Illustrator Interview – Niki Leonidou

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We need a bit of Mediterranean flavour in here, so let’s head on east and down the Mediterranean coast to Greece, to meet Niki Leonidou! Niki is a member of 12×12 and has been graciously sharing her illustrations with other members, such as here on Rena’s blog. She has also done some lovely uTales illustrations,  for example, My Sister is a Dragon. I wanted to hear more about her life as a European illustrator.
  • Illustrator or author/illustrator?

[NL] I have been an illustrator for more than a decade now. The last couple of months I started writing and I must say it is a lot of fun! I am planning to write and illustrate a picture book soon. (And getting it published, if I am lucky enough!)

  • What’s your nationality and where do you live?

[NL] I am Greek and currently live in Athens, Greece.

  • I know you have illustrated for both the European and US markets. How do they differ?

[NL] All the US clients I have worked for know exactly what they want and that is very helpful for an illustrator. I have not worked for European clients apart from Greek ones where the situation is quite different. Greek clients are less organized and sometimes wait from the illustrator to do all the work. This can be a bit frustrating when it is not paid as it should be, but, on the other hand, gives a lot of freedom to the illustrator. Working under these circumstances was a great school for me. But, only for a certain period of time, then it gets very tiring.

  • Tell us a little of your beginnings as an artist.

[NL] I always remember myself drawing and sketching on a piece of paper. Since I could hold a pencil in my hand. So, four years after graduating from school, I decided to go to an Art school in UK.

  •  What is your favorite medium for your artwork? 

[NL] Everything! I love mixing different media like gouache, acrylic, ink and pencil on a piece of paper (any paper!) and then scanning the drawing in Photoshop and taking it further.

Have you a favorite character that you have illustrated?

[NL] I do love fairy tale characters like wizards, witches, elves, giants and other fantasy and a bit ugly creatures. I have illustrated a few of those over the years.

  • What books and/or illustrators influenced your childhood?

[NL] There was a very famous series of Classic Fairy Tales illustrated by amazing Italian illustrators here in Greece when I was young and almost every child had them! Other than that, I loved Disney characters and stories. My favorite was Mickey Mouse comic books.

  • What does your workspace look like?

[NL] Unfortunately, I don’t have a particular workplace right now… I work in the kitchen, in the veranda or on the dining table. It is very frustrating but since I had my children, there is no room for workplace. But I will have one in the future again. This is a promise to myself!

  • Can you share a piece or two with us, and the process of producing them?

The first image (thief-witch) is about a witch who steels fruits and flowers from nature and then brings them home. One day, she does the same in a Super Market… This is for a Greek publisher and the book comes out in May. The most important thing in an illustration is the character, the hero. Here, I had to make the witch happy, mischievous, but also a bit naïve. I did a lot of gouache and acrylic painting, then collage and more drawing in Photoshop.


The second image (underground) is a sample for a Greek publisher, too. Here most of the story takes place underground, so apart from the hero, who wants to know what is above and seeks adventure, I had to make the atmosphere a bit claustrophobic. Again a lot of gouache, pencil and ink and then a bit of drawing in Photoshop.


Five Fun Ones to Finish:

  • What word best sums you up?

[NL] Difficult question… ([JDM] I hope you think of something to add to the comments as enquiring minds want to know:))

  • If you could live anywhere for a season, where would you go?

[NL] Definitely New Zealand!

  •  What do you do for non-art related relaxation?

[NL] Watch movies, go for long walks, reading, travelling. (All these before the children. Now there is hardly any time for relaxation…)

  • Cats or dogs?

[NL] I prefer cats. They are more independent.

  • If you could spend a day with one children’s book character, with whom would that be?

[NL] Peter Pan! [JDM] Oh yes, a day in Never Never Land would be wild!

Niki I so enjoy seeing and hearing more about your work. As a non-artist I am still amazed by how you do indeed manage to illustrate naivety, mischievousness and happiness in one picture. Though a lot is in the body, gestures, expression, I feel so much happens with the eyes! I LOVE the atmosphere in Underground and totally dig the dried red chili peppers! Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us today, and good luck with that first book as AUTHOR/illustrator!

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25 Responses to Illustrator Interview – Niki Leonidou

  1. What beautiful artwork Niki. Just love those expressions and the colours are wonderful. I have visited Greece and infact took a crusie through the Greek Islands. It was so wonderful. I remember the cats in Athens to and all that beautiful history. Loved that you would come to New Zealand …. yay! Make sure it’s our Summer….lol. Thankyou Joanna for a lovely interview with Niki.

  2. Niki, your artwork ie so expressive. Very colorful and fun illustrations. Love the witch and the cart. I like fantasy in artwork. Interesting to learn about the differences of publishing in other countries. Wish you luck with your own written and illustrated book. Nice interview ladies. Joanna, how come everyone you interview seems to be a cat lover? 🙂

  3. This was a delight, as all your illustrator interviews have been, Joanna.

    Niki, I particularly enjoyed hearing how you use mixed-media to such great advantage. I’m always very interested in the process of how an illustration gets from idea to finished product. Thank you for sharing some of your process with us.

  4. Joanna says:

    I so agree with you, Beth, and I have to think that Niki’s versatility is a strength in her art work!

  5. Jodi says:

    Incredible artwork Niki. I am blown away by the textures in the pictures and how it makes everything stand out. Excellent job.

  6. She sounds wonderful! And I love the her illustrations! It sounds so exotic and neat to be able to live in Athens, Greece. I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m completely jealous. I hope the book she’s working on writing/illustrating brings lots of success! 🙂

  7. Erik This Kid Reivews Books says:

    I want to go to New Zealand too! I liked the interview! 🙂 I love the artwork! Very unique! Just one question: In Underground, the people sitting at the tables have clear legs. I think it is a cool effect but I wanted to know how you decided to do that? I think it’s really cool how you make your artwork!
    Erik 🙂

    • Erik, I am very happy you liked the interview. You are the only one to notice this small detail about the legs in Underground! Well, this is just a sample and it did not really need to be finished and polished. So, I omitted color on the legs. But, I like the result and I am not sure I will have some color there after all! Sometimes, the best things come by chance!

  8. Wonderful interview ladies. Niki, I love your illustrations! Thanks for sharing with us;)

  9. Joanna, thanks for another great interview! And Niki – what beautiful art! Good luck with all your projects!

  10. Wonderful artwork. I appreciate you sharing your experience with clients too.

  11. Leslie Rose says:

    Niki, your style is enchanting. I’d love to see you illustrate Peter Pan.

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