Creative Space: Emma Leonard

FK talks to artist Emma Leonard about her Melbourne based creative space. All images by one of our creative spaces project photographer Mishy Lane.

Tell us a little about your art and what kind of things you create in your own space?
I am a Melbourne based illustrator and, for some unexplainable reason, I almost always draw girls, especially ones with melancholy expressions and sad eyes. Using watercolour, gouache and ink, I try to create carefully considered renderings of delicate femininity, fragility and ethereal beauty.

What is your work space like and what things do you like to surround you when you work?
My works space is in my spare room at home and I like to surround myself with lots of books, I am slowly trying amass a good collection of illustration, art & design and children’s books, because they are a constant source of inspiration and refrence, the work of other artists that I admire, any interesting objects I can find as well as all of my supplies, including endless tubes of paint and pencils.

What are some ‘tools of your trade’ that are essential for you to work with?
The two most important things are actually my lamp and a really good sharpener, which sounds so boring!
Because the room doesn’t get anywhere near as much natural light as I would like, by far the most important tool is my lamp, I worked without one for a little while and colours that looked great in my studio actually looked completely different when I took them out into the natural light.
I am also an obsessive perfectionist so everything I draw and paint with has to be super sharp, otherwise I won’t use it.

What keeps you motivated and inspired when you’re working?
I’m really good at half finishing things, so I need deadlines to help me stay motivated and force me to see things through to the end (part of why I chose to become an illustrator rather than a fine artist!). I am also constantly looking at the work of other illustrators and artists and visiting exhibitions because nothing gets me excited more than seeing a piece of work that I really love.

Where do you go for inspiration for your home & work space?
Blogs –,,,
Books – The Age Of Feminine Drawing, 100 Girls on Cheap Paper, Luella’s Guide to English Style
Magazines – Uppercase, Papier Mache, Spoon, Lula, Frankie
Places – Outre, Metropolis Book Store, No Vacancy, Backwoods Gallery

What is a typical day for you involve when you are working?
I wish I could say I spend all day with a paint brush or pencil in my hand but unfortunately that’s just not the case. A typical day involves answering emails, cutting up & packaging prints, setting up files to be sent to the printers, and posting out orders. And then when I get to the good part of working on illustrations, it involves brainstorming concepts and ideas, a lot of research and looking for reference on blogs, in magazines and in books, and then eventually sketching out concepts and working on the final renderings.
I am also a full time student with a part time job so all of this happens in between classes and when I’m not working, which means I’m often working all late into the night and on weekends. But it’s the good kind of busy, I would much rather be juggling a million things that sitting around with nothing to do!

What do you love about your surrounding area?
My house/studio is in Yarraville, about 15 minutes out of the city and it feels a bit like a little village. I love going to the movies at the Sun Theatre, a recently renovated art deco cinema, I never walk out of Sedonia, a vintage/gift shop the next suburb over, empty handed and you can get the best pizza in the west from L’uccelinos on Anderson street.

What things would you love to add to your creative working environment?
A new Mac with a really big screen, some beautiful, old map drawers to put all of my original work in, instead of keeping scattered around the house, and a puppy to sleep in the corner while I work.

All the wonderful photos featured in this post are by Mishy Lane and are exclusively for the Finders Keepers!


  • shell says:

    Beautiful space! I bought some of Emma’s prints at the last Melbourne market, they and she are lovely.

  • Laura says:

    I bought one of Emma’s prints at the Sydney Finders Keepers markets and have been eyeing some more on Etsy. Her studio looks great!


  • Always great to see inside the studio of another creative person! And it turns out we are both ‘Yarravillians’! I too have the same obsession with Sedonia, Emma!

    Vari @ Buttercup Ink xx

  • Beattie says:

    Beautiful space Emma.
    Especially love the rolled illustration of yours hanging on the wall.
    Nice detail!
    I still love my print and it is in the shop and people are always wanting to buy it!
    x beattie

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