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Leilani Joy Interview


Leilani Joy is the definition of an awesome artist. Her art is a mix between surrealism and storytelling, and she has created designs for Disney. Read on to find out more about Leilani! P.S. did we mention she's awesome?

When was the first moment you decided you wanted to be an artist?

I was born wearing a little beret and holding a paintbrush! Just kidding! For me, it wasn't a decision. I just was! I've been creating as long as I can remember and as far back as elementary school I planned on being a professional artist.


Aww, baby Leilani is so cute!!

Where do you find your inspiration?

Anything and everything!  I never know exactly where it’s going to come from. Sometimes it’s song or film I saw or sometimes I dream I had. I'm primarily inspired by the female form and my earliest influences sprouted from animation such as, “The Last Unicorn” and “Sailor Moon.” Many of my pieces are inspired by existing characters that I want to interpret in my own style, like Alice in Wonderland or Madame Butterfly. I’m also inspired by (or perhaps obsessed with) Rorschach ink blot tests. I love seeing something in them and working them into my pieces. Someone recently referred to my characters as “Ink Blot Girls” and I totally love that description so I’ve begun calling my characters; Leilani’s Ink Blot Girls!

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"Alice Wore Blue" and "Madrid" -An Ink Blot Girl

If you could work with another artist, who would it be? / who is your favorite artist?

One of my long time favorite artists is Camilla d'Errico (who also happens to have a collection here on Modify Watches!). I actually had the opportunity to collab with her for a contest, which was a dream project! You can see the results of it here! If I had to choose an artist I haven't worked with, it would be a tie between Ruben Ireland, and Tara McPherson. I love their styles and I'm super inspired by them.


The piece is called “Helmet Girls”, but we call it “Camilla and Leilani, the Badass Artists” :)

What has been the best moment in your career?

Working with Disney's WonderGround gallery! Getting the opportunity to paint Disney characters in my own style has definitely been a dream project for me! I still pinch myself every once in a while! You can find my Disney works and find out more at:

What is your ideal day?

A morning bike ride or hike in Marin with my boyfriend. A picnic lunch out in nature with some wine or Belgian beer along with our sketchbooks or paints. In the evening we'd get some sushi, Thai, Indian or maybe just pizza. I LOVE every kind of food! Then we'd catch a movie we've been waiting for and spend the next 2 hours analyzing it shot by shot! We spend the rest of the evening making art while watching cheesy 80s action movies or playing video games. Sounds perfect to me! Luckily my ideal day happens often!

Excuse me as I need to go eat a buffet of food now that Leilani mentioned it...

Who is your role model?

My mom is, and will always be, my role model. She works harder than anyone I know, yet she always makes time to lend a hand to others. She has worked for everything she has and doesn't let anything stop her. She has an excellent head for business and finance yet she makes time to be creative. I don't know how she does it all and I wouldn't be where I am without her.


"Lady Amalthea"

If you could do anything, what would it be?

Play video games professionally. Play bass for Primus. Dance in a professional ballet. Be on RuPaul's Drag Race. Make-out with Michael Fassbender and have my own series of illustrated books or graphic novels!

YES! Leilani this is why we love you. Your goals rock.

Why do you create art?

Because I MUST! I'm not sure exactly why- I suppose it's because if I don't get all these images dancing around in my head on paper somehow it would get too crowded in there!


"Lady Amalthea"

What art do you most identify with?

Pop surrealism, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Fashion Illustration, Fantasy, Animation, Anime, and even Abstract. I'd like to think there is a little bit of each of these in my own work.


We definitely agree. There’s a little bit of everything, and that’s what makes it so intriguing!

How has your art changed throughout your life?

Hopefully it's improved! Haha! I started out mostly drawing. Throughout middle school and high school I was mostly interested in comics, manga, and graphic novels so I mostly worked on created my own. I didn't really get into painting until college, at the Academy of Art. Now I do a combination of drawing and painting, but I hope to get back to telling stories with my art one day.

What is your dream project?

Probably an illustrated book, not necessarily for children though. I'd love to explore a genre of illustrated short novels. I'd love to combine my love of writing with my illustrations.


"Lady Luna"

What is the best piece of advice you have received?

One of instructors at the Academy of Art told us that only about 10% of my graduating class would ever work in the art industry. At first it shocked and panicked me, but then it made me extremely determined. He said, “Having a successful career in art is 10% talent, and 90% tenacity.” Many students scoffed at this, but this inspired me. I've never been afraid of hard work and I figured that whatever I lacked in natural talent I could make up by working harder! I've always kept this in the back of my mind, and now I can proudly say I'm in that 10% that is working as a professional artist.

Where can we find out more about your art and process?

I have an art blog YouTube channel entitled, “Art NuVogue” where I share my painting process, try new materials and share some tips and tricks along the way! You can find it at You can also find all my work and more info at

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Want to know more about Leilani? Check out her other pages!

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