet child – a classic introvert. I enjoyed playing with close friends and family but felt very uncomfortable speaking in front of people I didn’t know or large groups. I would happily play by myself and found large gatherings where I had to say hello to aunty, uncle and great-aunty’s second cousin quite daunting! 

Fast forward several years and I’m much more confident. I enjoy meeting new people and seeking new experiences, however, my introverted tendencies do pop-up now and then. I’m grateful for them as I find myself being more productive and happy during these times. I feel more than content when taking time to myself or with a partner and escaping the bustling city-life for something more calm and isolated and I’ve found that being this way has helped me grow as a creative and well-rounded business woman as well. 

In this blog, I explore what it’s like to be an introvert determined to be a successful entrepreneur and how I’ve made it work for me.

What is an introvert?

Introverts are often labelled as shy, reticent and reserved. We tend not to seek out special attention and social engagements leave us feeling exhausted at times. Society often sees these traits as flaws and mostly rewards extrovert behaviour – think Instagram and Love Island – but I know that introverts have so much to offer the world, albeit behind the scenes.

We may not be the life and soul of a party or the loudest in the room but we tend to be extremely thoughtful, reliable and strategic problem-solvers, who are good at building strong and meaningful relationships. As Caroline Castrillon, a Forbes contributor said, “Introversion is often misunderstood… it can be an advantage if you follow the right strategies.” 

A study showed that qualities that make a good CEO include:

  • Being relationship masters; building good relations between clients and the business
  • Reliability; being able to stick to a plan and be there when needed
  • Decision makers; the ability to make a decision with conviction and speed
  • Adaptability; being able to rise to the occasion, whatever is thrown at you

As mentioned above, introverts tend to excel in these qualities and so there is no reason why we can’t be successful employees, business people and entrepreneurs. After all, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and J.K Rowling didn’t do too badly!

Making it work

I love being a graphic designer/illustrator and enjoy going to events to promote my work but some may say that being reserved is a hindrance to my growth as a business woman. I disagree – it’s just a different route from extroverts and I strongly believe that I can make it work whilst staying true to who I am. 

My sales style is probably more personal; I find doing the ‘hard sell’ technique quite difficult, so striking up a conversation with people and getting to know what they are looking for is more comfortable for me. It allows me to really listen and build genuine connections with my customers and I find that they are more likely to invest in my brand this way. Don’t get me wrong, I know when it is necessary to grab opportunities that lie outside of my comfort-zone, but don’t beat myself up about not being the centre of attention every time. 

As Ghandi said “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”

Stepping outside my bubble

In January 2020 (on my birthday), I definitely shook MY world and stepped outside of my introverted comfort-zone! I was blessed (and brave) enough to have the opportunity to speak about my greeting cards and gifts on BBC Radio London with Aurie Styla! Me… on the radio… speaking to thousands of people… I know right! It was a crazy experience that I am extremely grateful for and shows that I can and will step up to the plate when the feeling is right!

I also dance which has taken me on amazing journeys, performing in front of thousands at venues such as Wembley Arena and Hammersmith Apollo. Dance allows me to really take hold of an extrovert persona where I can portray huge amounts of confidence (and even cockiness at times) which makes me wonder… am I actually an ambivert? An ambivert is someone who possess both introvert and extrovert qualities depending on the situation.

Just doing me

At the end of the day, us humans are complex beings. Whether introvert, extrovert or ambivert (or anything in between) we are all just making our way through life, doing the best we can to make it work for us!

Have conviction in your goals, make a plan, stay true to who you are and you’ll be able to build a business in your own way, in your own time… maybe just a little quieter than others! 

Check out my small-business; illustrated greeting cards and gifts, here.

Written by Leanne Armstrong

Not just a greeting card

Leanne Creative blog header about Not Just a Card

Some say the greeting card is obsolete or they prefer to send a text or meme, but as an illustrator and designer of greeting cards and gifts, I have a love for traditional greeting cards and here’s why…

For me, physical greeting cards are a more personal way to stay in touch and there’s something about being tactile in a digital world that makes it feel that little bit more special. Selecting, spending money (especially with an independent company) and writing a bespoke message in a card really shows the recipient that you have put thought into how you’d like them to spend and remember their special day. Cards can also be a great way to express how you feel about someone if you’re too shy to tell them in person, helping you to break the ice and connect with them on an emotional level – who need emojis and sliding into the DMs?!

A piece of art with a story… and made with love

My cards in particular, are created with great attention to detail and I pride myself in creating not only something to be given on a special occasion but kept for years to come; some of my customers even frame them. 

The majority of my card designs start off as intricate portraits on vivid colourful backgrounds, each adorned with headdresses or hairstyles which give them their own identity and I sometimes even imagine their back story! The colours, diversity and detail really brings them to life and I find that many customers connect with each card more like art than an accompaniment to a gift.

I then hand-finish each card with gems and package them individually, making each one slightly different. They are really made with love and I am genuinely humbled by the fact that I am able to share them world-wide with people on their special days. They really aren’t just card for me; they are an dream, a story, a passion, a talent and a creative piece of art. 

Representation matters

I have recently written a blog for JAMMI called Addressing the Balance. This piece is about the need for more diversity in our gift shops (and beyond) and highlights the fact that cards are powerful in helping people feel celebrated and loved and what better way to feel celebrated than with a card that features artwork that looks like you. The representation of minorities and a variety of ethnic backgrounds really does matter and my cards are a small but valid way to help people feel empowered and uplifted, one card at a time. Read the full article here.

Happy Birthday greeting card

Small but mighty

As an small business owner, I am always encouraging people to buy greeting cards and gifts from independent shops. Campaigns like Just a Card encourages people to value and buy from designers that aren’t on the high street because there are real people behind these items who have worked hard to produce them which means that every sale (no matter how small you may think it is) means a great deal to us. It’s not just a card, it’s supporting a dream, vision and a lifestyle and there are benefits to you as a consumer too…

  • You tend to get a more personal, memorable and ‘hands-on’ service
  • You have access to more diversity and exclusive items
  • It creates a sense of community
  • And you will definitely feel good after pressing ‘purchase’ and knowing that a real person does a happy dance once they receive your order!

The facts

In February 2020, The Guardian released an article on how greeting cards are indeed surviving the ‘smartphone era’ which is great news for us card designers. The British in particular have been sending cards since the Victorian times and we send more per head than any other nation! There has been an drop in Valentine’s Day card sales but new born baby, Father’s Day, Easter, empowerment and rude cards are on the up!

According to the Greeting Card Association’s 2019 market report, the British public spent £1.7bn on cards with Generation Z (18 to 24 year olds) buying more than any other age group. The thinking behind this is that Millenials are wanting to empower more and mental health awareness is increasing so cards that make us feel good are becoming more popular. 

This is great news so let’s keep spreading love in creative and expressive ways. Visit my online shop to find the perfect card here.